With the Help of a Van, an Artist is Bringing Futurism to Fingal

As an installation artist and art director, Aoife Dunne says she is always looking for ways to think outside the box.

“I don’t take anything at face value. I question everything,” says Dunne, whose work has been displayed around the world, in places like Paris, Colorado and Rome.

“I love augmented reality, I love virtual reality, but I think what I’m actually trying to do is create virtual worlds in the physical,” she says.

Many artists turned to the internet during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dunne, however, wants to bring a digital piece to the physical world. Equipped with a van and an LED screen, she’s taking her latest project right to the doorsteps of Fingal with a new piece entitled Transcending Time.

Looking Online

Dunne was thinking about how she could create art in a different way when she decided to contact Fingal County Council Public Art Coordinator Caroline Cowley.

“I think it was 12 at night, I emailed her this big long email saying, ‘I have this idea’. I sent her on a few mock-ups,” says Dunne.

“I was looking at what artists were doing online. And it seemed like every artist across the world was just turning to the internet,” says Dunne, ahead of her new project.

Cowley was immediately on board when she saw Dunne’s idea, she says.

“My first thoughts when I opened that email? I was so excited,” said Cowley.

“To be able to announce something that’s literally bringing artwork to somebody’s door. It’s really unprecedented,” she says.

Working out the logistics for this piece was challenging due to lockdown restrictions, says Cowley. The project was put on hold while people could only travel two kilometres from their homes.

“It was an amazing kind of epiphany or solution that she actually could envisage how her work could live on a mobile exterior platform right now,” says Cowley.

Falling into Art

Dunne grew up in Clonsilla, Dublin 15. While she was creative from a young age, she had not always considered an artistic career.

“I had no traditional training in art at all but I’m always an ideas person. I always have millions of ideas for new ways to do things,” she says.

Even though her secondary school didn’t offer art as a Leaving Certificate subject at the time, Dunne’s creative career started in her teenage years.

“A lot of my friends were into photography so I just began to style their shoots,” she says.

From there Dunne began to work as a freelance stylist and an art director while she was in secondary school. Since then, international magazines like Dazed and i-D have covered Dunne’s work.

“I would go to school and then I would do all my freelance work outside of school. I also had my own magazine blog that I did, but these are all things I just sort of taught myself,” she says.

It wasn’t until she was in her Leaving Certificate year that her parents suggested she should apply for the National College of Art and Design (NCAD). She was accepted, and from there art became her primary focus.

Creating Digital Installations

Dunne’s last installation, Tranzmorex was hung on the outside of the EP 7 gallery in Paris from October last year.

In it, a sea of textures and colours dance on 10 screens that line the exterior of the building.

Dunne designs art pieces like this using her computer. “My dad worked in IT when I was growing up. I was always surrounded by computers. That language was used a lot in our home,” she says.

She immersed herself into the world of coding and was creative with technology from a young age.

“Then when I got into NCAD, I realised that that’s where the majority of my skills were – in the digital element of things and being able to combine that with sculpture and performance,” she says.

Dunne’s digital installation in Paris is where she got her inspiration for the latest piece.

“When I was over there, people were hanging out their windows and stopping their cars to go to check it out,” says Dunne, referring to the Paris installation.

When the Covid-19 pandemic came, Dunne was thinking of a way to replicate this in Ireland.

“Then I thought, okay, we could do something like that but it would still cause some people to gather. So then I thought, what if it moved?” says Dunne.

And that’s how the idea of a moving van came about.

Transcending Time

A van sits in a golden field in a video posted on Dunne’s Vimeo account. The vehicle could be from another galaxy or transported back from some time in the distant future.

Swirling yellows and blues, a kaleidoscope of black and white, and morphing glossy pinks are among the many patterns that decorate the driving compartment of the van.

A large LED screen sits on the trailer. Moving patterns, similar to what is printed on the body of the van, come to life on the screen.

The images displayed on the screen are in a constant flux. There are hypnotic black swirls. Vibrant colours flow through animated chunky computer monitors.

The enormous screen extends up into the air and begins to rotate on the back of the van in this display.

“I made it [the visuals] on Photoshop, After Effects and Maya. So they’re all different 3-D softwares,” says Dunne.

Dunne creates these visuals by mixing multiple layers of designs on top of each other on a computer.

“So each section of the video there’s maybe like 300 or 400 layers in all the different clips,” she says.

Inspiration from Futurism

Creating these digital visuals is “an organic process”, according to Dunne.

“I really don’t overthink it. I just sort of allow my subconscious to do it … I know what the intent is but I don’t know the outcome,” she says.

Working with such a free-flowing creative process some artists might doubt themselves. Not Dunne.

“When I was growing up as a kid and I was performing, I would do like maybe four auditions a week,” says Dunne. “I got so used to just hearing ‘no’ all the time that now I have zero fear of failing like whatsoever.”

Her work is heavily inspired by futurism, Dunne says

“What I mean by that is that I’m always thinking forward. I’m always thinking of new ways to do things and how things should be done in the future,” she says.

This philosophy is evident in almost every other aspect of her life.

“It affects things like the way I dress, how I think, the way I go about things, the things that I read and research,” she says.

One of her favourite pastimes is to look up “how-to” videos on YouTube, she says.

“I like watching machines getting taken apart and being put back together in different ways,” says Dunne.

On the Road

On 8 June, Transcending Time will take to the roads of Fingal, meaning the installation could pop-up anywhere from Howth to Lucan and from Swords to Balbriggan.

“What stands out with Aoife’s work is that it’s vibrant. It’s aesthetically beautiful. She’s very comfortable in the digital world,” says Cowley.

Transcending Time is an important piece of art for this moment, Cowley says.

“People still are very restricted. Galleries aren’t open, cinemas aren’t open,” she says.

There’s already been an overwhelming response from people requesting that the piece come to their homes, Cowley says.

“It’s just indicative of how people really want to see something different in their landscape or housing estate,” she says. “That’s kind of what public art obviously is. It’s sort of a conversation between space people and time.”

People living in Fingal can ask for the piece to visit their house on the project’s website.

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Donal Corrigan: Donal Corrigan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. He covers transport, and the southside. To get in contact with him, you can email him on [email protected]

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