Duncan Campbell, The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy, 2016 (still). Photo courtesy of Rina Yang.
Following his first major exhibition in Dublin at IMMA in 2014, Irish-born artist Duncan Campbell presents, The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy (2016), his first new work since winning the Turner Prize in 2014 and his first film based in the Republic of Ireland. Originating from research undertaken in the IFI Irish Film Archive, Campbell’s new film commission takes as a starting point a 1960’s UCLA anthropological film study of rural Kerry to investigate and reframe contemporary Ireland.
The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy is underpinned by extensive research, in this instance Paul Hockings and Mark McCarty’s 1968 documentary film The Village, and three influential anthropological studies: Inis Beag by John C. Messenger; Inishkillane: Change and Decline in the West of Ireland by Hugh Brody; and in particular Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics by Nancy Scheper-Hughes.
The film uses a combination of archive material and self-shot footage and is set against a visit by two American anthropologists to the village of Dun Chaoin thus mirroring The Village. Campbell directly integrates footage from Hockings and McCarty’s film with newly scripted material also filmed in and around Dún Chaoin, which echoes key scenes from the documentary that captured the day-to-day routine of the village. In revisiting these scenes Campbell looks at some of the assumptions, ethics and misconceptions that frame the relationship between the filmmakers and the villagers.
As with many of Campbell’s works the film questions the validity of documentary form as historical representation, blurring fact, and fiction, recording and interpretation. His extensive research into a specific time and context uncovers the unknown and unexpected in a representation of Ireland that at first seems familiar. On one level The Welfare of Tomás ó Hallissy represents the uses and misuses of the past as the implications of the societal shifts and misrepresentations it explores still resonate and inform contemporary Ireland today.
Commenting on the work Duncan Campbell said “the film is set at the interface of the activist perspective of the two American anthropologists and their focus on individual minds to be saved; and the communal but conservatively Catholic perspective of the people they are studying. The main character in the film is a speechless 10 year-old boy, Tomás, who is seen in the light of the tension between these two perspectives.’ At the heart of the film is the question of Tomás’ welfare and, if he is in need of salvation - whether this lies in tradition or modernity.”
The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy is commissioned by IMMA with co-commissioners Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and Western Front, Vancouver. This commission is one of three major new works being commissioned by IMMA that reflects on the legacy of the commemoration of the Irish State and is part of the official Ireland 2016 programme. Funded in part by the Irish Film Board this marks the first time that IMMA and Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board have collaborated on a film work.
This commission is also presented as part of an exciting on-going initiative, New Art at IMMA, proudly supported by Matheson, which allows IMMA to continue to support artists’ vital work in a strand of programming that recognises and nurtures new and emerging talents, new thinking and new forms of exhibition-making.
About the artist
Duncan Campbell (b.1972 in Dublin, Ireland) lives and works in Glasgow. He is best known for his films which focus on particular moments in history, and the people and objects at the centre of those histories. He uses archive material as a route to research subjects and histories that he feels are important. The process of making the films becomes a means to further understand his subjects and reveal the complexity of how they have been previously represented. Although these histories are located in specific times and geographies they resonate with and inform our present. Extensive research into the subjects through archival material underpins all of the films and the histories Campbell chooses to focus on reflect his interest. Using both archival and filmed material, his films question our reading of the documentary form as a fixed representation of reality, opening up boundaries between the actual and the imagined, record and interpretation.
He completed the MFA at Glasgow School of Art in 1998 and a BA in Fine Art at the University of Ulster in 1996. Campbell was the winner of the 2014 Turner Prize (Duncan Campbell, Ciara Phillips, James Richards, Tris Vonna-Michell) and was one of three artists representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale as part of Scotland + Venice 2013 (Corin Sworn, Campbell, Hayley Tompkins). In 2012 Campbell took part in Manifesta 9 curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina, Katerina Gregos and Dawn Ades, Belgium and in 2010 he took part in Tracing the Invisible, Gwangju Biennale. In 2017, Wiels, Brussels will host a solo exhibition on Duncan Campbell.
The Artist & The State / International Symposium Saturday 26 November / 10.00am - 5.30pm / The Chapel / IMMA / €6 In response to the centenary of the Easter Rising 1916 and the evolution of society and social ideology over the past 100 years, IMMA, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and Create’s 2016 programmes reflected on the role artists and creativity plays in society and the identity of the nation state. This symposium takes a timely look at the potential of contemporary arts practice to critically address the challenges now facing our ever-changing global society and systems of governance. Duncan Campbell will give a presentation as part of this symposium. Listen back here.
IFI - IMMA : A Screening & Conversation with Duncan Campbell Monday 27 Feb, 6.30pm / The IFI (Irish Film Centre), Temple Bar Organised in collaboration with the IFI, The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy by Duncan Campbell will be screened at the IFI cinema. To follow Duncan Campbell and Sarah Glennie, Director, IMMA will discuss the commissioning and making of Campbell's new film as part of the official Ireland 2016 programme. Listen back to this discussion here.
IFI: The Village Tuesday 28 Feb, 6.30pm / The IFI (Irish Film Centre), Temple Bar The Village, the film which was Campbell's key starting point, will also screen at the IFI as part of their monthly strand From The Vaults. Made by Made by the Ethnographic Film Unit of UCLA in the 1960s The Village examines how modernisation has affected the inhabitants of the remote village of Dún Chaoin in Co Kerry, showing their connection with the nearby Blasket Islands and their relationship with visitors who come to observe them.
Critical Reflections: Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Duncan Campbell Thursday 30 March, 6.30 – 7.30pm, Lecture Room Ground-breaking author and anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes, artist Duncan Campbell and Professor Luke Gibbons reflect on Scheper-Hughes book Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics (1979/ 2001) and her experience of tracing the social disintegration of a remote village in Ireland and her later attempts to reconcile an honest ethnography with the community. Listen back to this discussion here.
Read an interview with Duncan Campbell in The Irish Times.
Listen to an interview with Duncan Campbell on Culture File, Lyric FM.
Listen to a review of the film work on Arena, RTE Radio 1.
Read a review of the film work in The Sunday Times. (Paywall).