Artist Bio

SARAH PIERCE | b. 1968. Lives and works in Dublin. Since 2003, Sarah Pierce has used the term The Metropolitan Complex to describe her art. Despite its institutional resonance, this title does not signify an organisation. Instead, it demonstrates Pierce’s broad understanding of cultural work, articulated through methods that open up to the personal and incidental. Characterised as a way to play with a shared neuroses of finding one’s place (read complex in the Freudian sense), whether a specific locality or a wider set of circumstances that frame interaction, her art considers forms of gathering, both historical examples and those she initiates.

The processes of research and presentation that Pierce undertakes highlight a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art: the potential for dissent and self-determination, the slippages between individual work and institution, and the proximity of past artworks. Pierce uses a range of media, often making work with students and other artists in collaborations that draw on art’s historical relationship to the political. With irreverence towards hierarchies and classification, her focus is on archival materials and reproductions, student work, test pieces, gestures and repetitive address. Pierce has described her work as part of a feminist legacy, “deeply committed to a radical turn away from the cult of the artist and individual achievements towards the signs and symbols of a system of art making.”

Solo exhibitions: No Title CCA Derry (2017); Pathos of Distance National Gallery of Ireland (2016); Lost Illusions Galerie SBC Montreal, Mercer Union Toronto, Walter Phillips Gallery Banff (2014); The Artist Talks The Showroom London (2013); Meaning of Greatness Project (2006). Selected group exhibitions: Rua Red Tallaght (2017); CCS Bard Hessel Museum Annandale-on-Hudson NY (2016); Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven (2016); IMMA Dublin (2015); Biennale de Lyon (2011); Mattress Factory (2011); K21+20 Düsseldorf (2011); MUMOK Vienna (2009); MuHKA Antwerp (2007); and the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) where she represented Ireland.

ARTIST MONOGRAPH | Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors by Sarah Pierce. Published by Book Works in association with The Showroom, edited by Rike Frank and designed by Peter Maybury with essays by Melissa Gronlund, Tom Holert, Barbara Clausen, Declan Long, and Padraic E. Moore, a.o. Edition of 1,000. Click here to order directly from Book Works.

PROFILES | Art Monthly | Camera Austria | If I Can’t Dance Magazine 5 | Ireland at Venice


Lost Illusions/Illusions perdues

2014 | A  solo exhibition in three parts, developed jointly with Walter Phillips Gallery Banff AL, Mercer Union Toronto ON, and SBC Galerie Montreal QB. Performances by the Conceptual Art Club (Banff), Olivia Simpson and Kayla Krische (Toronto), and Thomas Dalbec (Montreal). Installation with ceramics, plinths, video, and archival materials, including Josef Svoboda’s set designs c. 1970, courtesy the Banff Centre Archive. Commissioned by Pip Day, Georgina Jackson, and Jesse McKee.

Sarah Pierce’s Lost Illusions/Illusions perdues (part two) refers to the ‘lost illusions’ of the recent past, and present. In this exhibition, support structures from recent exhibitions re-appear as material excluded from the institution’s archive while the galleries are divided into black and white. Artworks or ceramic test pieces belonging to an unofficial archive of works that have been left behind at the Banff Centre, are presented in the form of large posters while the gallery has become a work space to make these objects again, transforming from mutable material to robust form while drying out during the exhibition’s time span.

In conceptualizing a three-part project across three venues in the form of a solo exhibition, I will call upon a methodology that involves accumulation and archival research. The starting point is an archive of debris, which began in 2013 in the lead up to the exhibition at Walter Phillips Gallery. The remnants of institutional, technical, and exhibition work — from unused scraps to stuff leftover from preparing the exhibition spaces (empty paint buckets, used rollers, plaster, cutaways, nails, bits of wood, packing materials and crates) have been gathered and kept, rather than removed and discarded. This material is the basis of a ‘set,’ presented as an artwork along with archival materials from the institution. This set/artwork will be modified for each venue, introducing new elements and changing in terms of the archive that is integrated into the work.

Related events feed into the exhibition, working to destabilize the status of the solo presentation. The first, in Banff, is a particular residency that took place at the centre in the early 1990s called “The instability of the feminist subject.” This residency involved participants from Europe and North America, all of whom were women. I am gathering (and recovering) anecdotal stories relating to a final nudist pool party on campus, and this material will become part of a new performance that will take place in the gallery. This performance involves six actors, and a ‘script’ that evolves from place to place in three parts.

Physical forms are installed against the backdrop of video works showing performers working individually and together, connecting and disconnecting memory and image, movement and gesture, voice and chant, to embody the process of making art. This two channel film, documenting a workshop organised by Pierce and employing techniques from Brecht’s ‘learning-plays’ displacing mimesis by combining physical gesture and attitude, exists in duplicate, as two films and two individual students struggling with issues of translation, manner, chant and action.

In gathering material left behind from previous exhibitions, remnants of an institutional archive, forgotten objects, and a ‘learning play’ workshop with two art students, Pierce brings to the fore artworks, objects and moments that have been recently suppressed, renegotiating the role of the object, the artwork, the timeliness and contingency of gestures, actions and questions of community. The processes of research and presentation that Pierce undertakes highlight a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art: the potential for dissent and self-determination, the slippages between individual work and institution, and the proximity of past artworks.


Six Propositions

2013 | Performance and installation for six actors. Debris archive (empty paint buckets, used rollers, plaster, cutaways, nails, bits of wood, packing materials and crates), platforms, black and white photographs, easels. Original script by Sarah Pierce. Commissioned by Sarah Perks and Declan Clarke for the exhibition Anguish and Enthusiasm: What do you do with your revolution once you’ve got it?, Cornerhouse, Manchester. NB: The title of this work was changed to Six Propositions in 2015. It is a precursor to the work Gag, co-commissioned in 2015 by the Van Abbemuseum and IMMA.

BREN O’CALLAGHAN | How does your new commission for Anguish and Enthusiasm relate to the post-revolutionary theme? Will it be a broad response, or do you have a particular focus or historical episode in mind?

SARAH PIERCE | The project relates in a board sense; post-revolutionary is not a theme in the work. But in terms of focus and attention, or loss of attention, there is a relationship between the loss of attention or focus that can occur when a demand is met, then what?

B O’C | The title, Six Propositions, has connotations of forced suppression of liberties and/or oppression of free speech. How might this manifest in the work?

SP | The gag works on different levels – it is a suppression and it is also a visual gag – so it is something that suppresses word and also works without words, visually. It has a double meaning.

B O’C | What materials do you intend to use?

SP | For this project the references include Charlie Chaplin and JL Godard’s La Chinoise. The 6 actors work with a variety of materials in the gallery to construct scenarios that play with a ‘visual humour.’ In comedy anything that conveys humour without works is called a sight gag, and I was interested in using the gallery as a kind of ploy, so that in a series of quick scene changes a kind of physical impossibility and unexpected humour plays out through what the actors are doing and where they are. The humour is caused by alternative interpretations of the goings-on.

B O’C | Do you have any existing methods you intend to apply, or will it be wholly improvised?

SP | Part of what I do is test the timing of artworks, how long it takes for them to come about, what kind of investments of time come into play when we think about making and doing… so this is compressed in this piece since much of the making happens when I arrive, over a short period of time. I have worked this way on other projects: both It’s Time Man It Feels Imminent and The Artist Talks have elements that require me to make them onsite, with a similar sense of immediacy, and of course the performance Future Exhibitions too. It is not improvised, I am planning, working, thinking and it comes together usually with a script that is written along the way.

B O’C | What is it about live performance, interviews and conversations that draws you back to these areas time and again?

SP | I like the temporal zone where thinking and doing kind of collapse into each other; they don’t remain discrete, or if they do there is a necessity to scatter them – they disperse in the way I use them.

B O’C | It feels as though you use language almost as if it were a physical substance, like clay or pigment: constructing layers, revealing form, exposing patina. What challenges does this pose for interpretation and presentation?

SP | I’ve never thought of it like this – but it perhaps speaks to the gestural as something that is displayed, through language, but is not language. In this way what I am doing is almost the opposite of a performative work, it is not communicating, it is not doing and saying. It is physical in that sense.


Towards a Newer Laocoön

2012 | Installation and archive: Films from the Irish Film Institute Irish Film Archive; plaster friezes and fragments; hantarex monitors, tables and gels. Works: Laocoön and friezes, artists unknown, c. 1750; Newspaper clippings and handwritten note, 1969, courtesy National Irish Visual Arts Library’s NCAD collection; Amharc Éireann newsreels (Art Students Get Twisted, 1963; Anti-Apartheid Movement Grows, 1964; The Cork International Choral Festival, 1962; Nigerian Independence Ball, 1960; Students Stage Boycott March, 1960), courtesy Gael Linn Collection; Shellshock Rock, 1979, courtesy John T. Davis (dir.); Messing With The Kids, 1977; The Black Irish, 1976, Smuggling and Smugglers, 1965; Black Babies Are Growing Up, 1973, courtesy Rhadarc Films; 36th Battalion, The Congo, 1959, courtesy the Irish Military Archives; Chronique d’un été, 1961, dirs. Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, courtesy Icarus Films; The Question Would be the Answer to the Question, Are you happy?, Dublin chapter, 2012. Commissioned by Sarah Glennie for the Irish Film Institute for the solo exhibition Towards a Newer Laocoön, National College of Art and Design Gallery, Dublin.

SEE TEXT | by Declan Long


The Artist Talks

2012 | Installation (stage, felt curtains, boxes, props, spot lights, photographs, gel filters); performance (with Sean Burns, Rachel Dowle, Seth Guy, Rebecca Kirkpatrick, Kristin Luke and Kate Mahony); and  Video (single channel, 19 min 27 sec, with Eddie Aparicio, Taylor Deltz, Alison Dineen, Kate Falcone, Cooper MacKenzie and Janet Wiles). Co-commissioned by Book Works and the Showroom as part of Again, A Time Machine.

The Artist Talks repositions the convention of the artist’s talk as an open system with the potential to disturb or re-invent past artworks and received ideas. Using new video work, photographs, sculpture and performance, the exhibition contains a range of material and references that open up the relation between speech and archives. A stage is the setting for a choreographed ‘artist talk’, which has been developed as a group performance in collaboration with art students and uses fragments and gestures from past artworks. An arrangement of props, objects, video and photographs will frame the event with material that includes a film of students describing uncompleted artworks, and a set of small clay studies based on the unsigned sculptures that became known as ‘unknown Rodin’s’.

Drawing from these references, and the fleeting asides, verbal punctums and interruptions that often disturb the conviction of a ‘finished’ work or the flow of prepared speech, The Artist Talks is an assemblage of actions and objects that mediate artworks.

Mid-way through her exhibition, Sarah Pierce invited three thinkers to address the audience with short, prepared speeches that describe a visual work. Presented as a sequential lecture, one after the other, Dave Beech, Melissa Gronlund and Grant Watson offered verbal descriptions of artworks that remained unnamed. The visual entered the talk in the reciprocities between words and thoughts, speakers and listeners, language and imagination.

On the last day of the exhibition a choreographed ‘artist’s talk’ with six London-based art students took place in the gallery. This short, revised speech uses props and a central stage that form part of the installation, along with a text written in 1905 by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. In a group dialogue the performance gestures a mode that all artists occupy: where speech and the archive coalesce, documentation anticipates the event, and words disturb the finished work.




1968 – ongoing | Spontaneous collaborations with Vaari Claffey — named inappropriations — taking various forms.

A word and image of equal value, performance with students from IADT, in ACHED GREW PRINT JOT, Dun Laoghaire 2012. Curated by Lee Welch| Man-watching, performance with Oisin Byrne, musical interludes by Padraic Moore, in Gracelands, Co. Leitrim 2011. Curated by Vaari Claffey | Sorry and Thanks, daily emails disseminated between 1 September – 1 October 2011 | Vanity Fair City, published as an edition of Feint 2008.

FERDINAND de SAUSSURE | The initial assignment of names to things, establishing a contract between concepts and sound patterns, is an act we can conceive in the imagination, but no one has ever observed it taking place.


What is already and what will become

2011 | Six custom-made curtains, various dimensions. Commissioned for I’m Searching for a Field Character, Mass MOCA, North Adams, MA. Curated by James Voorhies, Bureau of Open Culture. | Dublin Art Book Fair and Magazine Archive, Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, 2011.

Based on conversations with Jim Voorhies, we began to think about relationships between institution, institutionality and education, and the ways that these relationships are present and apparent as well as oblique. Shifting institutional interests and structural, as well as, basic, practical restrictions like budgets often force education into a peripheral, supplemental role, all the while under the rhetorical promise of what is optimistic, positive, and ‘good’. With this in mind, I decided to build on an idea of “searching” that is less about acts that leads to a discovery, and more about difficult, tenuous operations that build up and breakdown. Importantly, searching sometimes leads to a dead end.

The six curtains are always presented as part of an institutional project in educating and disseminating: a reading room, a library, a book fair, but not an exhibition. It is an artwork that works against and excludes the exhibition. It moves and is moveable, it obstructs and structures space, and pushed aside, when it is ‘opened’ it disappears. It decorates and blows in the wind.

SARAH PIERCE | Dublin 2011


Intelligence of the Measured Hand

2011 | Three single channel videos on Hantarex monitors: Interview with Robin Buick; Working in the studio; The artist’s garden in Black Rock, Co. Dublin.  Single channel audio on PA speaker (Arnim’s model drawing class, Düsseldorf Academy of Art), 2 glass vatrines with archival materials, unfinished study in clay by Robin Buick. Commissioned for Appeal for an Alternative, Schmela Haus, Stiftung Kunstsammlung Bordhein-Westfalen (K21+K20), Düsseldorf 2011. Curated by Lisa Schmidt.

Intelligence of the Measured Hand brings together several elements that revolve around ideas of mastery and virtuoso skill, drawing on a relationship between the student and teacher, the craftman and the artist. The videos show an interview with artist Robin Buick and his studio, as he works on a clay study that is on display in the installation. The layout of the room refers to the history of the Schemla haus and specifically, to an artwork by Joseph Beuys, included in the K20 collection, where he used a plaster head made by one of his students. The findings from a subsequent legal decision after Beuys’s death, when the student brought the estate to court, are included in the installation, along with newpaper clippings about the case.

LISA SCHMIDT | When we started talking about the show I sent you a couple of photos of the exhibition space. How did you experience the actual physical space when you came to visit the Schmela Haus in contrast to this first visual encounter?

SARAH PIERCE | What captured me from the outset was less that this is an historical example of architecture within the oeuvre of a “great architect” – in fact this is not compelling to me at all. In some ways, I treat that aspect of the building as merely anecdotal. Comparing the two encounters – the initial physical one with the photos you sent me – it is difficult not to consider how memory and the document coalesce in an encounter with the Schmela Haus. Entering the space, I am entering an archive, and as with any archive a certain level of mediation gives access to the building’s dominant meaning. This is not the same as access to what lays beneath the surface, out of reach. The installation, the architecture, the archive, all present tentative, transitory stories about speculation and deferral. All of the information that circulates about the architect, the building, its connection to a family and various artists, to an architectural movement, all of this matters, but more relevant to my installation is that the Schmela Haus exists as a medium or means of doing something, and that its past is embedded in the physicality of what that ‘something’ is – both physically and technically. Within the exhibition space, the installation acts as a suspended encounter. There is a temporary amalgamation of disparate materials there, including the person who, like me, enters the Haus and upon entering is left slightly abandoned, not really belonging.

LS | The installation in this exhibition is reflecting your interest in art education. How did it come to the involvement of the sculptor Robin Buick and what can you tell us about the cooperation?

SP | I approached Robin Buick because of his intense involvement in the Classical tradition. He is an artist in his seventies who lives and works in Dublin. At first, I simply wanted to ask him about classical techniques. I commissioned him to make a study of a female head in clay, which I asked him to present to me ‘unfinished’. At a certain point I decided to interview him.

Solzhenitsyn wrote that of all the 19th century radical utopian revolutions, the Modern Art Movement was the only successful one. It has certainly shaped the art theory and pedagogy of the 20th century as well as – discrediting and dismantling of the former 19th century one. We are still living in the legacy of this. Although some people like myself are questioning the value of 20th century ‘Modern Art’ and of 3rd level degrees based on it; it is simply too well established to be easily changed…

– Robin Buick, Dublin 2011

The schism is about competing value systems – and what one ‘values’ as art. Which led me to a conceptual link between teaching and making art. Not teaching as knowledge-transfer, or even instruction, but teaching as a kind of performative act similar to a promise or a confession. And this is where I started to see a strange relationship to Joseph Beuys – a way of working that concentrates on the energies (whether shamanic or erotic) that are at odds with how art schools ‘prepare’ students to transform. Beuys used a plaster head made by one of his students in an artwork. This story exists anecdotally alongside the other material in the installation.

For this project, I wanted to signal mystical relationships that are not formalised under the rubric “art education”. There is a sense of anticipation and deferral here, again to go back to the story of the Schmela Haus, where student artwork is never finished, never in the right time. In some ways, the cooperation with Robin undoes the legacy of Beuys, by allowing us to see both artists struggle with the interplays between virtuosity and intuition, teacher and student, mastery and technique, repetition and creativity.



2011 | Group performance with fabric curtains. Original script by Sarah Pierce. Text adapted from JoAnna Commandaros’ instructions to sculpture students in a 3-dimensional sculpture class, University of Pittsburgh. Archival materials courtesy the University of Pittsburgh, University Archives Information Files, Civil Rights Archives. Performances at: the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh with Sarah Lavery, Julia Cahill, Elise Walton, Sami Stevick, Ashley Hickey, Henzle, Tom Sarver, Ben Rickles, and Joe Messalle. Commissioned by Georgina Jacksonfor the exhibition Neighbourhood, 2011; Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart with Laura Hindmarsh, Benjamin Ryan, Claire Krouzecky, Lucy Rollins and Ryan Harrison. Commissioned by Paul O’Neill for the exhibition Our Day Will Come, 2011; Eva international, Limerick with Caelan Bristow, Gimena Blanco, Rosa Abbott, Graham Gill, Darius Murtagh, and Claire Breen. Commissioned by Vaari Claffey for Gracelands, 2012; Stroom, Den Haag with Bianca den Breejen, Katinka van Gorkum, Maaike Lauwaert, Najmeh Saghaei, Kosta Tonev, Sindy Toppenberg, and Zoe Reddy. Commissioned by Capucine Perrot for I Proclaim!, 2012; VOX, Montreal with Anne-Marie Trépanier, Janick Burn, Audrey Wolski, Benoît Courchesne, Anastasia Domerego, Catherine D’avril, Laurent Viau-Lapointe, Valérie Nadon, and Fabien Marcil. Commissioned by Vincent Bonin, Barbara Clausen, Marie J. Jean for Something to say – Something to do, 2012.

Campus, emerges from Pierce’s ongoing interest in the college campus as a space of community predicated on shifting levels of presence and participation. Pierce focused on the University of Pittsburgh, looking into the decade of transition between 1959-1969, when the civil rights movement merged into, and on some levels became obscured by, the anti-war movement. This work references such activities in presenting selected newspaper clippings from the University of Pittsburgh’s archives, specifically student protests that led to the formal establishment of the Black Action Society (BAS) in 1969. This archive material is presented against the backdrop of a series of large red curtains, and from behind the voice of a woman resonates.

As viewers move through the space, the curtains both guide and obstruct, changing colour in the light and perhaps hinting how with a slight shift in viewing, things become prominent or can disappear. In the far corner a monitor shows a film of a performance by a group of individuals staged during the opening of the exhibition. The performance emerged from a workshop conducted by the artist during which gestures familiar from political protests were acted out along with phrases borrowed from a sculpture class: the female voice belongs to the instructor who tells her students, for example, to “find a place to stand, step back, and look.”

Here, Pierce’s interest in the campus merges with ‘being student’—a concept she develops in her work to describe a state of immediacy and engagement in a present moment. As we listen to the art instruction recorded during a sculpture class at Pitt in April, 2011 ideas about technique and observation merge with other acts that involves ‘seeing’ and ‘doing’.

If an act is acknowledged through repetition, a gesture, a mark on a page, what role does each individual act play? The objects the students in their studio classroom are observing and creating do not exist within the gallery space, neither do the campus events of 1969; but they are the present in which we exist.

GEORGINA JACKSON | Pittsburgh 2011



2011 | Archive and film club for Research Programme, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen 2011. Curated by Mark Sladen. Image | Film still. La Chinoise, dir. Jean Luc Godard, 1967.

The Research Programme is a new strand at Charlottenborg, and the first block has been created by the Dublin-based artist Sarah Pierce. The programme will always be generated by a researcher-in-residence, who will have the use of the Kunsthal’s guest apartment. It will always include a display, but also a range of events—and Pierce’s curated events take the form of a film club and a display in the Antechamber of archival material from Charlottenborg’s archive from around 1961. Pierce, working with the Kunsthal’s archivist, Ingvild Hansen, and the art historian Jens Tang Kristensen, has gathered together a collection of idiosyncratic letters, informal correspondence and other printed matter. Taken together the archive creates its own reflections on the dreams and realities of the utopian moment from which Rouch and Morin’s work emerged.

MARK SLADEN | Copenhagen 2011

Film club

SARAH PIERCE | 06.04.2011, 19.00 | For the first Film Club Sarah Pierce introduces and screens parts of her ongoing film project The question would be the answer to the question, ‘Are you happy?’, together with Rouch and Morin’s Chronique d’un été, while touching upon the latter’s important impact on contemporary art and visual research.

YAEL DAVIDS | 13.04.2011, 19.00 | The Israeli artist Yael Davids presents her video project The hand is quicker than the eye (2009), made with inmates of the Mechelen City Prison in Belgium and which shows them being taught magic tricks. The evening also features a screening of Robert Bresson’s prison masterpiece, Pickpocket (1959).

DECLAN CLARKE | 20.04.2011, 19.00 | Intrigued by the nostalgic legacy of revolutionaries, Irish artist Declan Clarke screens and presents his short film Cologne Overnight (2010) – which focuses on the current obsolescence of idealism – together with Alexander Kluge’s Abschied von Gestern (Yesterday Girl), (1966).

DAVID LAWSON | 27.04.2011, 19.00 | The British artist David Lawson introduces and screens The Mothership Connection (1995), alongside Jean-Luc Godard’s La chinoise (1967). Lawson was a founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective, which produced some of the most challenging and experimental documentaries in Britain in the 1980s.

The Archive Becoming

 Times, of necessity, are local; and this goes too for the relations between places and their respective times.
HENRI LEFEBVRE | The Production of Space 1974

I remember being lost in Tokyo. I believed that when I arrived, I could visually match the characters on the tourist map to those on the street signs and successfully navigate my way through the city. I quickly realised this was impossible. In the shift from map to street sign, the characters changed, almost cognizant of a fundamental difference in time and space dimensions. As I stood on a corner by Ueno Park a young couple approached me and asked if I needed help. I conceded and giving each other knowing glances they signalled for me to follow. I felt completely helpless. We zigzagged through narrow streets and I soon understood that there was no ‘direction’ to point me in; I had to follow…

In Copenhagen, over a few weeks in November, I sat with Ingvild Hansen, the archivist at Charlottenborg. Ingvild is Norweigian, and she patiently translated the documents we culled from the attic from Danish to English, thinking and speaking; moving through each letter, budget, note with humour and anecdotes that helped me understand. After I left Jens Tang Kristensen continued the research. A Danish art historian, I imagine the conversations between researcher and archivist became less encumbered then, but perhaps no less personal. Ingvild and I decided to focus our research on the year 1961 – partly for practical reasons; it allowed us a concise point of entry into a decade that itself was about to become. Civil rights campaigns and student protests in the US and Europe were underway, although it would be several years before these movements climaxed on a global scale. Indeed, the term ‘global’ meant something different – as did ‘nation’.

The archive…

A condition of memory, conditioned not just by what remains, but by how we imagine ourselves in what remains.

Time and material, memory and interpretation, public stories and personal lives.

A contest, at the crux of any notion of ‘representation’.

Items belong to an archive, ever attendant, and yet it is impossible to capture an archive in its entirety.

Parts made visible are never ‘one’, never ‘whole’. Always becoming.

SARAH PIERCE | Dublin 2011

SEE ALSO | 2009 The Question Would be the Answer to the Question, Are you happy?


The Question Would be the Answer to the Question…

2009 | Two single channel dvds; Chronique d’un été, dirs. Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin. Image | Film still. Chronique d’un été, 1961.

DUBLIN |commissioned by Sarah Glennie for the Irish Film Institute, 2012 (upcoming)

COPENHAGEN | commissioned by Mark Sladen at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2011

PARIS | commissioned by Yann Chanteigne at the Centre Georges Pompidou, 2010

BILBAO | commissioned by If I Can’t Dance, Episode III, Masquerade at Sala Rekalde, 2009

For each chapter, a group of local university students from sociology, anthropology, art history, fine art and political science gather at a venue. First, we look at the film Chronique d’un ete by Rouch and Morin, then we talk about it.

Are you happy? Are you happy?

1961 is the year that the French anthropologist Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin made Chronique d’un été. The filmmakers enlisted a cast of real ‘characters’ – students, office workers, Renault workers, artists, families, couples – to portray everyday life in Paris during one summer. The film opens with Marceline, on the street, portable microphone in hand, interviewing a passersby. Her opening question: “Are you happy”?

And amidst the everyday, debates ensue, interspersed with references to politics such as the war in Algeria or events in Korea following a student revolution in the spring…

I watched this film for the first time as a university student in a class called Russian 20s / French 60s. It is part of my ‘personal canon’ – an archive of films that I’ve found myself looking at again and again. I’ve only experienced it with subtitles. With only rudimentary French at hand, I’m keenly aware that much of the film is ‘lost in translation’. A symptom, but also a quality of interpretation; a subjectivity that leads to personal understanding.



Future Exhibitions

2010 | Installation and performance. First commissioned for Push and Pull, Mumok, Vienna, 2010 and Tate Modern, London, 2011. Curated by Barbara Clausen, Achim Horchdorfer and Catherine Wood.

Future Exhibitions takes place in the midst of Allan Kaprow’s environment Push and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hofmann (1963). In this, furniture such as chairs, tables, lamps and carpets turn in to a (comedic) action room in which the visitors are challenged to perform the interaction between art and life. Kaprow’s environment is part of the MUMOK collection and the starting point for Pierce’s analysis of the conception of the history of curating. It is newly installed by the artist and adapted as a stage room for action and as an installation for Future Exhibitions. A performer describes a series of scenes to the audience. Each of them is related to an archival document of a historical exhibition – a photo, a catalogue, a letter, newspaper cuttings or artists’ statements. After each monologue a change of scene takes place in front of the audience, in which the everyday objects on the set are arranged into a new sculptural setting. Future Exhibitions uses the document as a conceptual device and as a literal marker of the ways that institutions anticipate “the work”.



Any questions?

2008 | Performance by Kevin Atherton, 1979. Frascati, Amsterdam 2008. Commissioned by If I Can’t Dance | Project, Dublin 2009. Commissioned by If I Can’t Dance | Ludlow 38 Wyoming Building, New York 2009. Commissioned by The European Kunsthalle.

Excerpts from Any questions? | Frascati, Amsterdam 2008

AUDIENCE  | Could you maybe contextualize this performance in an art-historical frame?

SARAH PIERCE | I think that it has a context in a present moment, that is when it is taking place. That is also its legacy. Are there any questions?

AUDIENCE | But then you’ve lied to us, or you have never done this performance before?

SARAH PIERCE | I’ve never done this performance before. Are there any questions?

AUDIENCE | So who has done it before then?

SARAH PIERCE | This performance is being done right now. It is taking place here. It is a distraction to think about other times it has taken place. It is a way to release us from what is happening. Are there any questions?

AUDIENCE | Are you curious and about what?

SARAH PIERCE | I’m curious about each question as it is asked. Are there any questions?

AUDIENCE | Can you tell us something about other performances you did, yesterday, the day before, last week. Because I don’t know your work and then I can relate that to this evening.

SARAH PIERCE | That is a way of rationalizing what is happening here. It is a diversion that helps you think about something other than what this is, what this actually is. Are there any questions?

AUDIENCE | Do you ascribe to the re-enactment movement and do you think that the idea of re-enactment is even relevant for your own practice?

SARAH PIERCE | Right now I’m not concerned with any movement.


AUDIENCE | To what extent is this situation today, here, political?

SARAH PIERCE | It is an explicit exchange between an audience and an artist. Are there any questions?

AUDIENCE | Would you have done it if no one had done it before?

SARAH PIERCE | I’m doing it now. This is a development. Are there any questions?

AUDIENCE | Walter Benjamin at a certain point said that reproducing something is a liquidation. In what extent do you think that reproducing a performance could also mean a liquidation of that performance?


AUDIENCE | Is this performance going to end in the same way as the performance of Kevin Atherton has ended?


AUDIENCE | And we don’t have any influence on that?

SARAH PIERCE | No. Although, you do have influence on what takes place in the time between now and the ending. Are there any questions?


AUDIENCE | Could you maybe elaborate a bit on the duration of the piece, I mean, you don’t have to spoil it…

SARAH PIERCE | That’s it, it’s over.

AUDIENCE | That’s annoying.


An Artwork in the Third Person

2009 | 8 single channel videos (with Buba Cvoric,Teresa Maria Diaz Nerio, Tzvika Gutter, Rana Hamadeh, Seda Manavoglu, Barbara Philipp, Eva Schippers, James Skunca, Marina Tomic, Yen Yitzu, and Veridiana Zurita), stage, gel lighting, various theatre props, and selected items from the Project Arts Centre Archive 1974-1979, courtesy National Library of Ireland. Commissioned by If I Can’t Dance, Episode III, Masquerade.

Describe an artwork in the third person… is the first task posed to participants in a series of one-to-one interviews presented by Sarah Pierce in her multi-channel installation made in association with a group of international students from the Dutch Art Institute (2009). After each response, another question appears, interrupting the immediacy of a two-way conversation, and intensifying the dynamics between thought and language. As the interviews unfold, grammatical tensions mount, and the subjects become aware that they are part of the artwork they are attempting to describe. Set in a black cube with theatre props and lighting, the installation stages its own creation and reception.



In Dialogue

2009 | Performance by Sarah Pierce and Kevin Atherton. Based on the performance In Two Minds, 1978 by Kevin Atherton. Void, Derry 2010 | Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven 2010 | Four Gallery, Dublin 2009.

In 1978, the artist Kevin Atherton made a performance where he video-taped himself asking a set of questions. He later answered the questions in person, responding live to his previously recorded self. The work is called In Two Minds. For her solo show at Four Gallery in Dublin in 2009, Pierce and Atherton made the performance again, this time as part of an interview where both artists interacted with the recording made thrity years prior.


Tree Dance with live element

A live element performed simultaneously with a screening of Gordon Matta-Clark’s Tree Dance (1971). Initial performance in Gracelands, Co. Leitrim 2008. Curated by Vaari Claffey.



It’s time, man. It feels imminent.

2008 | Single channel video, two channel audio, gel lighting, archival materials, various plinths. Commissioned by Richard Birkett and Mark Sladen for Nought to Sixty at the ICA London. Image | Letter to Charles Harrison, 1969. Courtesy ICA Collection, Tate Britain Gallery and Archives.

The artist has undertaken a period of research in the ICA London’s archive, focusing on two seminal events – the exhibition When Attitudes Become Form (1969) and the conference The State of British Art, A Debate (1978). Each connects to debates around art-making and organisation: Pierce presents both the practical remnants of institutional organisation, including redundant pedestals and archival documents; and the broader concerns of political organisation and protest through interviews and documentation, including video of a workshop where participants acted out gestures and recited quotes from bystanders at political demonstrations in the US between 1968-2008.

The project’s title refers to one such quote. With each location it changes, as does the selection of archival material displayed amongst ubiquitous stands from past exhibitions – borrowed from local organisations with ties to art-making, collectivity and self-governance. Central to Pierce’s work is a consideration of forms of gathering, both historical examples and situations that she initiates. How we speak about the political in art and what bearing a legacy of conceptual 1970s art practices has on a present moment are among the debates that Mary Kelly speaks about in an interview with Pierce, which is part of an audio track that also includes artists/educators Liam Gillick, Dave Beech and Adrian Rifkin.





By now we share an affinity

2008 | A4 flyer produced for the Unfair fair, Rome 2008. Curated by Cecilia Canziani and Vincent Honoré. Redistributed in Invisible Publics at The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo. Curated by Sarah Rifky. Image | Studentski Kulturni Centar, Beograd c. 1972. Courtesy SKC Archives, Belgrade.

By now we share an affinity…

…although we haven’t met. It appears we are aligned, through metropolitan associations that imply shared sentiments. Which is how we arrive. In this form. Implied and implicated,together. But amidst this grass-roots solidarity, enacted through D.I.Y. aesthetics, low production values, necessity and good will, mustn’t we attempt, at the very least, to detonate the axioms that position us ‘here’ and not ‘there’? Free markets require a sense of morality, fairness, justice, legitimacy, and yet we steep our opposition in normative behaviors that barely dissent, barely deviate, and barely transcend. We imagine rebellion is the refusal to accumulate. We measure resistance through diminished returns. Failure is good! We fail! We are good! The logic of our battle cry replaces one value system with another. And this amalgamation makes it difficult to hone in on issues that are more complex…

Capitalism, like other oppressions, is violent precisely because it is difficult to lose. It transmits through our attachments.

SARAH PIERCE | Dublin 2008


Every Exhibition at Every Institution

2007 | Three-person exhibition Open Form with Sarah Pierce, Falke Pisano, and Tue Greenfort. Curated by Axel John Wieder, Kunstlerhaus Stuttgart. Pierce re-presented selections from four projects: Affinity Archive, Monk’s Garden, Red Archive, and The Meaning of Greatness, which together infer multiplicity and repetition as the main discourse of the art institution. Presented on display tables fabricated in the house during Ute Meta Bauer’s time as Artistic Director.



Meaning of Greatness

2006 | Installation (curtains, rope, archival materials, photographs from the SKC archive, Belgrade; letters from the May 4 Collection, Kent State University, drawings by Anne Guerry, test pieces by students from the University of Belgrade.) Commissioned for a solo exhibition at Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Curated by Grant Watson.

Meaning of Greatness draws on Pierce’s own biography as an artist, her history and ‘progress’, along with art historical and counter-cultural references from feminism to modernism. The project in an ongoing interplay with notions of being an artist, friendship, and the personal and political legacies that form an art practice.

Notes on The Meaning of Greatness

What does Hesse’s art look like? The question is simple–it sits docilely enough on the page–but answers to it obey more complex laws than might be assumed.

– Anne Wagner | Another Hesse

The work that Eva Hesse is best known for is a piece that she called ‘untitled’, ‘rope piece’, ‘the knot piece’. Since the work’s inception into Whitney Museum’s collection, its official title is Untitled, (Rope Piece) 1970. The date coincides with the year she died, the year Hesse began real work on Rope Piece. She exhibited it when she was alive, although for the most part it hung in her studio where she continued to work on it until her death, causing some to consider Rope Piece unfinished.

Over the years, the latex on the rope has significantly darkened and decayed, making the work of installation difficult. There is no reason (despite a brand of early-90s writing on Hesse’s work that claims the contrary) to understand decomposition as a quality that was at all compelling to Hesse.

In 2006, I remade the Rope Piece based on an extended caption written by Lucy Lippard relating to a 1970 pencil study by Hesse. It took several days working in the gallery.

Legacy and Revolution

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? In posing this question in 1988, Linda Nochlin cautions us (feminists) not to take the bait. Take pause! Before petitioning a list female names to add to the canon, consider, Why is it so difficult to retire the canon altogether?

The Cult of Genius

In Belgrade in 1971, the communist Yugoslav government handed a local student population its own art space to operate and programme. The following spring, the Student Cultural Centre (SKC) organized the first of what would become an annual April Meeting, which invited young artists and students from across Yugoslavia to gather and discuss the ‘expanded media.’ My research in 2006 into SKC’s beginnings and its legacy of April meetings, brought me to the studios of Zoran Popović and Raši Todosijević. They are among an echelon of artists identified with the experimental and international art world that defined Belgrade in the 1970s, and which revolved around the SKC. Each tells me about his work. Raši outwardly describes his art as “genius”. Zoran uses the word “unappreciated”, but I reckon he means genius, nonetheless.

Tests pieces/Peaceful protests

At Belgrade University’s Faculty of Art, I meet with the second and third year sculpture students. Looking around their studios, I am drawn most to the ‘test pieces’ — preliminary studies for future works that tryout an idea or test the properties of certain materials. I display the test pieces on discarded furniture collected from behind the building. On one table I place a bounty of black-and-white photographs from the SKC archive taken in the same gallery between 1972-1976.

Four Dead in Ohio

My college art teacher, Linda Lyke, was at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, the day the National Guard shot and killed four students during an anti-war protest on the campus. She tells me this while we are in Japan together in the summer of 1989 — the same summer the Chinese government killed protesters in Tian’anmen Square. I discover later that Lyke donated a dossier of papers to Kent State — condolences sent to the student government in the weeks following the deaths. In Kent State’s vast archive related to the shootings, I come across a photograph dated May 1, 1970 of people gathered on the hill at Victory Bell. It is a strikingly peaceful scene depicting about 100 students seated along the grass, their backs to the camera.

Knot piece, the ‘not’ piece

Instead of a canon, imagine a more affectionate past. Formative, unfinished, not yet art, not in the realm of the documentable.

SARAH PIERCE | Stockholm and Belgrade 2006


Test Pieces

2006 | Archival materials from the SKC archive, Belgrade, various furniture, and test pieces by students at the University of Belgrade, Sculpture Faculty. Commissioned by Sandra Grozdanic for Test Pieces and Blend in Moments, a two-person exhibition with Alan Phelan, at the Student Cultural Centre, Belgrade.

Test Pieces draws on Pierce’s interests in student work and a ‘present’ student body, in this case, how these are played out through 1970s radical practices and contemporary models of art-making. She collaborated with SKC’s archivist Dragica Vukadinovi to explore material related to SKC’s beginnings in 1971. This research, along with a display of test-pieces contributed by art students from the Faculty of Sculpture at Beograd University propose a site of formative moments, not quite art, but not in the realm of pure documentation. During the week, Pierce used SKC as a base to renegotiate these histories in the present, filtering her ‘presence’ in the gallery through an accumulation of meetings and one-to-one conversations.


The Concept of Documentation

2005 | Wall text with photographs and tables. Presented in the exhibition Ireland at Venice, Glucksman Gallery, Cork. Curated by Rene Zechlin.

Documentation, or reality and truth

The concept of documentation comes from the legal area. There, the document is a certification or a piece of evidence. The document is thus regarded as a representation of truth. Documentation and documentary practice, therefore, always have something to do with a search for or a representation of truth. Between the document on the one hand, and truth on the other, however, various levels are inserted which, with various methods, try to bridge the gap and which are also a field of activity for artistic strategies.”If a document, in the definition of the term, is ‘an object serving to identify a reality’ it stands in relation to a truth, the truth of representation. The concept of the documentary, on the other hand, stands in a relation to a point of view, an attitude.”(1) The document is part of a reality which is reconstructed by documentary procedures. Through the reconstruction in the form of making a connection between individual documents, reality can take on very different forms. The document therefore relates to documentation as reality to truth. Whereas document and reality describe what is factual, documentation and truth tend toward an interpretative statement. Dealing with the document with an eye to a reconstruction of reality or even a statement of truth is therefore always purposeful and thus burdened with the subjectivity of the point of view and the mode of presentation. This problem is the same in law and art, but it is dealt with employing different strategies. Whereas in legal proceedings, through the repeated juxtaposition of various modes of presentation an attempt is made to eliminate subjectivity as far as possible, in documentary procedures within art, subjectivity is either consciously employed or an attempt is made to side-step it in various ways. A couple of examples should make this clear.

The historical painting, for instance, is an artistic form of documentation which interprets and presents historical facts in an unambiguous way with a view to making a certain statement. When making a classification according to the degree of employment of purposeful interpretations, a further, particular form of documentation in the fine arts must, interestingly enough, be placed completely on the subjective side: the documentation of art itself. We know about forms of art tightly defined by time or space, such as performance or land art, mostly only through their documentation, which is often very far removed from an objective viewpoint. The documentation serves rather to complete the art work according to the artist’s intentions.

In both research practice and art, an archive avoids any purposeful interpretation of its contents. The archive is the neutral totality of documents which serve as a basis for an interpretation. The archive thus pretends to be a kind of pre-documentation and appears, paradoxically, in its lack of purposeful direction, to be closer to an objective truth. (However, setting up an archive already includes subjective processes of selection.) This objectivity, however, can only continue to exist on a symbolic level. Any use of the archive materials to form a statement inherently includes already an instrumentalisation and subjectivisation of the material.

A middle way between an apparently objective neutrality and a conscious instrumentalisation of subjectivity in documentary procedures is offered by the form of (the documentary) installation. Jan Verwoert compares this with Adorno’s concept of the essay. For Adorno, the essay counters the linear, objectifying thinking of science with another form of knowing which is based on grasping associatively arranged statements in going through a personal experience. Similar to the essay, in a documentary installation, individual documents are laid out and the viewer is called upon to make his or her own connections between the materials and to personally go through and understand the historical ambivalences. The installation thus opens up its topic not in the form of an argument, but rather communicates it as an experience and therefore could be described as an ‘essayistic installation’. The concern of essayistic documentation would be therefore to set up a necessary measure of formal coherence in order to make contents experienceable without reducing the complexity of the object through the form of presentation. (2)

RENE ZECHLIN | Cork 2005

(1) Pascale Cassagnau: Future Amnesia (The Need for Documents), in The Need to Document Zurich: JRP Ringier 2005 p. 167.
(2) Jan Verwoert: Dokumentation als kuenstlerische Praxis, springerin 3, Wien, 2003 p. 28.(Rene Zechlin, “The Concept of Documentation”, wall text commissioned by Sarah Pierce for her installation in Ireland at Venice, Louis Glucksman Gallery, Cork 2006.)



Monk’s Garden

2005 | Site specific installation with mirrors, stumps, a canopy and a banner, with over 400 contributions from the Forgotten Zine Library, in the Scuola di San Pasquale in Venice’s Castello district, commissioned by Sarah Glennie on the occasion of Ireland’s national pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale.

Banner Text

A few months ago, a negotiation took place on behalf of the Padres di Convento San Francesco della Vigna and myself, to arrange access to the garden adjacent to the Scuola di San Pasquale in Venice’s Castello district, the site of Ireland at Venice 2005. The Fathers lease the garden for storage, as well as using it as a back entry to a small office next to the main building. The agreement: To open the garden gate to the public for la Biennale di Venezia.

The garden has both changed and retained elements I recall from a brief visit two years ago. Someone has built a corrugated shed in the centre. Three large stumps, placed irregularly, garnish the area. Ultimately, I realise these are part of a collection; 17 stumps of different sizes randomly occupy the garden from beneath fig bushes, beside planters, and along the path that leads to the stairs. This odd intervention evokes Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque, scripted as a lecture in 1972 for architecture students at the University of Utah. The work’s accompanying sequence of slides documents the hotel in Mexico and the unsystematic add-ons and repairs that repeatedly reconfigure its grounds. The garden is not one person’s vision. It is several, altering, autonomous moments of attention, at varying stages of progress, underway but unfinished. This multifarious involvement can happen where ‘site’ is available, up for grabs, not fixed historically or contextually predetermined.

Green space is rare in Venice, yet squatting is legal, and I am told by an architect living here that the locals call squats ‘community centres’. I wonder what it means to represent Ireland at Venice. I’m not Irish. In Dublin squatting, or the unauthorised occupation of vacant space, is illegal. Along the Grand Canal in Dublin in a neighbourhood called Rialto, Dunk, a young architecture student and activist has started a movement to ‘green’ the city by planting community gardens in derelict industrial plots. Eventually, these will connect to create a green spine through the city. In recent correspondence he writes, “The Grand Canal is under threat due to recent construction of the Kildare motorway bypass, which has affected the Pollardstown fens water levels, which is the source of the Grand Canal.”

Dunk introduces me to a group who occupy a warehouse along the DART, and who organize Sunday bike-workshops, screenings, and Vegan meals. There I meet Ciaran Walsh, an artist and also the co-founder of the Forgotten Zine Library, an archive of several personal collections. We make plans to transport 429 Irish publications, both zines and freesheets, from the library to Venice to announce a pavilion of sorts in the garden. I record the addresses of the people who made them. Most of the addresses are houses in the suburbs surrounding Dublin.

A majority of the zines in the Forgotten Zine Library are made by people in their 20s now, born in the late 70s, and refer to the DIY ethos of punk, anarchy, and eco-living. I wonder about male artists in my generation whose art references a group who came before them. Ed Ruscha, Bruce Nauman, Robert Smithson, Richard Serra, Dan Graham, Gordon Matta-Clark. There is acertain serendipity between the ages we are now, and the ages of these artists in the decade we were born. They are figures in the landscape, in black-and-white photographs taken in the American desert, in dungarees. Ed Ruscha is representing the U.S. this year in the United States pavilion. He describes his work as a collection of facts and readymades. It strikes me how loaded with politics one of his seminal pieces, Twentysix Gasoline Stations made in 1963, is today.

Inscribed on the exterior of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin is a work by Lawrence Weiner: WATER & SAND + STICKS & STONES.

On my last day in Venice I visit the Giardini. It is April and only three countries have begun work on their pavilions. Some men are cleaning Japan with an industrial machine; Austria is surrounded by stacks of timber; Australia’s roof is getting a hose-down. The rest of the place looks like wasteland. Vinyl text on France, leftover from the architecture biennale tells about sustainability and future cities. The U.S. pavilion has boarded windows and graffiti on the entrance.

Around 1969, Smithson did a series of Mirror Displacements along the Yucatan. He photographed each one and consecutively documented them in narrative texts. He wrote,

Time is devoid of objects when one displaces all destinations.

I often think about this sentence. Try rearranging it.

Destinations are devoid of time when one displaces all objects.


Displaced objects, devoid of time.


One time, devoid of objects, all destinations.

Incidents of travel arrive in Venice in the Monk’s Garden.

SARAH PIERCE | Venice 2005


Caged Archive

2005 | A collaboration between Mark O’Kelly and Sarah Pierce on the occasion of Mark O’Kelly’s solo exhibition In Fashion at Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick.

For Caged Archive Pierce worked directly with one artist, Mark O’Kelly, in the context of his solo exhibition. Playing on Bruce Nauman’s Mapping the Studio (Fat Chance John Cage) 2000, Pierce and O’Kelly designed a system for viewing materials collected from the artist’s studio. Pierce worked with O’Kelly’s archive to create a written index to the artists primary resources. The formal structure of Caged Archive suggests Nauman’s gallery chambers, and directions on the cage mark the collaboration between Pierce and O’Kelly as a ritualised giving over of materials in order to make present what is usually left behind.

How to dramatize the consciousness of viewing (notes on the Caged Archive)

Design and fabricate a cage suitable for two people to stand in and move around comfortably.

Place the cage in an exhibition space, preferably.

Select items from the artistÕs archive of source material (notes, newspaper and magazine clippings, sketches, letters, Xeroxes).

Place these inside the cage.

List and annotate items using comments and notes.

Equip the cage with suitable furnishings, locks and fittings.

Instructions for the artist

Periodically enter the cage to show people items in the archive.

Instructions for the viewer

Take in the small connections and associations that reveal hidden truths.

SARAH PIERCE | Limerick 2005


Three Dear Friends

2005 | Two panels for a rolling board, Vienna and Salzburg 2005. Curated by Walter Seidl and Ursula Maria Probst.

Presented as part of EUROPART: contemporary art from Europe, this work takes up a billboard created in 1992 by Felix Gozales-Torres in New York City. In her bedroom in Dublin, Pierce restaged Torres’ photograph, based on her memory of the work.

PANEL 1 | See above.

PANEL 2 | Three dear friends of mine live in Vienna. We met 10 years ago in New York.

In 1992, the artist Felix Gonzales-Torres made a photograph of a double bed, with two pillows and white sheets. It appeared on 24 billboards throughout New York City.

In an interview he said, “Our intimate desires, fantasies, dreams are ruled and intercepted by the public sphere.”

Their names are Barbara, Rike, and Carola.


You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man

2004 | Screening and lecture in Romantic Detachment, PS1MoMA, New York 2004. Curated by Sarah Glennie and Adam Sutherland. Commissioned by Grizedale Arts. Image | Film still. Midnight Cowboy, dir. John Schlesinger, 1969.

The attribution of ‘competence’ (or ‘ability’, ‘capability’, ‘proficiency’ etc.) under normal circumstances thus always involves issues of confidence. The ‘trick’ is to gain, maintain and sustain such confidence, shared by all parties to the process. As in all normal social processes, this requires conventions through which claims to be acting reasonably may be made and accepted.

LEN HOLMES | “Is competence a trick?” 1994

For Romantic Detachment Pierce conducted a three-way interview with curators, Sarah Glennie and Adam Sutherland as part of an ongoing series of papers. Poised on the closure of PS1’s studio program, Romantic Detachment is the story of two Brit’s who hoodwink their way into the museum by flashing business cards and dressing funny. The cunning duo conceal their (curatorial) strategy in a series of swindles, scandals and spectacles that prolong the ruse over the course of five weeks. In a round-table conversation held on October 9, a small group of artists living in New York (3 British, 3 American) will meet at PS1. Paper transcripts of the discussion along with the interview, with special layout and printing organized by Simon and Tom Bloor, were distributed out of PS1’s studio-wing and in an extension of the exhibition in Cardiff. On Friday October 29 at 2:00 p.m. The Metropolitan Complex hosted, “You can’t cheat an honest man”, a lecture on confidence tricks delivered by an officer from the NYPD’s Crime Prevention Unit followed by a screening of the film Midnight Cowboy.

SEE ALSO | Paper No. 7 and Paper No. 8.


The Paraeducation Department

2004 | An ongoing collaboration with Annie Fletcher, produced through a series of reading groups and a reader. Commissioned by With de With/TENT for Tracer, Rotterdam. Image | Reading among the ruins, London 1940.

IVAN ILLICH| Most learning happens casually, and even most intentional learning is not the result of programmed instruction.

NOAM CHOMSKY | You have to be able to knock ideas off of other people and hear them get beaten down in order to find out what you actually think. That’s learning as distinct from indoctrination.

NOVEMBER GRUPPE | We feel young, free and pure.

As a counter balance to debates that occur within institutional and educational contexts that hinge on a distance between speakers and listeners, together we will produce an ethics of group exchange, where the purpose of dialogue is to discover common points of reference as well as to discover what the terms outlined in a particular text mean to us, the people in the room on a given day.

Paraeducation has no agenda other than to gather and reflect. It values thinking as an act in itself. We set forth without a destination, through a permissiveness that allows for u-turns and diversions along the way.

SARAH PIERCE and ANNIE FLECTHER | Dublin and Eindhoven 2008

DOWNLOAD | The Paraeducation Reader


Red Archive

2004 | Archive in the lobby of Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Launched with a special broadcast of Ultra-red’s MayDay.

Part personal anthology, part resource centre the red archive includes materials from individual artists, curators and institutions that inform, complicate and represent the relationship artistic practice and political action. As a system to accumulate matter that both informs and represents a variety of strategies in artistic practice, the red archive is a place to think about art as a political prospect.

SEE ALSO | Paper No. 6


Archivo Paralelo

2004 | Archive presented in Meanwhile in another place…, Sala rekalde, Bilbao. Curated by Leire Vergara. Archive design by Gorka Eizagirre.

Within the framework of the exhibition, Archivo Paralelo (Parallel Archive) develops a new project that corresponds to the logic of thinking about art production as an ongoing process. Installed as part of the exhibition Meanwhile, in another place…, Archivo Paralelo hosts contributions from different people involved in the exhibition. The invitation to contribute is given to the participating artists, the curator of the exhibition, the director and curator of the institution and the administrator of the institution.

The Parallel Archive : Premeditated interruptions and Punctual collaborations

Last August, Leire Vergara approached me about developing a parallel activity to an exhibition that she was curating at sala rekalde. She explained the premise of the exhibition, that it involved working with 11 artists who received the Becas y Ayundas between 2001-2002, and her interest in exploring this context though various platforms that would open the exhibition up, both discursively and constitutively, to multiple inputs.

The structure of the Becas y Ayundas provided a starting point to think about how artistic production circulates, how institutions imagine artistic production in relation to cultural investment, and how to locate artistic research within the temporal visibility of an exhibition. The Becas y Ayundas is a grant that supports artistic creation in the province of Vizcaya as part of the region’s cultural management; 4-5 artists receive the award each year. At the moment, the Becas y Ayundas is a one-off grant that may be used to stay in Vizcaya, or to travel to another country. This offers a point of departure to think about how other scenes (in Madrid, New York, London, Los Angeles) feed-back into the image of a particular scene in Bilbao, or the Basque scene in general.

In late September, I visited Bilbao and Leire and I spent most of our time intensively developing various lines of inquiry that might shift the syntax of the exhibition. These meetings led us to more closely consider the exhibition as a participatory system and to creatively imagine a space within or through the exhibition that would introduce parallel or simultaneous potentialities beyond simply presenting the work of 11 artists. What Mikel Eskauiaza humorously referred to as a ‘freak show’ was the arbitrary assembly of artists who may or may not have anything in common other than the fact of receiving the Becas y Ayundas.

In allowing for a parallel space to form within the exhibition, we felt it was important to keep the parameters of giving as open as possible while acknowledging the inter-connectivity of the institution, the curator, the artists and the audience. Anyone wishing to contribute to the archive could drop off or send materials to sala rekalde. Sala rekalde’s receptionist would double as archivist, taking in contributions, cataloguing them and adding them to the archive throughout the course f the exhibition. Over two months the archive would grow and its meaning would shift depending on an ever-evolving accumulation of individual contributions.

Without asking for specific items, and leaving the will to contribute up to an individual’s desire to do so or not, how would what we were now calling the ‘Parallel Archive’ make use of relationships borne through exhibitions by creating a social space where the institution/the curator/the artist/the audience all inter-relate? How would we address the dynamics of power, inclusion and exclusion embedded in these relationships? Would the particularities of participation surrounding the archive re-inscribe or reinvent our relationships to each other?

The archive, as a diagram of power, presents for us the possibility of social and artistic intervention, to represent and identify relationships, players, and forces that are often veiled by exhibitions. As a participatory process, the archive represents two sides of artistic production: one physical, local, and communal, the other ambient, international, and dispersed. Both offer a range of representations and interpretations that perceive the complicated relationships that arise between artists, institutions and cities.

In the Parallel Archive are the machinations of exhibitions; each contribution represents an exchange, and while elements of this exchange are made visible, parts remain hidden. The archive is as limited by these contributions as it is expanded. This is not about claiming ‘transparency’ through public access to the private. It is about places where the public and private meet, where accumulation reproduces experiences of reflection, where action leads us to other relations, economies, interactions, geographies, etc., where actual relationships between institutions, curators, artists, and audiences portray real energies, where exhibitions are shared territories and our collective input and intensified participation determine the terrain.

SARAH PIERCE | Bilbao 2004


St. Pappins Ladies Club

2003 | Archive of the St. Pappin’s Ladies Club (1966-2003) in Artists/Groups, Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Curated by Grant Watson.

In the spring of 2002, I met the St. Pappin’s Ladies Club in Ballymun. In hearing about their history, I proposed to present their Club memorabilia in public as The Metropolitan Complex’s participation in the exhibition Artists/Groups. Their archive represents a chronicle of group activity from 1966-2003. In the gallery were Club minutes, personal mementos, craftwork, community newsletters, group photographs, video documentation, and individual artworks made by Club members as recently as 2003.

The Club and its output leads to questions about what constitutes an artist group, and what parameters surround artistic production. The systems that describe artist groups, such as establishing a peer network, working outside of institutions, and responding to shared circumstances, can be found in the St. Pappin’s Ladies Club. The Club was formed in 1966 (in the same year artists in Dublin set up Project). Its members are among the first women who moved to Ballymun in the 1960s when the community there had little to offer young mothers and working women. Isolated from the rest of Dublin, and with no official context in which to work, the women joined together. They co-opted their name from the local parish where they first met and over the past three decades the Club has met regularly on Monday nights. On November 10, 2003 an open meeting at Project celebrated this tradition.

SARAH PIERCE | Dublin 2003



Open House (Just Past)

2003 | Screening presented by The Metropolitan Complex. Commissioned by Mark Garry for the Dublin Fringe Festival. Image | Film still. Open House, Gordon Matta-Clark, 1972.

Instead of making a new artwork, present a work previously made by another artist. In 1972, Gordon Matta-Clark staged an installation and performance in an industrial waste container on Greene Street in New York. Open House is the filmic document of this event. In the vein of much of Matta-Clark’s work, Open House invokes an urbanism as the analogue of architectonic memory, finding in the discarded in-between spaces moments of clarity. Open House has never previously been screened in Ireland. Its presentation at IMMA inside an unused shipping container is an historical moment of sorts – one that occupies a temporal proximity between what is happening and what has already happened…

SARAH PIERCE | Dublin 2003


Excavation Site

2003 | Excavation Site, Library of Congress, Washington DC, 1888, A4 flyer produced for Definitively Provisional, Whitechapel Project Room, London 2003. Curated by Cecilia Canziani and Kristine Haugaard Neilsen.

All exchanges are personal. There is no authority. No history. No canon. All information is neurotic, two-sided, and unfixed. Perception. Memory. Translation. Speech. Constant utterances. Understandings which involve more than mere word-recognition. Beyond titles. Listen for what is beyond words, beyond comprehension. Listen for tone, embedded experiences. Detect falseness like a sixth sense. There is no need for legislation. Sniff out the gestures. (Why pretend the printed word means more than what is said between people?) Jealousy and sympathy collide to produce conversation. Without prose, fiction, non-fiction, all forms are self-evident. Some things remain hidden. Some things come out.


Affinity Archive

2003 | Archive and exhibition. Studio 16, Broadstone Studios, Dublin 2003. Image | Affinity Archive Item No. AA1, Alan Phelan, 4 notebooks circa 1986-1990.

After presenting the first Metropolitan Complex paper as part of the group exhibition Permaculture (Project Arts Centre, Dublin) Sarah Pierce initiated the Affinity Archive, an archive of items donated by artists and curators related to the conditions surrounding their work.

Contributors: Bik Van der Pol, Dave Hullfish Bailey, George Baker, Stephen Brandes, Yvonne Buchheim, Matthew Buckingham, Gerard Byrne, Cabinet, Emilie Clark, Oliver Comerford, Brian Conley, Aileen Corkery, Emma Crean, Ann Marie Curran, Pip Day, Carola Dertnig, Jacob Fabricius, Annie Fletcher, Fintan Friel, Mark Garry, David Godbold, Frances Hegarty, Philippe Hernandez, Finola Jones, Martine Kaczynski, Slavek Kwi, Benno Löning, Marion Lovett, Paul Maye, Kieran McBride, Ronan McCrea, William McKeown, Madeleine Moore, Paul Murnaghan, N55, Paul Nugent, Mark O’Kelly, Niamh O’Malley, Paul O’Neill, Alan Phelan, Garrett Phelan, Linda Quinlan, Ronan Sharkey, Andrew Stones, Rachael Thomas and Karen Kilimnik, Corban Walker, Walker and Walker, Grant Watson, Grace Weir, Lee Welch, and Jenifer Youell.

Invitation to Affinity Archive

Over the last few months I have thought a lot about the work we do, what it means, how, for whom, and why it happens. Much of this relates to relationships between people and the personal exchanges that surround cultural work. My attachment to your work has been part of this time. I continually return to our conversations, and share your ideas in my conversations with others. Frances Hegarty says this in itself is a form of dissemination.

I’d like to invite you to participate in an experiment that will take place in my studio in Dublin. Please give me something related to the conditions surrounding your work. Something collected, constructed, or written, source material, a work-in-progress, an article, book, photograph, sketch, letter, poem, object, manifesto, video, or CD. Relay an experience, or a conversation, something anecdotal, informal and attached. Other people will see what you’ve given and if they want to, they can give something too.

This is how we’ll build an Affinity Archive.

SARAH PIERCE | Dublin 2003


The Metropolitan Complex Papers

A series of self-published papers and once-off editions. Printed in editions of 450-1000 and distributed for free.

Paper No. 17

An extended visual essay on the artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect (1975). Printed in France on the occasion of Les rendez-vous du Forum Session 4 : Fun Palace at the Centre Pompidou, Paris 2010. Curated by Yann Chateigné Tytelman, Tiphanie Blanc and Vincent Normand. Not available for download.

Paper No. 16

A compilation of transcribed discussions, interviews and texts printed on the occasion of All That is Solid Melts Into Air, Mechelen 2009. With Grant Watson, Yael Davids and prisoners from the Mechelen city prison; the Transit Gallery reading group; interviews in Mechelen City Archives; and texts by Matthew Buckingham, Maurice Blanchot, Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, Monika Szewczyk, and Colm Toíbín. Not available for download.

Paper No. 15

Roundtable Discussion: Daniel Jewesbury, Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, Declan Long (Chair), Rachael Thomas, and Sarah Pierce. On Monday 28 January 2008, the following conversation took place at the National College of Arts and Design in Dublin. Declan Long invited the participants to have a roundtable discussion on issues around contemporary art and national representation. There was no audience present. Available 5 December 2008. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 15

Paper No. 14

A limited edition CD made on the occasion of Underground curated by Dennis McNulty and Peter Maybury at Road Records for Darklight, Dublin 2008. Sounds from: Angela Bulloch, Heri Dono, Max Eastley, Brian Eno, Stephan Von Heune, Ryoji Ikeda, Philip Jeck, Christina Kubisch, Thomas Köner, Chico MacMurtrie, Christian Marclay, Katarina Matiasek, Russell Mills, Mariko Mori, John Oswald, Lee Ranaldo, Scanner, Paul Schutze, and Ian Walton. First edition of 10 CDs printed in Dublin 2008. CD not available for download. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 14

Paper No. 13

In a diversion from its usual format, Paper No. 13 presents a text written in 1959 by the American sociologist C. Wright Mills. Chapter One: The Promise is the entry point into Mills’s seminal work, The Sociological Imagination. In it he calls for a mindset, a way of looking at the world that sees links between the private problems of the individual and important social issues. Within this intricate range of connections individual life happens, societies occur. Original issue available only through OEI, Stockholm. Not available for download.

Paper No. 12

A limited edition CD printed on the occasion of Our Day Will Come, a project by Paul O’Neill for Nekromantic at Zoo Art Fair, London 2006. Presented by temporarycontemporary. Peter Lewis, Elizabeth Price, Craig Smith, Maria Fusco, Jason Coburn. Between 17 and 20 May 2005, a series of one-to-one conversations took place in Redux, London. Sarah Pierce invited each participant to have an informal discussion in the context of the exhibitionCoalesce/Remix, curated by Paul O’Neill. There was no audience present. First edition of 40 printed in Dublin 2006. CD not available for download. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 12

Paper No. 11

Roundtable Discussion: Jesse Jones, Ken McCue, Sally Timmons, Wes Wilkie and Sarah Pierce. On Thursday 6 October 2005, the following conversation took place in the Moore Street Lending Library in Dublin. Sarah Pierce : invited the participants to have an informal discussion. There was no audience present. Original back issues available. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 11

Paper No. 10

Roundtable Discussion: Fergus Kelly, Dennis McNulty, Garrett Phelan and Sarah Pierce. On Wednesday 27 April 2005, the following conversation took place in studio 27 of Temple Bar Gallery in Dublin. Sarah Pierce invited the participants to have an informal discussion. There was no audience present. Original back issues available. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 10

Paper No. 9

In Conversation: Ciaran Walsh and Sarah Pierce. On Tuesday 5 April 2005, Sarah Pierce invited Ciaran Walsh to have a conversation in the garden of the Scuola di San Pasquale in the Castello district, Venice. There was no audience present. Original back issues available. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 9

Paper No. 8

Roundtable Discussion: Rachel Urkowitz, Gareth James, Martine Kaczynski, Jimbo Blachly, Graham Parker and Sarah Pierce. On Saturday 9 October 2004 the following conversation took place in the studio wing of PS1 MoMA in New York. Sarah Pierce invited the participants to have an informal discussion. There was no audience present. Original back issues available. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 8

Paper No. 7

In Conversation: Sarah Pierce interviews Sarah Glennie and Adam Sutherland. On Friday 3 September 2004, the following conversation took place between Sarah Glennie’s house in Irishtown, Dublin and the Grizedale Arts office in England’s Lake District. Sarah Pierce invited Adam Sutherland and Sarah Glennie to have an informal discussion about Romantic Detachment, a project based in the studio-wing of PS1 between 4 October and 7 November 2004. Sarah Glennie and Sarah Pierce spoke to Adam Sutherland over the phone. Out-of-stock. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 7

Paper No. 6

Roundtable Discussion: Vaari Claffey, Louise Walsh, Declan Long, Susan Kelly, Willie McKeown, Grant Watson, and Sarah Pierce. On Wednesday 28 April, Monday 10 May and Tuesday 18 May 2004, the following conversations took place in Grant Watson’s office at Project, Dublin. Sarah Pierce invited the participants to have an informal discussion over 3 meetings about practice, activism, art, and politics. There was no audience present. Original back issues available. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 6

Paper No. 5

In Conversation: Matthew Bakkom and Sarah Pierce : Libraries. On Thursday 20 May 2004, the following conversation took place in Matthew Bakkom’s studio at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Sarah Pierce invited Bakkom to have an informal discussion about libraries. There was no audience present. Out-of-stock. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 5

Paper No. 4

Roundtable Discussion: Natasa Petresin, Alenka Gregoric, Ajdin Basic and Sarah Pierce. PART TWO: Slovenia Ireland. On Monday 8 March 2004, the following conversation took place in Equrna Gallery, Ljubljana. Sarah Pierce invited the participants to have an informal discussion about Ireland as the second of two conversations involving artists and curators in Ireland and Slovenia. Each conversation asks participants about the other country, specifically its art scene, taking into account how an image of a place forms through a combination of international and local points of reference. There was no audience present. Out-of-stock. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 4

Paper No. 3

Roundtable Discussion: Aisling O’Beirn, Shane Cullen, Alan Phelan and Sarah Pierce. PART ONE: Ireland Slovenia. On Sunday 8 February 2004, the following conversation took place in Alan Phelan’s studio in the Fire Station, Dublin. The participants are artists who live and work in Ireland. Sarah Pierce invited them to have an informal discussion about Slovenia as the first of two discussions involving Ireland and Slovenia. Each conversation asks participants about the other country, specifically its art scene, taking into account how an image of a place forms through a combination of international and local points of reference. There was no audience present. Out-of-stock. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 3

Paper No. 2

Roundtable Discussion: Grace Weir, Jacinta Lynch, Mark O’Kelly, Patrick Murphy, Paul O’Neill, and Sarah Pierce. On Tuesday 21 October 2003, the following conversation took place in the Royal Hibernian Academy’s artist studio in Dublin. The participants are artists, curators, or both, who at sometime or another have lived and worked in Dublin. Pierce invited them to have an informal discussion. There was no audience present. Original back issues available. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 2

Paper No. 1

Roundtable Discussion: Alan Phelan, Annie Fletcher, Brian Hand, Finola Jones, Mark Garry, Grant Watson, Vaari Claffey and Sarah Pierce. On Saturday 25 January 2003, the following conversation took place in Sarah Pierce’s studio in Broadstone, Dublin. The participants are artists, curators or both. They have all curated in Dublin, independently or within an institution. Pierce invited them to have an informal discussion. There was no audience present. Original back issues available. 
DOWNLOAD | Paper No. 1