Micheal O'Connell

Micheál O'Connell / Mocksim
1 July to 31 August 2019

Micheál O'Connell a.k.a. Mocksim describes himself as a 'systems interference artist' (see http://www.mocksim.org/bio.htm). Appropriation art but also attempting to unearth the poetic in everyday, often dysfunctional, technologies, systems and bureaucracies are key for him.

In the past O’Connell’s work has been presented in project spaces, and established locations such as Matt’s Gallery and The Whitechapel (in London), Lighthouse (in Brighton, UK) and Wandesford Quay Gallery (Cork). Contra-Invention, a critically acclaimed exhibition of utilitarian photographs (the pictures captured by traffic wardens as proof of parking violation in many areas) had been invited to Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles and nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. Prominent photographer, Martin Parr, amongst others, is a fan of his work. Recently, and partly to support the residency at Uillinn, O’Connell was awarded a substantial Arts Council, Develop Your Creative Practice (DYCP), grant.

During the residency period, though participating actively in the cultural life of the area, O’Connell stated that he was determined ‘not to be seduced by the bucolic, the charms of the west Cork landscape, the Atlantic and so on’ but to maintain focus on his technological interests. By definition for him, this extends beyond the digital network and the algorithmic, to the ubiquitous heavier physical machinery, commercial and entertainment infrastructure. Technology of all sorts, he points out, is no less a factor is rural locations than urban ones.

Whilst in Skibbereen O’Connell also forged links with artists, organisations and others in the area. He opened his studio to visitors and found low-tech ways of remotely communicating with passers-by when away, conducted an artist’s talk in the final weeks, and participated in the Skibbereen Arts Festival. Cork artist John Halpin was invited to work on more specialist photogrammetry techniques, and many different kinds of experiments were carried out using readily available platforms and tools such as Sansar, Chrome Remote Access, Skype and TripAdviser. In addition efforts were made to use the time at Uillinn to resolve ongoing projects, one of which involved sending money flowing unnecessarily between bank accounts, in a loop, daily, using standing orders.

Below is a list of works produced, performed or developed during the two months. In addition to these, ongoing projects and further resolutions of materials is continuing, post-residency.

  • People of Skibbereen, a series of seventy printed snapshots of individuals and groups of people in Skibbereen captured on Google Street View in 2009 and 2011. These were cropped for consistency. The snapshots were presented on a plinth with a text which encourages those passing by to rifle through them and try and spot themselves or those they know.
  • Two Lads, five larger prints of two individuals captured from different distances and angles by the Google Street View car, as it passed in 2009. 
  • Have a great time! Cool! Grand, a large Billboard poster with textual content produced by Gmail Smart Replies. Amusingly, the algorithm picks up on nuances including common Irish-isms. This was commissioned by the Skibbereen Arts Festival and will remain up for one year.
  • Making Wind, a packaged battery-powered toy wind-turbine toy. This one was selected from a number which had been ordered during the two-month period, due to its particular presentation, packaging and the peculiar background imagery.
  • Stuff Everywhere, a walk and talk including various interventions, dealing with non-art and the everyday. This was run as part of the Skibbereen Arts Festival. The well-attended event was partly inspired by one episode from a 1980s RTE series Secret Languages entitled The Everywhere Gallery, which had been presented by polymath Joseph Ardle McCardle. O'Connell had been granted access to view this episode at RTE’s archive in Dublin in July. The tour is something which could be repeated at other arts festivals and residencies.
  • Yellowfy Roadworks, a work produced during the Stuff Everywhere walk, created by pouring yellow acrylic onto a charity-shop-bought painting and then driving over it in order to spread the paint with the tyre. Once dried the final painting, along with a Certificate of Authenticity, was given to one of the participants, who had been selected at random.

  • 37 Space exhibition_review, an improvised review (videoed on phone camera) of an auctioneers window display, which treated the photographs of properties for sale as fine art. This was carried out in preparation for the Stuff Everywhere walk.

  • Irish Signatures, collected from the courier company delivering the toy wind turbines mentioned above. These digitised signatures were simply presented as a looping slide show initially.
  • Irish Signatures (PODS 2), The same series of courier company ‘point of delivery signatures’ in book format.
  • Turbogolfing, a short looping film or ‘simupoem’ initially inspired by the idea that golf courses should be converted into wind farms (rather than using unspoilt land). Production of this involved 3D modelling and animation, a physics engine and incorporated recordings supplied by sound artist Angus Carlyle.

Turbogolfing (Pass 1) from Mocksim on Vimeo.

Updates and communications were shared on social media during the residency and these are available as a visual log of sorts.

Artist’s Log:

Day 01 Some warmup exercises

Day 02 Remote access feedlack experiments

Day 03 Google reviews interference

Day 04 Working with Gmail Smart Replies

Day 10 Dealing with looping bank statements

Day 11 Jumpology and studio snapshots

Day 13 Billboard goes up, John Halpin arrives, photogrammetry work

Day 14 Photogrammetry outcomes

Day 15 RTE Dublin. Discovered J. Ardle McArdle. Everywhere Gallery

Day 16 Mental blocks, At swimming

Day 17 Snapshots on plinth, sketch/diagram and Teskey text

Day 18 Remote access of studio

Day 19 More remote access, video link and documentation of it

Day 20 Remote access, chats and documentation received

Day 22 Recap list and more remote access

Day 25 Methodology and mass mailing

Day 30 What to do with pointless bank transaction statement. Golf/wind turbine stuff

Day 31 Various and prep. for walk/talk tomorrow

Day 32 Stuff everywhere walk and talk V.G.

Day 35 Remote presence

Day 38 37 Space exhibition improvised video review

Day 41 Missed a flight (sorry environment)

Day 42 Relatives come to visit

Day 44 Studio pics including Yellowfy Roadworks painting

Day 47 Turbogolfing film in progress, a ‘simupoem’

Day 48 Obtained sounds, more remote access, discovered courier data breach

Day 54 Podcast interview, discussions with other artists

Day 55 Artists talk

Day 58 Lunging about studio, toy turbines, thinking about the end

Day 60 Turbogolfing film, edition 1, made available

Day 61 Diagrammatic summary and Video tour of studio

Day 62 Tá sé críochnaithe. Fin

Very appreciative of the serious engagement with his work, the way in which West Cork Arts Centre both supports cultural activity widely in the area, and promotes bolder and challenging practices, Micheál O’Connell/Mocksim’s hopes to return again and maintain the connection.








WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council in making these residencies possible.

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