Clive Murphy: Ghost Machine

September 18- October 31, 2009



Magnan Projects is pleased to present Ghost Machine, the second solo exhibition of new works by Clive Murphy. The exhibition will have an opening reception on Friday, September 18th from 6-8pm and the exhibition runs until Saturday, October 31, 2009. 


Since Scapes, his previous 2007 solo show at Magnan Projects, the richly varied yet conceptually unified work of Clive Murphy has continued to develop and deepen in its attention to the ideological constructions of the social world. As always Murphy’s work gives evidence of a fascination with the semiological possibilities of the most unlikely sources - Ikea furniture, Mick Jagger, Krups appliances or ‘the homeless’. But while undoubtedly tinged with a playful edge, in Murphy’s hands these reference points, through his acts of appropriation and reconfiguration, nonetheless reveal layers of cultural sedimentation and undertake sly, sophisticated negotiations with the myriad forces of signification that shape our world.


Exemplifying this in particular, Murphy’s major new sculptural work DIWIF (Demonic Intervention With Ikea Furniture) can be read both as a direct engagement with the idealizing tendencies of artistic Modernism and as a wry comment on the mythologization of the artist as divine seer - a god-like creative force among mere plebian mortals. Referencing Modernism’s obsession with primitive art from Picasso through to Beuys while simultaneously activating and de-activating the utopian aspirations of Bauhaus functionality, thus laying bare the inherent tension between Constructivism’s rejection of mysticism and Modernism’s cult of the artist. The piece, in the extreme ritual of its construction, might thus be said to represent a return of the repressed - the ghosts of our savage nature that haunt even the most sterile environment.


But more than this, DIWIF points to the tribalizing tendencies at work still in our apparently post-everything age, the power of commodities to activate and validate discrete social groups and the contradictory impulses toward pure individualism and herd mentality that underpin our actions and desires. The contrast displayed in its accompanying self-assembly manual between the power bestowed on the individual through an act of ritual slaughter and the complete de-individuation of creative will in the act of following precise diagrammatical instructions point to the confusions and complexities inherent in our contemporary social ideals - the tensions between bland, utopian visions and mythological, pre-rational Edens.


Such tensions are further developed upon in Murphy’s diverse new body of ink drawings, which together seem to articulate a constellation of conceptual trajectories, offshoots and byways. Bucky-Ball Doghouse and The Shaman in particular seem to respectively exemplify the opposed positions of utopian future and a pre-rational past. But here too the opposition is not so clear in their virtually mirroring shapes and outlines.


Neon Toaster also displays a characteristically playful engagement with art history and the work of Flavin, Judd etc. Nonetheless on a more serious note, the reference to Krups, a company implicated in the construction of the ovens for Nazi death camps points to the web of cultural forces lying within, and indeed reflected by, the most benign objects that surround us.


Irish born artist Clive Murphy moved to New York from Belfast in 2005. He participated in the LMCC Workspace residency, New York in 07/08. Previous exhibitions included Otherworld: Expolorations of the Uncanny, Synthetic Zero Gallery, New York (2009); Almost Nothing, Soap Factory Gallery, Minneapolis (2009); Non-Oblectif Sud, Côtes du Rhône (2008); Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2008); West Germany Gallery, Berlin (2007); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2007); Thisisnotashop Gallery Dublin, (2007) Pallas Contemporary Projects, Dublin (2007); Fieldgate Gallery, London (2007); Drawing Center, New York (2006); Mercer Union Gallery, Toronto (2006); Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin (2005) Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork (2005); Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Manchester/Sheffield/London (2005); Alma Enterprises Gallery, London (2005); British Council/CityMine(d) Brussels (2005); Eastlink Gallery, Shanghai (2004)


Aengus Woods is a philosopher and critic, co-editor of Other Edens: The Life and Work of Brian Coffey and a regular reviewer for Publishers Weekly.