Michelle Doyle

24th May 2018

1. Hi Michelle, thanks so much for participating - we hope you’re enjoying the coffee! Can you give us an introduction to your practice, interests and experiences?

I’m an artist based in Dublin. I work through sound, sculpture, performance and video. I studied Fine Art Media in NCAD and then I did my MA in Art, Research and Collaboration in IADT. A lot of people leave Dublin after their BA but I chose to stay because I am part of a great music community here. I play in punk bands and am involved in different punk and DIY spaces here.

I work a lot through archives. I’m really interested in protests, peace camps, egalitarian projects, people taking power back, punk, noise and communities. I’ve made pirate radio stations, wonky documentaries, destroyed stuff and made riffs! It’s a fairly eclectic art practice and impossible to get my head around applying for grants to burn institutions to the ground. But I do my best!

2. Talk us through your working processes, what are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m working on sculptures. I just recieved a residency to a great artist run space in Dublin called A4 Sounds for the next three months. I’m going to be constructing many things in the following months. I’m really interested in town planning, Georgian architecture, brutalist design and public works. So in the following months I’m going to be building, mosaicing and pebble dashing a multitude of objects for a solo show in August. I’m very excited because I love building things and there’s gonna be performance!

This May, I am working on art for two festivals happening in Ireland. Both festivals are on Islands so the work for both is centred around Island life. They are Drop Everything and Open Ear. One festival will have a radio mast put up, hopefully as a permanent sculpture, while another is going to have a display pergola on communes.

The radio mast is part of a pirate radio sculpture where people can plug in and have their own show. This stems from research I did a number of years ago on Womens Pirate Radio in Galway, which was a pirate radio in activist, Margaretta D’arcy’s house in the 1980’s. Domestic-broadcasting and the demystifying of media technology is really important to my practice.

For Open Ear I am working on a project with artists Eva Richardson-McCrea and Cóilín O'Connell about instances of radical communes in Ireland. For this we are making films and a sculpture, that’ll be viewable in a field. This project I’m going to try stage back at my house too in the next few months.

3. A lot of what we’ve come across (online) appears to take the shape of an audio work or zine (or clay pipe!), is it important for you that the work can be distributed and kept?

Absolutely! I’m not terribly invested in exhibitions when so much of the media we see and experience is not on a wall. It’s also about audience too. I’m interested in the accidental audience. I think the distribution also comes from punk. Punk is all about seven inches, zines, tapes and badges but more so than ever about the collective archive experience. It’s art that everyone can keep and hold onto. Does it devalue the work? Absolutely, and that’s the point! It’s for Walter Benjamin that I do this!

The clay pipes oddly come from the interest in punk badges. Going back hundreds of years, you wore your political and social interests in the design of your clay pipe. A clay pipe might have Wolfetone’s face on it for example, letting people know that you are pro-Home Rule.

My partner works as an archaeologist, so we’ve lots of filthy material culture all over the house, but my favourite thing that he finds is the clay pipes, because each one is so interesting and tells you about the person that owned it, despite the fact that they were mass produced at times.

4. You’re participating in Open Ear, can you tell us more about the Pirate Radio Station?

(I’m gonna answer that one above!)

5. Who, where or what has you feeling excited at the moment? Who, where or what has you feeling concerned at the moment?

I’m excited about Transmission in Glasgow right now. In terms of structure, politics and art, it’s doing great things. Right down to being able to loan people equipment for their projects. I think Dublin really badly needs something like that. It’s terrible that they didn’t get their funding when they are such an important space. I like them so much I’m a member even though I don’t even live in the same country!

With regards to concern, I’m worried that we won’t vote to legalise abortion next month. We are currently in the run up to a referendum to Repeal the 8th Amendment, the part of our constitution which equates the life of an unborn fetus with the life of the person carrying it. Even slight amendments over the years have made the situation even more difficult. People have died in Ireland because of no access to abortion, some of whom were not Irish citizens who could not travel. Yet we’re still being told if we had it, that we would use it as a contraceptive. After years of waiting, we’re finally having a referendum on the 25th of May.

The referendum is reflective of so much here; of health, misogyny, mistrust, racism, dignity and classism. It’s easy during times like this to live in a bubble of the way all your mates are voting, but my extended family are deeply religious and will be voting No. So, I’ve a lot of concern right now!

6. Can you tell us more about Part of the Part Am I, your collaboration with Isadora Epstein? Leading on from that can you speak to us about the role collaboration plays within your practice?

Part of the Part Am I is a performance and publication we made for an art performance night held in a Dublin house. The night is called Room by Angela Monk’s and runs every now and again. We played art historians giving a talk on depictions of the devil throughout history.

Last October I was travelling from Greece to Germany and fell in love with Eastern Orthodox iconography. Every town I rolled into I would go straight to the church to look at all the amazing Byzantine art and reproductions. Paintings with metal plates, saints with real silver hands, 8ft tall beeswax candles, etc. The most striking thing of all though was the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria. It’s like the Sistine Chapel but painted inside and outside. The front of the building has panels top to bottom, representing heaven, present life and then hell. The hell paintings were so visceral and truly infected with evil. People really were being tormented by the devil.

Isadora is really into Milton’s Paradise Lost and Faust, so we brought some of these texts into our performance.

With regards to collaboration, I love it. One of the longest collaborations I’ve been involved in is @ladssociety, which began on Facebook as a fake men’s rights group in our art college, NCAD. It all began because the Student Union had accepted a woeful picture of a neon light woman humping one of the college landmarks for a Christmas ball. Objections were raised over this picture, but it was the lads who trolled the threads who truly inspired us. Lads posting pictures of handguns with “HAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHA” and “Not trying to start a discussion or a debate but… [insert pathetic opinion]”. And the Lads Society was born! Over the years it became about politics, institutional critique, art reviews, etc, but always through the medium of quick photoshop assemblages. We’ve been in exhibitions and done performances through it. So it is really interesting to use Facebook/Instagram as a collaborative studio.

The Ladsoc is Aoife Mullan, Niamh Forbes, Aidan Wall and myself. Niamh sadly passed away last in March. We’re very heartbroken and it’s quite difficult to think of Ladsoc post Niamh, or to even think of her in the past tense. It’s such a big loss for all her friends in Dublin and Glasgow, and she was such a rare and talented artist. Right now it can be quite painful to look at her memes and artwork because I miss her so much. She’s given us an incredible critical lens and humour through which to see the world. To honour her legacy we will continue to make art in her vision. We’ll continue to be her hands, her ideas, her humour and also to Repeal the 8th. Beir bua!

7. You’re in a punk band, Sissy! Yes! Talk to us about the band and your recent track, Sail and Rail?

Sail and Rail is our song parodying Pro Life language to make a triumphant protest song! In the vein of Irish traditional music, it takes a preexisting song and changes it lyrically. That song is Enya’s Sail Away.

The reason we made this song was because we had a lot of anger and resentment about the constant images and messages we were hearing. Pro Life agencies and Catholic Thinktanks are heavily funded here from American lobbyists because they see Ireland as an example. A typical Pro Life protest will have the types of Fake News tactics that the elections in America did.

But it’s the language they use which is so absurd. They depict us as demons. Well okay, we are then! We lifted whole sentences from them for the song. “Soon we’ll be bikini ready!”

There’s something intoxicatingly liberating singing these lines together in a room with other people. It almost gives you a shield.

We released it as a single with Radie Peat from Lankum playing tin whistle on it. Please check her out, she’s an amazing musician! We are raising funds for Need Abortion Ireland, who are a grassroots group who are actively bringing abortion pills into Ireland. Not only do they do this but they also work with people who can’t afford it or people who aren’t allowed travel. Even if we do win the referendum, the law won’t be implemented immediately.

8. If all your work was embedded in an art maze, and at the centre of the maze (the end goal!) you could place a piece or project of your choice, which would it be?

The work I am making right now!

9. Talk to us about how you experience the Dublin art scene, what you feel is working and where you think there’s room for improvement?

There’s only one thing that’s really working in Dublin right now and that’s the artspace, A4 Sounds. They’re the only DIY art space in Dublin. They have artist studios, a sculpture workshop and a screenprinting studio. Naturally they’ve lots of overheads and it’s an expensive city, but they’ve tried to incorporate all types of memberships. I’m not just plugging them cos I got a free studio off them, but I do think they’re the only resilient DIY space going. For the last couple of months I’ve been working at home and while I love being able to have my own space, you really do need human contact and to go somewhere. You also buzz off other people making things.

I also love Angela Monk’s “Room”, which is an art performance night that takes place in a fellow artist’s house. Definitely the way forward!

Okay, let’s start with improvements:
Firstly, there is not enough value placed on longterm arts or community building here. It is not supported by the council or government at all. Artists habitually apologise for existing in Dublin. The more time you spend on your practice, the more you must apologise. Part of the reason for this is the accelerated neoliberal city. A rent crisis across domestic and commercial properties means every space must be justified by commerce. Ever space now has two purposes, a nightclub is a cafe. A spare room is a bnb. A gallery is a co-working space. An artist is not artist they are a worker and do art as a hobby. No one is saying that art actually is work.

With this climate, artists feel a lot of pressure for their work to deliver and to be successful. Artists worship at the feet of big institutions here. Please take me! Please give me a self employed contract!

Others try to replicate the professionalism of one and put on exhibitions in expensive venues, working really hard in their 9-5 to fund this type of enterprise.

A lot of the big tech companies who moved in here are eager to look as though they’re filling the gap that the governments lack of funding and initiative has created by supporting artists. But how can you have a critical art practice at all if you take Airbnb’s money?

And finally the saddest thing of all that’s happened because of this climate is artist’s devaluing each other’s labour and time. Sissy was asked to play a fundraiser once by a bunch of artists who wanted to hire an expensive venue to put on an exhibition about… women’s labour! I asked how much we would get paid. They said nothing. Lol. Oh my heart breaks! How much are flights to Glasgow btw?

10. If you had unlimited access to resources and funding, is there a piece or project that you would like to realise?

I’d love to loosely remake, modernise and distribute something based on the board game “Class Struggle” by Bertell Ollman. It’s a 1978 game that teaches players about Marxism and is Workers vs Capitalists! There’s different groups in the game and often allegiances change, with a big race to the middle before a nuclear bomb goes off, which is very 1978. But I would love to invite modern Marxist thinkers to mull over the various groups, plots and chance cards. Ideally I would love Bertell to revisit his original game and think himself how it sits in today’s society. He hasn’t replied to my many emails though!


Michelle Doyle is an artist based in Dublin. You can find her at michelledoyle.eu and on Instagram at risingdamp_.