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Abigail O'Brien - 2009

The Sweet Revelations of Abigail O’Brien

The remarkable series of photographs that Abigail O’Brien produced at the Oatfield Sweet Factory at Letterkenny in County Donegal can be read on many levels. The most prosaic interpretation would focus on the documentary nature of these works, which record the equipment and materials and processes involved in the making of traditional candies, but which also introduce us to the men and women who perform the necessary alchemy of sweet making.

To view the multimedia presentation on Youtube please click here


Inner Voices

Inner Voices shows a woman washing down machinery at the end of the working week in a candy factory. She cleans as she has been trained, following precise rules. These are the ablutions that follow excess, the mid-point between labor and repose. The video explores the interface of work-rules with the social strictures placed upon women. Factory health and safety regulations are juxtaposed with meditations on correct female behavior. The protagonist vocally fuses the codes of the factory floor with the philosophical musings of La Rochefoucauld, whose book of ‘moral maxims’ was published in 1664. The contemporary relevance of such mantras is questioned here. The listener yearns for more time to consider a particular phrase, but is immediately confronted with another and yet another. One feels overwhelmed by the pressures of reason, of rules. And yet it seems like the physical activity itself — a woman cleaning — is quite enough to hold the silence and carry the day. (Text by David Galloway)

Oatfield-Temperance – Abigail O’Brien
Exhibited at the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny from the 17 November 2009 – 16 January 2010

This exhibition and catalogue complete the project Oatfield -The Sweet Stuff, a series of exhibitions celebrating 80 years of The Oatfield Sweet
Factory presented by Donegal County Council’s Cultural Services. This project forms part of the Residency Strand of Donegal County Council’s Public Art Program and was funded under the Per Cent for Art Scheme arising from the National Road Authority’s recent construction of the N56 Mountain Top to Illistrin Road Realignment Project.

Please click here to read an Introduction by John Cunningham, a review by Gregory McCartney and an essay by David Galloway