The Irish Pavillion,
Gandon Editions 1992
BRIAN MAGUIRE, SHEILA O’DONNELL AND JOHN TUOMEY
in conversation with Shane O’Toole
It is called the Irish Pavilion. Did you think of inventing any other title for it?
B – The people in Leeuwarden came up with the title The Mouse Museum, after Claes Oldenburg – one of those laboratory mice mazes, only built for humans. At least, that’s how they reacted to the drawings. The humans were going to be pushed through this thing and the paintings were the electric stimuli…
J – …or the lumps of cheese. I think we were both very happy with that. We wanted to influence the psychology of the viewers and put them into those direct contexts. That seems a good analogy. In Leeuwarden it was the Irish Pavilion, and the name stuck.
What was the difference between Leeuwarden and Dublin?
J – There were eleven pavilions and it was indoors in The Netherlands, but we really designed it as a building. We understood the term pavilion to mean building. It wasn’t designed as an installation in an interior place. So we are happier that it should be shown outdoors, in the sunlight, in the courtyard of the Museum.
The pavilion responded to the prison metaphor very strongly, from the sand of the execution yard to the scaffold stairs and so on. There were bird droppings, too, all around the entrance doors. I was there one night and the wind was blowing the lights and they were swaying like lanterns in a barn.
J – This is a very important issue. Brian’s paintings set out to tell a story. They are not abstract. They may be geometric, they may be structured, they may be formal, they may intend to be beautiful or to embody hope, but they are not abstract. And in our work, we work with associations, seeking something that might be evocative. So, you are in a territory which is open to interpretation, and our pavilion has been described as a temple, as a house, as a shite house, as an eyesore, as a shed, as a barn, as a pavilion, as a trojan horse, as an ark like Noah’s ark, as a border post, as an artist’s atelier, as a Christmas crib, as a stable, as a boat, as a lakeside thing, as a handball alley…
It throws down a powerful challenge to the future users of the courtyard.
J – They’ve done a fantastic thing in the Museum, making the courtyard into a room with a sand floor. I think it actually does feel like the first room of the Museum. We wanted our piece to seem temporary, to be casual in itself. It’s skewed at an angle, as if it was just carried in and left there in the corner. Our interest in having it in the courtyard, rather than in the grounds, was that it would be a little building inside a bigger building and a little building inside that again and Brian’s paintings inside that. But that it would also be, in its kind of corrugated iron-ness and in its directness, that it would be even slightly subversive of the institutional character that we thought might be there in the Museum. That you would walk in and think, ‘What is that barn doing in the middle of Ireland’s Museum of Modern Art?’
B – It was never a barn. It was only because he insisted on painting it red that it looks like a fuckin’ barn. It should never have been painted red. What it should have been and what it is – this dovetails with the Staten Island ferry – is one of those British Army border posts that you have to drive through north of the border. It’s a building which isn’t a building. It’s just what they’re like, those spaces.
J – I think this is actually a division between us, because I don’t see it like that.
S – In the beginning, when we talked about corrugated iron, probably that very first day in the studio, we talked of painting it red, of how it would be distressed and look half rusty. We always quite liked that, but Brian had a different view. I remember when we came to discussing the details of the materials, we were quite taken aback to find that, inside, Brian wanted all the plaster painted white and all these gallery conditions. He wanted it more dirty on the outside but more clean on the inside.
B – Absolutely. This is a trojan horse. In many ways, this is where we reached agreement. I mean, the Trojan Horse was also red, at least in the comics, so I had to go along with it. There was that concept, all the same. One of the spaces that we wanted to put it in originally was Trinity. I thought that would be very appropriate, to have in the university a piece which was dealing with the jail.
S – Both of the images that have been raised, the barn and the border post, are rural ones. While it’s obviously a project about Dublin, it actually also carries with it a lot of our interest in certain kinds of rural Irish building. When it came to making something as singular as this, we wanted to synthesise the urban and the rural, which you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do.
John O’Regan (ed.), Works 8 – The Irish Pavilion (Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 1992) ISBN 0946641 250