Artist Statement, Dec’ 2018
My practice responds to the environment, its preservation and the dilemmas that arise when considering our place in the universe. The work examines the interface between art and science, it considers alternate histories, temporality and systems of control. I express this by exploring the compression of astronomical distances and timescales relative to the human experience. I use multidisciplinary methods to establish a connection with nature and develop a relationship with cosmic cycles. I experiment with a wide range of media and materials, from the domestic and abject to highly crafted metalwork. These produce forms that can be static and rigid or suspended and kinetic, they may evoke scientific apparatus or cosmological phenomena. I am looking for a counter narrative to our current economic model that reflects scientific reality and subverts destructive systems. By initiating a reconnection with nature and its eternal cycles, I invite the viewer to reflect upon the environment and the unnatural forces that affect it.
The Tyranny of Labour
(or, an observation of the obvious)
If the artist devotes himself to research at the same level as a full time academic, where would he find the time to make art? Some conceptual artists may have circumvented this problem. By releasing themselves from the tyranny of labour they are free to fully indulge in their investigations and concepts. The artworks may consist of found objects, be in the form of text, be ephemeral or transitory, or they may be executed by another artist or artisan. The artist tied to the act of labour has to commit large tracts of time to produce a piece of art. Can the lack of academic inquiry denigrate the validity of his/her art?
Cultural Marxism and the American Christian Right
It is a construct of the Christian right to highlight the apparent undermining of their American values by the ‘Long March’ of militant secularists, (the Long March being a reference to Gramsci’s incremental method of cultural takeover as outlined in his ‘Prison Notebook’ writings). Yet the historical view of economics shows that shifts in the systems of capitalism drove many of the cultural changes they abhor, not the machinations of a Marxist cultural conspiracy. The pervasive march of individualism, driven by advertising and corporate capitalism, explodes this paranoid fantasy as either victimhood or propaganda. The allying of the Christian Right to Trump exposes their hypocrisy and moral flexibility. Their dislike of collective governance neatly excludes the socialist aspects of many essential organs of their own society, most notably, the military
The monolithic can be simultaneously delicate. Systems that seem intransigent from the inside, or while you are experiencing them, are actually precarious and easily toppled. The fragility is apparent only in hindsight.
A Rough Road to Selfhood
From anxiety to depression to ennui.
From weltschmerz to mindfulness and back again.
To eventually becoming an expert at being me.
I am my own specialist.
I am the one and only professional
Laurence William O’Toole.
A virtuoso of self.
Currently undertaking my doctorate in being me
It’s not ‘Fake News’, it is Myth. This art of myth making is one of twisted allegory. Predatory systems put in place to harvest wealth from the poorest. To place them in precarious financial states that takes the smallest calamity to upend their world. Systems that raise the cost of being poor and undermine the safety net of social welfare. These predator mythmakers perpetuate the stereotype of the lazy poor and the fable of bootstrapping. When industry needed a workforce they were the salt of the earth, now surplus to requirement they are the scum of the earth.
Wasteland – In Response
Barbara Kelly, Andrew Kenny and Laurence O’Toole
Monday 15 June – Saturday 25 July 2015 at Wexford Arts Centre (Upper Gallery)
As an interdisciplinary artist, the core of Laurence O’Toole’s practice is photographic and sculptural, however he utilizes other disciplines and media. His work is concerned with the extrapolations of science fiction literature, the scientific method and systems of control. This, combined with research onto current environmental and economic concerns, produces works that examines aspects of greed, growth, sustainability and catastrophe. O’Toole’s recent work imagines a discourse between the past and the future, investigating relationships between what has gone and what is to come. ‘What will the future generations make of the ruins of our present?’ This work creates a sense of future archaeology and explores how our cultural heritage will endure, from the monumental to the mundane. His new work further considers temporality and the engagement between a viewer and an artwork, which is incredibly relevant in a time reliant on digital technology and instantaneous modern media. O’Toole connects these themes taken from science fiction, his local environment and certain philosophical disciplines to formal experiments in installation, photography and performance.
Voiceover script for Aftermath, April 2015
The extreme weather seen in the winter storms of 2014 has me thinking anew about the detritus washed up on our beaches.
I now see these storms as a purgative, a cleansing, and the plastic debris as a wonderful redemptive sight.
Our own rubbish is thrown back at us like a projectile puke that catapults this unwanted matter over the crest of the dunes.
The huge bundles of nets and lobster pots are testament to particularly violent heaves during the sea’s vomiting bout.
Instead of an inconvenient eyesore I choose to see it as a Gaian retaliation upon humanity.
Instead of being dismayed by the sight of this plastic plague I revel in the poetic justice of it.
An excerpt from a review of 13 Degrees by Prof Kenneth G. Hay, Chair of Contemporary Art Practice, The University of Leeds (unpublished)
Science and technology affect every aspect of our lives. Governments and scientists very often give a positive spin to the excitement and benefits of innovation and science, in part, perhaps, to justify the expense. For artists and writers, responding to the challenges they offer, (perhaps because they are underfunded), responses have generally been Dystopian. Science fiction, from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (1897/8) or Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 (1953), and new genres such as Cyber-punk, (William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” (1984), Ridlet Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) or the Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix (1999), tend to focus on the ‘dark side’. Recent experience of severe and even cataclysmic weather conditions around the world caused Laurence O’Toole to reflect on the future use of the ruins of our current civilisation. Philip Larkin suggested that “What will survive of us is Love”. Hopefully, this is true, but maybe, just maybe, what will survive of us is plastic. If this is so, then Laurence has made some beautiful sculptures, photos and installations to guide future archaeologists back to the positive and the ‘bright side’.
Artist’s statement: 13 Degrees, IT Carlow Degree show 2014
What will it be like in the future? This is the basic tenet of Science Fiction and certain philosophic disciplines. As part of my exploration of temporality and globalisation I proposed a corollary to that question: What will future generations make of the ruins of our present? Whether you subscribe to utopian or dystopian outlook our cultural heritage will endure, from the monumental to the insignificant, replaying the inevitable cyclical nature of civilization.
The recent winter storms stirred me to commemorate and postulate. The violence of these events were evident not only in the scale of destruction, but also by the quantity of substances and paraphernalia washed up on beaches and ultimately gifted to me as inspiration and raw material. I commemorated this extreme weather with monuments constructed from materials borne of it.
My extrapolation to future totems was inspired by Walter M. Miller. Jnr’s post apocalyptic novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, where a medieval level of technology exists after the “Simplification”, a revenge upon science and knowledge following a devastating nuclear war. What would these future primitives make of a bounty of strange relics washed up after a similar storm, armed with only the vaguest collective social memory of our technology?
-Laurence O’Toole, April 2014.