Talking Movies

June 6, 2012

Everything can be done, in Principle

1980 movie Heaven’s Gate is synonymous with bloated film-making and the excesses of auteurism, indeed it almost single-handedly killed the New Hollywood so beloved of critics like Biskind and Kael. Now Michael Cimino’s ill-fated epic inspires an exhibition by Brian Duggan – ‘Everything can be done, in principle’ – opening this Saturday.

This dramatic artwork by Duggan, curated by Helen Carey and presented by Eigse Carlow Arts Festival, Carlow Local Authorities Arts Office, and VISUAL Cente for Contemporary Art, will be on display in the Ground Floor Galleries of the VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow from Saturday the 9th of June until Saturday the 26th of August. Artist Brian Duggan invites you to inhabit a story from 122 years ago of the Cattlemen’s invasion of Wyoming. Evoking Michael Cimino’s film Heaven’s Gate (1980) among other things, through place, costume and the activity of skating, the visitor to VISUAL Carlow will be transported into a timber and canvas barn at America’s 19th century mid-Western frontier. Heaven’s Gate was a film which broke all the rules and supported true art through the ruthless pursuit of authenticity, even to the point of challenging the studio system of the time. It remains a polarising piece of work. From one point of view the film’s colossal budget over-run and equally colossal box-office failure was the source of many of the rules and regulations that surround the film industry today, from the binding of the maverick auteur directors, to cinematic visionaries being replaced by money men. From another point of view the film was a grandiose folly by writer/director Cimino at his most self-indulgent after being showered with accolades for The Deer Hunter. One of its stars Jeff Bridges has consistently attributed the negative reaction to Heaven’s Gate on Cimino’s innovative attempt to introduce a new style of editing, which people refused to accept, but it is also the film that began the obligatory monitoring of the use of animals in film and television production by the American Humane Association (which recently led to the cancellation of HBO’s Luck for fatally injuring horses) because of Cimino’s still controversial decision to explode a live horse with dynamite.

Duggan leans towards the more romantic interpretation in which the fate of the film itself is a deeply ironic echo of its own subject matter. As in Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, his immersive world is a haven – however temporary – where hopes and aspirations can be happily and safely expressed. But, as in Heaven’s Gate, no haven is outside the threats of a world in the turmoil of change. The resilience of the human spirit, the fighting mettle of a poor community against the state apparatus of power and the need to treasure fleeting happiness when you feel it are underlying themes of this work. Duggan’s artistic practice looks at times when things go wrong and sites of stress and breakage, from well known historical events to the overlooked small dramas of the everyday. He brings new challenges into the gallery as a way of asking questions. Abandoned and active sites of human activity, fairground archives, cinema, slapstick scenarios, original arcade games, and similar starting points are utilised as a strategy for finding and asking key questions. Brian Duggan (born 1971) lives and works in Dublin where from 1996 to 2009 he was co-founder/director of Pallas Studios, Heights and Projects. He has received several awards from the Arts Council of Ireland, Culture Ireland, and South Dublin County Council, and his work is included in the permanent collection of the Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane Gallery, and the National Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Last year he was selected for IMMA’s Artist Residency Program and was commissioned to make new work for the inaugural Dublin Contemporary 2011. In 2012, his work can be seen in another solo exhibition in RuaRed as well as in group exhibitions in National Sculpture Factory Cork, Limerick City Gallery of Art, and overseas in Braziers Supernormal Oxford, CCA Glasgow, and Lyndecker Gallery Spain.

“Everything can be done, in principle” will be on display in VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Old Dublin Road, Carlow, Ireland, from 11am to 530pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and from 2pm to 5pm on Sundays. Further information is available at both and

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