Open Frequency 2010: Allan Hughes selected by Peter Richards

Open Frequency 2010: Allan Hughes selected by Peter Richards Allan Hughes, Point of Audition (reverse ADR), 2009. Two channel, synchronised HD video with sound. 13 mins 42 secs

Peter Richards is a Belfast-based artist and writer. Here he profiles the sound and video work of Allan Hughes, an artist working from Orchid Studios in Belfast.

The voice forms an integral subject of Allan Hughes's practice; it is at once narrative, material and ideology.

Hughes negotiates this apparent contradiction as an aspect of the duplicity inherent in its recorded and mediated form, and its role as the primary component of a synchronised and homogenous representation. For Hughes, the voice is not simply a medium for communication; it has a political currency in its materiality and has exchange and use value beyond communication.

His video and sound installations explore the precarious space between subjectivity, history and remediation - the processes of refashioning. The works produce a dialectic position between spectator, installation apparatus and subject matter, challenging the standpoint of each through that of the other.

Practising primarily in video and audio, Hughes establishes the listening position and the voice as primary agents in the dialectic exchange, and as the fundamental devices for the deconstruction and recontextualisation of historical narratives and ideological representations. In particular his works have focussed on the function of synchronisation as that point which both splits and sutures our experience of the audio/visual construct. It is within this fissure that Hughes's synchronised, two-channel video works explore our role in the production of remediated forms of history and its representation.

'Nagraphobia' (2009), Hughes's most recent configuration of works, is centred on the synchronised, two-channel piece ‘Point of Audition (Reverse ADR)’ and features an actress attempting to lip sync a reconstructed vocal performance of a transcript from Jane Fonda’s Radio Hanoi broadcasts which she made in 1972 – though the actress appears as Jane Fonda in her role in the 1971 film Klute, while also making discrete references to the Dziga Vertov Group film, Letter To Jane (1972). The work is constructed around the concept of a stalled fantasy; the idea that a recovery can be made of both meaning and voice. Moreover, it is concerned with the dialectic question of how a historical recovery can be made from transcriptions, recordings and memories. The act of listening is figured as the key aspect of the production by having an actress attempt a post-dubbed, synchronised performance of the dialogue whilst situating the spectator in the space between audio, analyst, and image.

Hughes’s preoccupation with the construction of historical narrative is unsurprising given his experience of living through the heavily mediated ‘story’ of Northern Ireland. The ‘Troubles’ may now be over, but it is at this historical juncture that a narrative of the past forty years is being written and rewritten. In living through this process Hughes’s practice questions the narrative forms that not only describe the past, but also re-imagine it as a mediated reality.

In a recent series of photographic works, ‘The Listening Station (post-production)’, 2010, Hughes created an epilogue to the video works he had made prior to the recent dismantling of the British Army communication post on Black Mountain in Belfast. The post, located on its strategic vantage point above the city, had become an iconic symbol of Britain’s political and military surveillance.

In documenting the partial and ongoing dismantling of the military apparatus, Hughes enters into a negotiation with the unstable history of the site through capturing something of its psychogeography. The idea that through this process of devolution the place will some day return to a ‘neutral’ existence is manifest through the conditions of surveillance: contrasting the exterior panoptic visual profile of the facility against the internalised speculative activities of the viewer. 

In simulating established forms of mediation, Hughes engages with deconstructing the accepted narrative structure of audio-visual representation, combining the implied transparency of documentary representation with the opacity of fictional narratives.

Peter Richards, September 2010

View Allan Hughes's profile > 

Artist's biography

Allan Hughes lives and works in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He studied at the University of Ulster, Belfast (BA Hons Fine Art, 1996-99 and Master in Fine Art, 2003-05) and has exhibited widely including Spain, Germany, Finland, the US, Taiwan, Russia and Japan. He has received a number of awards and residencies, most recently the Irish Museum of Modern Art Artists Residency Programme in 2009. His work is held in the collection of the University of Ulster.

Selected recent exhibitions include:

2010: Lightbox Commission, Context Gallery, (solo) Derry, Northern Ireland; Art Rebels, Catalyst Arts, Belfast, Northern Ireland; SCOPE, Project Space, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Salon 2010, Matt Roberts Gallery, London; SCOPE ART, New York, USA; KYU Art Centre, Kao Yuan University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

2009: Nagraphobia, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, and Nagraphobia (in process), The Process Room, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (solo); ISEA 2009, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

2008: Different Dimensions, Living Perm Project, Maxim Gorky Perm State Library, Perm, Russia; Metenkov Photographic Museum, Ekaterinburgh, Russia and Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirsk, Russia (2008-9); Camouflash, Mediations Biennale, Poznan, Poland and Unoactu, Dresden, Germany; A Few Sequential Intimacies, Context Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland; Don’t You Want Me… G126, Galway, Ireland.

2007: Read My Lips, Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland (solo); Northern Bound, La Sala Rosa, Montreal, Canada; Revolving Ambiguity, Grove Gallery, Downpatrick, Northern Ireland; A Dark Noise, London Art Fair, London; A Few Things You Might have Missed, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Allan Hughes is represented by the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast.

About Peter Richards

Peter Richards is an artist and curator, born in Cardiff in 1970, and based in Belfast since 1994. He spent two years between 1996-1998 as a director of artist-run Catalyst Arts working alongside the likes of Phil Collins, Mark Orange, Niamh O’Malley, Susan Phillipsz, and Dan Shipsides. Whilst at Catalyst Arts he began to share time between his studio practice, and creating contexts and opportunities to explore the works of others, a way of working that he continues to this day.

He became Gallery Director at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, in 2001, and has devised its artistic programme since, realising solo and group exhibitions in the gallery and at venues across China, USA and Europe, working with artists such as: Locky Morris, Franc Purg, Kevin Atherton, Susan MacWilliam, Paul Seawright, Willie Doherty, Gerard Byrne, Marjetica Portc, Seamus Harahan, and Colin Darke.

Since his first solo exhibition, Corrective Perspective, Context Gallery, Derry 1996, Richards has had numerous solo exhibitions including: Cornerhouse, Manchester; Studio Lipoli & Lopez, Rome; Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast; Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo; ZDSLU Gallery, Ljubljana; Belfast Exposed, Belfast and has participated in many group exhibitions, including: Northern Ireland's inaugural exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2005; Dogs Have No Religion, Czech Museum of Fine Art, Prague; The Belfast Way, Herzelyia Museum, Tel Aviv; L'Art dans le monde 2000, Musée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris - MAM/ARC, Paris; Through A Glass Darkly, Het Consortium, Amsterdam; New Contemporaries 99, South London Gallery & Liverpool Biennial; NI gulp, Plug In – ICA Gallery, Winnipeg.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.