Doireann O’Malley

“City of the future” is also one of the slogans that became a leitmotif of the Berlin architecture exhibition, Interbau Internationale Bauaustellung (IBA). On its occasion, in 1957, a model housing estate was presented, created according to the concepts of several dozen designers, today recognized as key figures of European architecture. The exhibition was a manifesto of spatial visions and values that remain valid: functional housing with services and green public spaces. Berlin’s Hansaviertel, a late-modernist housing estate, present in one of the parts of Doireann O’Malley’s Prototypes, appears as a utopia, and in this sense fuses with the protagonists’ reality. Their dreams, recreated and interpreted using psychoanalysis, become the projection of images of a new body.

It is not architecture, however, that the film trilogy deals with. It took its point of departure in an attempt to explore the theme of transition from the perspective of dream images: a central role was to be played by dreams concerning a hybrid experience of the body. O’Malley suggests we look at the issue of trans(-corporeality) in a way that goes beyond representation itself, therefore the text, which is an attempt to document a dream, written down shortly after waking up, includes also a description of the immediate surroundings so that the individual projections can then be reenacted as completely as possible. Subjectivity becomes an essential aspect of this non-linear and collective narrative built by means of combining different individual identities. The result is a collage of dream visions that explore transsexuality mediated through psychoanalytic practices, live role-playing, and the “sustaining of hope for liberation through technology (to paraphrase Anneka Herre). The blurry narrative is developed using elements of the absurd and fantastic, material both fictional and inspired by real experiences shared by the film’s protagonists, and the proto-versions of hybrid bodies created on the basis of the oneiric visions are “embodied” via a role-playing-game session and superimposed on the film reality by means of VR (virtual-reality) technology. In their project, O’Malley references the figure of Alan Turing, a visionary mathematician, pioneer of artificial intelligence, builder of one of the first computers, who was prosecuted for violating “public morality” and sentenced to hormonal therapy; profoundly depressed, he swallowed cyanide. O’Malley alludes also to the concept of new materialism as interpreted by Karen Barad. The work is well summed up by the following sentence: “Virtuality is the ongoing thought experiment the world performs with itself.”1

O’Malley’s project remains topical because we still lack a language to describe non-binary bodies. This is particularly evident on the Internet, where an ever-larger community unites due to its hybrid identities and collectively demands the recognition of its presence, including by the use of personal pronouns different than those forced upon them by heteronormative society. Transsexuality is part of a broader social change driven by pro-equality movements, but also a multi-stage, engaging and collective project, usually including more than one person and reorienting the thinking about the individual’s self-construction and adaption to society.

Doireann O’Malley, Prototypes, film screening

Friday, 13 November, 6 pm

Red Zone, Biennale Zielona Góra Online

Returning to… Utopias, artist talk with Doireann O’Malley and Ina Valentinova; moderated by Agata Pyzik (in English)

Friday, 20 November, 4 pm

Instagram live

1 Karen Barad, “After the End of the World: Entangled Nuclear Colonialisms, Matters of Force, and the Material Force of Justice,” Theory and Event (2019), vol. 3, no. 19, Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 529.

Doireann O’Malley (b. 1981) received their MFA from the University of Ulster in Belfast, Great Britain. They are currently participating in The Berlin Program for Artists and are a research fellow at Berliner Förderprogramm Künstlerische Forschung, 2020–2021. They will be in residence at the Gropius Bau, Berlin as part of the Berlin Program for Artists from October to December 2020. Their multidisciplinary, research-led practice encompasses video, VR and performance. Their works have been presented at, among others: Light Work, The Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane in Dublin, as part of Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Berlin Art Prize (grand prix, 2018), BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst in Oldenburg, and State Art Gallery, Sopot, Poland. They live and work in Berlin.