June 23 - July 28, 2007
Opening Reception: Friday, June 22 6:00-8:30pm
For almost 40 years, a small brick building in Belfast, Northern Ireland was home to a vital electrical switch room. The building, which once powered the city, had lay dormant for nearly 25 years and was scheduled for renovation in 2005. Before this process began, the development firm collaborated with a group of artists from Belfast, NI and Brooklyn, NY (OAR) to document and salvage much of the original equipment. Using these remnants, OAR created an exhibition entitled BUILDING that tells the story of this space that powered Belfast.
Christopher Heaney, Oliver Jeffers, Rory Jeffers, Mac Premo and Duke Riley explored the building’s story through different avenues and media: its function behind closed doors, its effect on the city it was built in, and how the city and citizens of Belfast were affected by but unaware of its existence. Literally untouched since the early 1980’s when the building was abandoned, artist Christopher Heaney’s photographs document the space as it once stood - undisturbed for so many years. His portraits of the rooms and the objects inside provide an archaeological context for the switch room. Exploring functionality, Oliver Jeffers painted objects as specimens: depicting their purpose, then displaying each hidden inside utilitarian furniture found in the space.
This body of work came from a fascination with the legacy of secrecy surrounding the building’s public role, as well as the outdated look of the actual objects within. Rory Jeffers designed an extended portrait of the people who worked inside the switch room. Inspired by transcripts from interviews with former employees, he applied typography, stencil design and painting to various surfaces found at the site; surfaces uninterrupted for decades, aging in tandem with the technology that once made this building the cutting age of industry. Brooklyn based artist Mac Premo created a stop animation video that provides an informational overview of Belfast during the time of the switch room’s operation. Each animated graph represents census data specific to Belfast during that time period and is made of found objects collected from the site. Working with found answering machine tapes Duke Riley tracked down the addresses left by callers during a power failure that occurred in 1985 due to a political strike. Combined with lo-fi "surveillance" footage of the houses taken at the corresponding hours of complaint, Riley assembled this video and audio footage. The piece was originally displayed in an impersonation of a dimly lit lower level industrial office space suggestive of an unsolved mystery.
For additional information please Contact: Anne Surak, Director
903 U Street NW
Washington DC 20001
tel: 202 232 4340
fax: 202 232 4341
Hours: Wednesday - Friday 2:00 - 6:00 pm, Saturday noon - 6:00 pm and by appointment.