The Morphology of the Other
Aideen Barry

Morphology of the Other addressed a sense of fear of impending futuristic doom. The exhibition evoked the threat of what we humans might eventually morph into - creatures devoid of compassion and empathy. Barry’s inherent rebellion is targeted against the society in which we live, challenging our progress and lack of, and encouraging responsibility towards a ‘new world’ attitude. Barry’s philosophical interests lie with “the uncanny”. She frequently plays with the notion of the subverted female character in her film and performative works, referring to hysterical female creatures in Irish Gothic literature. This interest in the Gothic is a constant in Barry’s work, combining nightmare with humour, having the effect of equally enticing and repelling the viewer.

For this artist, the creative process begins with drawing – material comes to life by way of the drawings she conjures up in her fervent imagination. These images then become realised in animations, films and sculpture. Drawing continues to be an important entry to cultivating other ideas and mediums. One gallery in the exhibition is dedicated to a salon hang of her drawings, revealing the evolution of her sculptural output.

Aideen Barry’s practice is in some measure informed by a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which manifests itself in her obsession with cleanliness and dust free environments. Barry’s depiction of the contemporary housewife, nesting in celtic tiger suburban Ireland, is obsessed with perfection and sanitisation in an effort to attain control in a vulnerable society. The fear of ‘the other’ is the unseen germ, odour or dust particle, threatening the health and well-being of the family unit, without any thought given to the detrimental effects of chemicals incorporated into cleaning sprays. This new kind of Gothic germ is one we cannot see and one difficult to sanitise or control, for example. The artist proposes that this sterilising of the environment will alter ourselves both psychologically and physically in future generations. Barry’s interest in the contemporary hysterias of cleanliness has informed her creation of a Dystopian view of the future domestic, creating Shelleyesque creatures of a Gothic Horror disposition: half-hoover, half- housewife - sucking and consuming particles of dust, in a gravity-defying levitation. The artists diagnosis of OCD has propelled her research into the ‘uncanny’ repetitive gesture, or Tourette. Through playful manipulation of materials, a productive dialogue emerges between object and body, expressing human behaviour in the strange area between amusement and discomfort, creating balance and tension at the same time.

Vacuuming in a Vacuum, A Film created in Zero Gravity, 2009 was informed by Barry’s residency at Kennedy Space Centre, NASA, in 2008. While preparing to undergo astronaut training, Barry shot films in parabolic flight while experiencing zero gravity. This project was a compelling follow on from Barry’s performative film Levitating, which played with the notion of authenticity and illusion, but also uncovered Barry’s Buster Keaton-like slapstick, evident in much of her work, and a healthy counterpart to her condition. The objects that were created in response to this experience simulated materials used by NASA’s precision engineers to create their own functional devices, in particular utilitarian objects that ‘hoover’ or suck dust, skin and excreted particles.

The Dystopian Domestic that Barry refers to is a very real space, merging the everyday with the futuristic. Barry proposes that the slippage between this future horror and our contemporary nightmares is evident now in television advertising, NASA TV, and in the suburbia in which we live. With her Weapons of Mass Consumption series, Barry takes the war on germs to a more militant level. Her long time dream to be the first Irish woman in space is a passion she keeps alive through the ambition and scope of her accomplished and visionary work.

About the Artist

Aideen is a practicing visual artist based between Ireland, Lithuania and the United States. In 2020 she was elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy as an ARHA member. She is also a member of Aosdána. Aideen teaches in several universities and schools of visual art in Ireland, America and Europe. She was Lecturer at Limerick School of Art & Design from 2010 to 2020 on the undergrad and post grad programmes. She received the Myron Marty Award from Drake University in Iowa in 2019 and in 2020 she will be a speaker as part of the Anderson Lecture Series at Penn State University. She has also been commissioned by Kaunas 2022, The European Capital of Culture, to make a site specific major moving image work. Aideen also has a number of international touring shows current in the United States at the Katzen Centre at the American University Museum, NYU, The American Film Maker's Co-Op in New York City, Oaxaca Film Festival Mexico. Later his year she will have works at Artissma in Italy and in early 2021 in ArtBA in Buenos Aires. She is also working on a special commission for the Bunting Archive for the Irish Traditional Music Organisation and Music Network in Ireland which will form a part of a series of solo shows and other international presentations in 2021 and 2022.

Selected projects include exhibitions at: Elephant West & Frieze Art Fair UK, Mothers Tankstation, The Drawing Room London, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Oaxaca, Mexico, Louise T. Blouin, London, Moderne Mussett Sweden, The Loop Biennale, ESP, Matucana 100, Chile, Artissma, CHACO & ARCO Art Fairs, The Wexner Centre Ohio, The Royal Hibernian Academy, the Museum des Beux Arts, The Crawford Municipal Gallery, The Butler Gallery, The Banff Centre Canada, the Headlands Centre for the Arts San Francisco, Liste Art Fair Basel Switzerland, BAC Geneva, Art Basel BA and Catherine Clark Gallery, US. Barry has received numerous awards for her practice including recent awards: Culture Ireland Awards 2018 & 2019, 2016, 2011, 2012, Commissions from the Irish Government under the Department of Education & Skills, Shortlist for the 2020 Aceys Industry Film Awards, The Vermont Studio Centre Fellowship Award 2017, Project New Work Awards from the Arts Council of Ireland, Arts Council of Ireland Bursary Awards, Modern Ireland in 100 Art Works 2015 award from the Royal Irish Academy, the Silent Light Film Award, Travel and Training Awards from the Arts Council of Ireland, in 2010 was shortlisted for the prestigious AIB Prize.

'In-Focus' with multi-disciplinary artist Aideen Barry offers insights into her creative practice and her long relationship with Butler Gallery.

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