THIS WAY TO ENCHANTMENT
Text by Dawn West
"I remember my father playing some recordings from my childhood. The sounds were those of footsteps on the stone yard outside and baby voices asking questions that I don’t remember now. The recordings were on reel to reel tape and we listened to them again and again by pushing a lever to the left or right to play and rewind. The memory of listening to those recordings hits me when I see Consensus, a two-part sculptural work in the latest solo show by Rory Tangney at the Sirius Arts Centre. Metres of reel to reel audio tape are suspended in a geometric wooden framework. The tape is in colours of rust, dark brown and grey and moves slightly with the air movement of the viewer’s passing. In places it is kinked and creased and one piece is repaired with sellotape. This layering of sound and vision is replicated throughout this show and Tangney also layers ideas into each piece until they resonate with meaning creating a network of ideas with visual and aural prompts, rotating around questions of science and religion in a post-religious world. These frail audio slices of lives lived and recorded are preserved in part in the sound piece When All Is Said And Done. Here are more slices and fragments, primarily the voice of Peter Higgs, who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson or ‘God particle’, together with explosions, clicks and warbles, male voices and a musical track interwoven throughout. Some of the sounds are recordings taken from inside an MRI scanner and Tangney has referenced this in three fragile pencil drawings, What If, Know Thyself and Slice. These drawings are made up of thousands of pencil dots and appear hazy and faint in contrast both to the science which they refer back to and also to the sculptural works in the show, yet even these works, Consensus and Monument, for all their sharp solidity, are segmented.
A second sound piece, Breathe, reinforces this with rhythmic, pulsing exhalations of sound which come in regulated slices, a machine breathing. At the other end of this spectrum is Paranormal, a pencil drawing which looks like an old, grainy black and white photograph of a UFO. Tangney’s interest in obsolete technologies is obvious but he uses these references and materials to raise doubts for the technologies we live with today. The drawing Lifeline is an extreme close up of the palm of a hand, simultaneously a reminder of the limitations of science and an invocation of beliefs outside of science. If we cannot trust science and we cannot turn to religion, what is left? The works always return to one starting point, which is the self; fragile, finite, sometimes reliant on science for life itself. Science may refute the spirit but Tangney insists again and again on the interconnectedness of ourselves, even as particles and fragments, with both. Science and scientific reasoning are challenged by this show which seems to say that nothing is definite, nothing is solid, may be there is a ghost in the machine. "