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Press / Archive
A selection of press cuttings and reviews from 1998 to 2019
Foghorns and False Beacons
The last remaining foghorns around the Irish coast were switched off by the Commissioners of Irish Lights on the 11th January 2011. Advances in marine navigation technology meant that system was obsolete and no longer an aid to navigation. Foghorns and beacons represent a familiar if now outmoded technology by which we could place ourselves or be found and be brought to safety. A false beacon then conjures a dangerous sense of misdirection: we can no longer be certain of what we once depended upon.
Anthony Ruby's new body of work references eccentric or obsolete forms of technology to communicate a sense of unease and dislocation. His canvases are populated by figures whose faces are obscured by beams of light, by cyborgs and bizarre contraptions, by strange fusions of birds and dogs and skeletal horses. His painterly language, alternating between fogs of turps spatter and hyper smooth glazes, recalls the smeared perfection of a grease smudged phone screen.
Foghorns and False Beacons taps into the ambivalence that surrounds the conflation of the mechanical and biological systems, drawing on the long running fascination with the convergence of body and machine. Cyborgs, in literature and in popular imagination, are creatures of anxious fascination, at once a cypher of giddy possibility and uncanny horror, this hybrid figure initially became prevalent in the cultural landscape of Weimar Germany, after the unprecedented mechanical destruction of the First World War and the damage it left in its wake. Later in the 20th century, an early transplant patient would reflect on the significant 'psycho-philosophical anxiety' involved in his experience: 'seeing my blood outside of my body running through coils of synthetic tubing is deeply distressing [.....a] miraculous [....] powerful monster [....] with an almost-frightening hold on my life [....] reducing me to a "half-robot, half-man".'
Now however, we live comfortably connected to devices, blue tooth in ear, Google glasses supplementing vision with scrolling chyrons. The circuitry and pistons of sci-fi imagination are at once more sleek, discrete and more prosaic - the cyborg has evolved from mechano-body to techno-body. As the Italian media critic and activist Franco 'Bifo' Bernardi reminds us, 'digital and bio-technologies have turned the external machine of iron and steel into the internalised and re-combining machine of the bio-info era. [....] The machine is us.' (Franco 'Bifo' Bernardi, 'After the Future', 16)
Contemporary technologies of communication mean we are more networked and interlinked than at any time in history, but studies show how these same technologies leave us increasingly isolated and anxious, that reliance on GPS mapping stunts our cognitive processes for navigation, and that constant mediation through screens is changing our natural responses around animals and animal responses around humans. Ruby's calculatedly eccentric iconography however, more steam punk than Silicon Valley, reminds us that these feelings of alienation and anxiety are not new, but are phenomena that date back to the industrial revolution when even Karl Marx warned that dual nature of technology was 'a demonic force that reduces humans to the conscious limbs of the automaton'. (Karl Marx, 1893)
Sarah Kelleher 2019
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