Artist Garrett Phelan (born Dublin, 1965, lives in Dublin) often acts as an antagonist or anti-editor, combining disparate information together while refusing to draw distinctions or provide perspective. Phelan uses found objects, wall drawings, sculptural installations and broadcast radio to create expansive works that he titles in series according to both subject and mode of enquiry.
Phelan developed Reception of Information (2003-07) as one phase of a wider ongoing project entitled Formation of Opinion. Reception of Information explores the notion of 'expert' testimony as it is presented in the media. After meticulously collating articles and transcripts, Phelan reorganised and redistributed them, stripped of their context, in public forms such as radio broadcasts, large-scale offsite drawing projects and an online project. Part of this series is NOW:HERE (2003), a collection of erratically executed wall drawings sited in a derelict Dublin flat. NOW:HERE mapped rationalist philosophy and experimental science, hermeneutic theories and anti-rationalist belief systems. Black Brain Radio (2006), meanwhile, consisted of 24-hour independent FM broadcasts around Dublin. These broadcasts, transmitted over a one-month period, covered a range of randomly selected subjects. Instead of creating seamless links between sound bites or diagrams, these works make evident discrepancies between them and expose the disjointedness of Phelan's compilation, refusing to provide or perpetuate the 'expert' content of the original source material.
For Nought to Sixty Phelan addresses the complexity of what he calls "the absolute present", constituted by "real experience and real relationships". Phelan presents a series of works collectively titled IT, is not IT (2008). One work, Interruption, Between Two ITs (part 2), comprises a sculptural form made from wood and fabric, covered by a deluge of black spray paint. The work is symbolic of a confrontation, an interruption. Another work, IT will bring you light, contains an active radio encased within a black concrete cast. Despite its entombment, the radio continues to play. IT is dead, meanwhile, is assembled from dead radio batteries, now superfluous and oozing their chemical contents. Formerly fuelling the word, spoken or sung, as it passed invisibly from studio to speaker, their sticky materiality now charges silence but still refuses to be ignored.
From their production by submersion, decomposition or entombment, to the artist's interest in reversing the transmission of information and formation of opinion, Phelan's work straddles both sculpture and performance. Whether in the gallery, on the radio or in an offsite location, Phelan's obfuscations demand a personal response from the viewer – rather than a reliance on received opinion.