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Artist duo  McDermott and McGough currently have a retrospective exhibition on view at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (another one for the collaborative artist couples list).

From the press release: 

An Experience of Amusing Chemistry: Photographs 1990 – 1890 comprises some 120 works created using a wide range of historic photographic techniques, including the use of palladium, gum, salt and cyanotype prints. David McDermott and Peter McGough met when they were both part of the famous East Village New York art scene of the 1980s, and have since become renowned for their seamless fusion of art and life.

In a revolt against the confines of chronological time, they have built their practice through appropriating imagery and objects from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They have also assiduously reconstructed their lives as Victorian gentlemen – complete with knee britches, top hats and tail coats – immersing themselves in the environment and era in which they feel most at home, and, incidentally, dating their works accordingly.

My instinctual response to this work was unfairly and unjustifiably dismissive. I don’t think it’s the act of performative nostalgia, of literally attempting to live in the past, that spurred this displeasure. I actually think it’s the specific era that the artists chose: Victorianism is so passé. Different ‘pasts’ (that is, historical eras) go in and out of fashion like anything else. I wonder if it is simply their choice of the Victorian era that caused my nose to curl up?

The press release also claims that ‘they also subvert the obvious by incorporating homoerotic and art historical references, allowing the subject to expand outside of its time-capsule-like boundaries and to exist in relation to current cultural and artistic ideals’.

Image above: Bubble of Soap Formed at the Extremity of a Strand of Straw, 1884, 1990, palladium print. Image held here

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