Interview: Flatpack Gallery and Studios

Flatpack, a new gallery and studio space situated in Dublin 7, is hosting its first show this week. It’s called Your Cruelty and features the work of Lily Cahill, Rob Murphy and Matthew Slack. We asked Lily Cahill to answer a few questions about the show and the studio.

Tell us about Flatpack Gallery and Studios. What is it? When did you start? Who’s involved? What’s the grand plan?

Flatpack has thus far been operating as an open plan studio space with ten artists working in it. The ten of us were all in the same year in Visual Arts Practice in IADT Dun Laoghaire and we graduated in 2011. From June of that year we knew we wanted to keep working together. We liked each other (still do) and thought that we had a good thing going on as to how we discussed issues surrounding our practices, and we decided to carry this on into the real world. I didn’t want to be isolated from a group that I felt me and my work benefitted a lot from being a part of just because college was over. We moved into our space in Smithfield in March. Myself, Rob and Matthew are showing first in a series of shows in which all members will be exhibiting in groups in the front room of Flatpack, which will henceforth be operating as the gallery part of Flatpack Gallery and Studios.

The plan is to first have this series of shows, and that will take us up to December. In the meantime, everyone keeps on making stuff and talking, and then we’ll see what’s next. We have meetings every week with a rotation as to who is in charge, and then we democratically vote on what we want to do with regards to the studio, so we’ll be making further plans soon no doubt. I imagine after this first series of shows we will begin to think about the possibilities for Flatpack to engage with interested parties outside our own interesting party.

On your website you state that you have an “open studio” policy. Does this mean anyone can turn up and start faffing about with tins of paint?

Certainly not, unless invited. We carried on this way of working from IADT actually. In 4th year there were no cubicles or dividers, it was just everyone in a big room with no assigned desks or areas. This was pretty annoying at first because people like a consistent place to keep their stuff, but it proved to be effective because then people use the space better – someone making small stuff doesn’t need a whole box to themselves when someone else is painting massive canvases or whatever and doesn’t have enough room. So in Flatpack, anyone that wants a relatively stationary desk has one, but we’re facing each other and able to talk and there’s open space for anyone to use as needs be. Cubicles are stupid for an art making environment I think. The reason we felt we were a good group and encouraged each other in our work in college was because we could see and talk about the work all the time. If we were packaged separately this wouldn’t happen so much. Though this depends on your co-workers I suppose.

Your Cruelty is the first show taking place at Flatpack. Can you give us an idea of what to expect?

I think the three of us all look to some kind of alternative structure for viewing and processing the world. Myself and Matt do so through having created our own kind of worlds. These worlds have rules, or maybe rules is the wrong word, let’s say adherences, that inform and shape the resulting work. Rob’s way of thinking is not so much about a world, or the world, but about the possibility of the things that inhabit this world being distinct or alter to the big associated backpack of worldly-ness they are carried in. Good grief. Anyway there’ll be video, sculpture, drawing and installation work and I think the thing that brings us and the work’s interests together is that it’s all squabbling, or battling, with the big bully of the predominant or accepted ways of seeing and being in the world – or at least that’s what it’s really trying to do anyway.

What sort of curatorial process was involved in the show?

Me and Matt make work that a lot of the time needs to be fabricated in the spot it’s going to be shown in. I write all over walls so I need a good bit of preparation time and would be pissed if I suddenly had to be moved for example. So we first thought about the essential requirements for the pieces to function: light, space, and then what looks good beside what, or what can potentially be having some sort of interesting engagement with something else. All the normal stuff.

The three artists involved seem to have fairly diverse practices. How did these come together for Your Cruelty? Are there common themes and concerns?

I think I probably covered this adequately above. The gents may beg to differ mind you. But yes, again I think it’s the world stuff. There are other complimentary and contrasting facets of course. Matt’s work creates a feeling of possibility and endurance after some kind of alluded to event; there has been some kind of change but life went on, or at least forms of life anyway. Whereas I would see my work as hopeless (ha!), it became defined by an event and is incapable of ‘getting over it’, it is always struggling against itself but can’t escape its own parameters. And Rob’s stuff I think is suggestive of both possibility and hopelessness in that it is offering something so entirely alter and distinct that it makes you think “Jaysus, is the way things are so grim and uncompromising that we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater?”. It’s like the work offers an exit, but it’s an emergency exit, on a plane, over the Bermuda Triangle.

Some of you were at dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel this summer. What were the highlights for you?

I thought Tino Sehgal was pretty great. Anna Boghiguian too. But especially Willie Doherty, who I’d been wrong in thinking was a complete snore prior to this.

Your promo video for the show features American poet Amiri Baraka reading a poem accompanied by improvised saxophone playing. Please explain.


Your Cruelty opens on Thursday 6th of September at 6pm. Flatpack Gallery and Studios are situated at 32 Brunswick St North, Dublin 7. The show will run until the 15th of September.