Drawn to Visual Art
With his thick beard, long hair and softly spoken voice an immediate parallel to the singer Devendra Banhart circa 2008 springs to mind when you first meet Adam Gibney. However he lacks his intensity, he is more playful and speaks with a wide smile followed by regular bursts of laughter. He’s just a really happy young man in love with where he is in life.
Gibney is a visual artist. He works from Richmond Road Studios in Fairview Dublin. ‘I always loved making things, when I finished school I did a post leaving certificate course in Ballyfermot, with a view to go and work in model making and special effects. That was my career goal I guess. The course was great but as it went on it became more apparent to me that the way I work is more artistic as opposed to technical. I got much more into the ideas and concept, so visual art was more for me!’
After Ballyfermot he studied visual communication at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology and upon graduation he’s been extremely lucky to have always found work. He started off with a year residency at the Independent Museum of Contemporary Arts on Baggot Street interspersed with residencies in France as well as a year spent lecturing new media at Dublin Institute of Technology.
‘If you look back at my work there is this common thread that comes through. I’m fascinated with how language and technology function.’ His pieces of work exhibit a clean design that hide an impressive manipulation of electronics and coding. ‘There is a massive technical aspect to the pieces but I like to make things in such a way that you can’t actually see what I made, that is the internal workings. I don’t want you to see my brush strokes so to speak.’
He completely downplays the effort and skill that he uses to make these projects come to life, he is self taught in electronics and programming. ‘For my first solo show I needed more control so I started teaching myself electronics. A lot of the software and hardware are from the open source project. In the forum they share codes, there is a vast amount of knowledge there. If I haven’t made the programme from scratch I can mash it up, it’s a big bucket of language there!’ The open source movement is based around the idea that many skilled programmers working together for free is the best way to produce sophisticated software. It is an altruistic community, one that Gibney says helps him with his art.
When he talks about language he means the code that has been created to instruct all devices around us. ‘I became really interested with how technology can manipulate and control objects. But when I explored this area more I realised it was the language behind it all that really intrigued me.’ He is obsessed with these new languages and their power and demonstrates it in his work. For a show in the Royal Hibernian Academy he had a piece called Synthesiser 7, ‘a large synthesiser sculpture was controlled by ultra sonic sensors. People could manipulate it by their proximity to it.’
‘My favourite programming language is called Pure Data. It is a visual programming language so it has lots of wires and boxes as code.’
Miller Puckette came up with Pure Data, he’s a fascinating character. With a background in music, he was driven to discover Pure Data so that he could have a better aural experience. In an article written by PSN Europe he says, ‘I was frustrated by having to wait for the sound to come out of the computer. So I got busy trying to find a way to get the sound to come out in real time’
It was this language that helped Gibney act on a project that was inspired by the Hare Krishnas. ‘I’ve always liked the Hare Krishnas! I don’t believe in what they believe in though. But I find it fascinating that they devote their whole life to a mantra. That was the inspiration behind Exercise 13: Sacred Cycles.’ He constructed a futuristicly designed record player that recreates a mantra by playing a sequence of records over and over again.
‘Last year I did a project, called Behind The Dark. I was doing the visuals, lights and design.’ It was one of the rare times that his laidback nature abandoned him and he became anxious for the safety of the performers. ‘The show was really cool, the trees had to be rigged for their ropes etc. One of my favourite parts was the double trampeazee but I was simultaneously excited about the act and terrified for the performer. But they just teased me about my worried face they have no fear; they really don’t give a crap!’
Currently a project that he worked on last year with actress Caitríona Ní Mhurchú called Eating Seals & Seagulls Eggs for the Dublin Fringe Festival has been invited to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. ‘It will keep me busy!’
‘My Mam was like don’t pick art as there is nothing in it! I didn’t do it till my fifth year in secondary school.’ However it was his mother that pushed him towards it eventually as she could see his talent for it. ‘It’s a bit of a commitment of a career, seldomly are you going to be in position that you are going to be financially comfortable. It really isn’t about the money.’
For Gibney being a visual artist means that you are on the outside of Irish society as there isn’t a huge audience for this particular genre of art. But for him this is what he will always do, it satiates his inquisitiveness.
‘We can’t expect to uncover any fundamental truths about the world just by the abstract manipulative of words and concepts,’ said Werner Heisenberg. Gibney cites Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as his new preoccupation. Delving into quantum physics is not exactly light bed time reading and Gibney admits that, ‘it’s mind boggling and interesting, I don’t understand it all and maybe that comes through in my work, my reactions to the equations.’
One would be forgiven for thinking that Gibney is a serious soul that has a low tolerance for the trivial. Someone who sips brandy whilst poring over equations in a dinner jacket, it would be too easy to typecast him like that. He is the antithesis. He is full of positivity and expounds a joie de vivre. His curiousity brings him to these big questions. There is one thing all this has taught him, ‘sometimes when you read things you realise what life really is.’ When prompted he reveals, ‘you have to look at the flukiness of your existence and enjoy it.’
You can see Adam’s work here.