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Arts Council Funding Visual Arts

Inspirational Arts

Power on the Floor, Mark Duffy
New Irish Works series 2023-24
6pm Thu 8 February
Running 8-25 February
At The Library Project

PhotoIreland presents two new works by Mark Duffy, On Pugin and Empty Gestures. This is the eighth exhibition in the New Irish Works series.

When Mark Duffy was working as photographer in the UK Parliament, a senior official said to him ‘you’re going to see a lot of power on the floor, you might as well pick some up’. The two projects presented in this exhibition have both obsessively collected images of corrupted power in British politics.

On Pugin (2019) closely surveys the ephemera, dirt and deterioration of the carpets of the Houses of Parliament. The series is named after Augustus Pugin, the architect driven mad by his work designing Parliament, whose patterns are still replicated in furnishings today. Linking Pugin with contemporary politics suggests Parliament’s emphatic commitment to preserving ‘fraying’ political heritage is impeding democratic progress in the institution. Mark Duffy made the work quickly, sneaking around the palace on his hands and knees making use of privileged access in his final days at the Houses of Parliament.

Working from outside of the institution, Empty Gestures (2024) makes use of the Creative Commons copyright that Duffy surreptitiously implemented on all House of Commons press images while working there, painstakingly combing through hundreds of officially released images and gathering these gestures over a long period of time. The work is made from appropriated photographs produced and distributed by the House of Commons in the past year. It is a comment on the pantomime theatrical nature of political debate, the repetition of prescribed political gestures and constantly shifting blame game that is modern politics.

Both projects emphasise the act of scrutiny. They are characteristic of his wider practice: sometimes fast and reactive, sometimes slow and laborious, his work gathers images, artefacts and materials that can help make sense of the nuanced mess that is politics and power.

About the Artist

Mark Duffy is an Irish artist based in the UK. Duffy’s artworks explore issues of politics, power and media in the public sphere. His artistic practice seeks recurring motifs through which to suggest alternative narratives on political phenomena. Duffy’s recent ongoing work documents the aftermath of the UK’s fractious Brexit referendum, framing these themes with absurdity and humour. Duffy formerly worked as photographer for the Houses of Parliament (2015-2019) during which his photojournalism characterised many memorable front pages.

About New Irish Works

The New Irish Works series brings contemporary photographic practices to The Library Project throughout 2023-24 with the support of Inspirational Arts and the Arts Council of Ireland. Alongside Mark Duffy, the artists selected for New Irish Works include Audrey Blue, Bryony Dunne, Jialin Long, Pauline Rowan, Martin Seeds, Martin Cregg, Cian Burke, Róisín White, and Shia Conlon.

New Irish Works is a triennial project run by PhotoIreland to represent and promote the growing diversity of contemporary photographic practices in Ireland. It enriches the Irish ecosystem with much needed new voices, new curatorial approaches, facilitate much deserved new opportunities, and invigorate the Irish photography scene.

This unique artist support programme is run since 2013 by PhotoIreland in 3-year cycles, generating a growing set of professional development opportunities for selected lens-based practitioners throughout the duration of each cycle. The call is open every three years to Irish and Ireland-based artists at any stage of their career.

Throughout its history, New Irish Works has exhibited and showcased nationally across Dublin, Cork, and Limerick, and internationally from Paris, Amsterdam to Madrid, Ukraine, and beyond; it published and distributed a book featuring 25 artists in 2013, and a collection of 20 solo publications in 2016. The publications have sold worldwide and are now part of many private and public collections, including key cultural organisations such as the Hasselblad Foundation Library and the Centre Culturel Irlandais.

Find out more about New Irish Works →