Oh Fence De Fence was a direct response to the Finnegans Woke exhibition in Rua Red in Tallaght, that came out of several conversations between Dirk Hudson and James Moore.
Oh Fence De Fence refers to the duality of fences; particularly in a geo political context. Depending on your viewpoint a fence can be a defensive or offensive structure.
The fence is also a metaphor for the barriers erected in our minds that prevent us taking action, seeing the world in a different way, empathising with others, taking sides or sitting on the fence.
The use of the mirror was a way to put people viewing the exhibition literally in the picture, to put them in front of, or depending on your viewpoint, behind the fence. We hoped to spark self reflective questions such as what if … I was a refugee … could it happen to me in the future …what is my relationship to a world that has displaced 67 million people worldwide … why is that happening and what if anything can or am I going be doing anything about it.
In keeping with the Finnegans Woke title of the overall exhibition
Oh Fence De Fence is our Joyce inspired, punning, sing song title.
How it came about. Our Process.
When we came to the Finnegans Woke exhibition we felt overwhelmed by it’s scope and the issues it seeks to highlight in much the same way as we are often overwhelmed by mainstream and online news media and social media. We are all image and issue saturated.
In some ways the idea of a mirror, which Dirk came up with almost immediately, was a way out of all of the overload of imagery and at the same time a way to put the focus back on the viewer, as a self reflective, self assessment device. To put the viewer hopefully or metaphorically back in touch with their own conscience or consciousness of self in context.
I think we could have just put the mirror up without anything else, it felt like a simple and elegant inclusion. But I personally felt that we should spend more time discussing the possibilities and making notes, maybe write or cut up and paste words or questions onto the mirrors surface but still leave room for people to see themselves in amongst all of these issues writ large so to speak.
But that wasn’t an elegant solution, there are so many contradictions, dualities and complexity involved in the issues and the words used to describe them that the possibilities were just endless.
Dirk once again had the brainwave we needed. Sweep away all of the complicated angst involved in choosing the right words and put a fence directly onto the mirror. The fence seemed like a perfect distillation representing everything that we had been discussing.
It had duality, ambiguity, it was a loaded metaphor.
We also liked that it was painted on,as opposed to using printed material, that although the fence looks permanent it can actually be easily scraped off, a reminder that our world is malleable and that permanence is an illusion.
Normally a mirror directly reflects the viewers gaze back at themselves. It is a normal, freely occuring event we take for granted every time we look in a mirror. The superimposed fence structure however interrupts that normal flow just as the human flow of refugees is now being halted by border fences and refugee camps all over the world. 67 million people have been turned into refugees mostly because of human created conflicts such as wars, global politics, resource plundering, genocide,as well as other factors such as ecological disasters,drought, famine, climate change.
So much of what we were seeing in the media and even in the exhibition here looks outside of ourselves, it rightly points a finger of blame squarely on the shoulders of those who have profited from war, civil unrest, murder and war and those politicians that have ultimately aided and abetted them.
However we all play a part in the world we live in, by our action or inaction we too help to shape it. What structures and narratives do we support by our thoughts and actions, as consumers? We all to a greater or lesser extent are part of what maintains the status quo.The mirror is us, pointing the finger back at ourselves.
As the old saying goes we must choose our battles carefully but also fight against the fences of our own aphathy.