Featuring the work of emerging Irish and international artists, Vague Anxiety is a reaction to the rising levels of anxiety in a media driven world.
Brian’s photo series ‘Wet Dream’, documenting sex addiction, provided the jumping-off point for a conversation touching on both present and past works and the evolution of Brian’s creative output.
Seán: You said that you used the process of taking the pictures as a way of questioning your own motives and actions, but also trying to see if this was a universal experience, because you thought perhaps if this were a shared experience you wouldn’t feel so bad.
Brian: During that time felt terrible. I had given over to the pursuit of sex as a means of ‘self-love’ but also as a distraction from the pain felt. Remoteness and isolation had taken hold in my mind. I had zero sense of my own self-worth.
After months of this, incorporated my camera. It was when was looking back through the film noticed the patterns and quietly realised what had been happening to me. Putting the work out there provided a sombre reflection for people to contemplate their own encounters or similar methods of self-destruction but also as a way for me to exorcise what had been carrying with that work. Also to note, don’t want it to appear that I’m being extremely negative about this type of sex-life. I’m not. I had a lot of fun during this period of my life, just want to be honest about the underlying pain and motivations.
On Brian’s ‘Uncover’ project diverse range of LGBT+ people, engagement of his work.
Seán: Adam Shanley (then director of Gay Switchboard) came to me saying that a friend of his had proposed an exhibition in support of Switchboard. That was the ‘Uncover’ project. Tell us about some of the other things you have done or are interested in doing.
Brian: Small, sharp series of photos, usually when I’m travelling are what make the most at the moment. I love the candid nature of them. Likely, it’s lensed on pain or regret, or maybe a desire to change the world somehow. ‘Uncover’ is different in that it took me over a year to complete and completely changed how take portrait photos. In this work gave the portrait sitter the agency to decide location, time, how they posed etc. To go alongside this delved into the archives of Switchboard. I used logos from their past and previous incarnation as ‘Tel-a-Friend’ and used these to emblazon t-shirts. This type of work is something really like going back to. The effectiveness of wearing a message can’t be understated and like the literality of wearing something on your chest. The medium can be used for political purposes but also as mementos, sentimentality or to show support for a just cause.
Seán: A lot of your work is about access; access to ideas, access to politics, to your ways of making images. In fact that’s one of the things that you have called me out on in the past year - accusing me of ‘in-signalling’. In signalling is the use of industryspecific language which identifies those within the group and excludes those outside it. In the case of my colleagues and I, it is unconscious but we are all guilty of it. It is important that we remind ourselves of this and create other ways for people to access institutions and access opportunities. In fact, through ‘Uncover’, you were doing it for yourself. Because of that sense of being an outsider, you said, ‘actually I’m just going to organise my own exhibition’.
Brian: There’s a fear in place that drives a lot of my ‘ways of being’. I’m motivated by being forgotten. I think this is a universal fear for most people but it’s something think about all the time. I also get off on being told can’t do something. I like impossible.
There is a space for more working-class people in art. We are denied access to these realms because our access to education isn’t there, our information is not as free, we can’t afford to intern in creative employment because we can’t afford our lunches or transport. I echo so much of this because have no qualifications in the arts. They would dismiss me because...
Seán: Because ‘in-signalling’ would say ‘Your CV is too short, you don’t have the necessary education’. And so it’s the things which are used as conservative measures of whether an artist is qualified or not which actually end up excluding people unconsciously.
We talked a little about your mental health. You said the work was informed by pain, particularly ‘Autoportrait’ (A life size sculpture made from an actual car which Brian drove while his brother crashed into him.)
Brian: The end of summer 2018, my black dog (depression) was put down, hopefully for good. My mental health ever since then has been based on control, patience and empathy, primarily with myself. I can’t go back to the person was. I set fire to so much, my career, friends, family and ruined a relationship with someone love. This informs a lot of work in the show.
‘Autoportrait’ is born from a lot of this. Self-portraiture is a big part of my work and was enthused about the idea of making a sculpture of one. The damage represents trauma. We resprayed the warped metal of the car and kept the wound intact. My family worked with me to make this piece. My Dad and brothers are mechanics. They in a way, helped form me growing up so it made sense for them to help produce the sculpture.
Seán: It’s your brothers who have caused the trauma and are now fixing it and repairing it for you. It’s interesting because the car has been reconstructed so that it retains the trauma on the surface but it has a veneer of repair, so it’s almost as though we’re talking about a metaphor for unreconstructed masculinity and an unreconstructed way of dealing with trauma.
Brian: Masculinity isn’t in crisis. Masculinity is crisis. ‘Autoportait’ is also intended to reflect that. Men are so damaged from having to be men all the time, 24 hours a day so they project their anguish out into the world. We see it in the straight world but gay men are just as guilty/victimised.
Seán: (wryly) You’re a photographer, why do you make sculpture and why do you make projections? For example -‘Shadowlands’ is presented on a CCTV.
Brian: When take photos try to consider the world outside the frame and want for the viewer to consider the person taking the photo. I’m beginning to think of myself as less of a photographer and more as an artist. Naturally, this has led to work in different mediums. The ideas are the same, just the delivery is different. I don’t think in two-dimensions.