‘foggy’ by Lily O’ Shea

‘Slow Puncture’ is Lily O’ Shea’s first solo exhibition. Curated by Ali O’ Shea, the show runs from the 17th of September to the 2nd of October in The Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, Fitzgerald’s Park.


i had a slow puncture

-Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

now I’m feeling like a soggy dream

– Green Day, ‘Burnout’

The research process for this exhibition was foggy. It began with Flann O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman. After I had finished the book, I googled reviews and fell down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. One thing I took away from those misplaced hours was an article that likened the language used to a fish out of water. I like to imagine my research process as this fish. Ideas slipping in and out of my hands, flopping about on the boat. The approach was touch and go – my methods were questionable, and I often didn’t know what I was doing. It’s difficult to sustain anything while experiencing burn out. I haven’t felt creative for a while now and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to articulate myself. Brain fog rears its head from time to time and I begin to feel soggy. I decided to centre my research around the occurrence of a slow puncture and its ability to deflate one’s creativity. This resulted in a series of reflections which examine the urge to appear productive while burning out – each element of the exhibition representing pockets of time, or proof of production. 

The first phase of my research was slow puncture, a wire bound publication which features four texts and four drawings. I began researching this piece while I was in my final year of college. The outcome of this was a string of dense texts which weren’t enjoyable to write, never mind read. They were heavily referenced, and the content seemed distant. I returned to the drawing board and re-wrote the publication during lockdown. I began to focus on the language that surrounds unstable employment and burnout culture, particularly in relation to Ireland. I wrote eight drafts and printed numerous samples, formatting it differently each time. I decided on a final edit and printed a small run of twenty-five. This publication has been one of the main outputs of my research and has been an integral part of articulating and untangling questions within my own practice. The solo show has been named after the publication – therefore, the rest of the exhibition has been a direct result of this groundwork. The second phase of my research were the sculptures which are titled ‘pockets of time’. Like the publication, the sculptural element came to fruition during lockdown. I began to make a cast every week, filling the mould with anything I could get my hands on. Weetabix, cement, sand, gravel. Making a cast each week made me feel less guilty about feeling uncreative. I began to obsess over my efficiency, relentlessly equating my self-worth to my productivity. These sculptures represent pockets of time, or units of production. They explore one’s ability to continue producing while experiencing burnout. For me, these sculptures are not proof of creativity. They are uninterested in their material qualities; they are just evidence that I have produced something. The research behind this work explores the pressure surrounding the constant production of work, particularly within the arts. The final element of the exhibition is a series of video works titled ‘brain fog’ performed by screen and stage actor Eibhlís Beirne. This work has two separate parts which are based on the relationship between burnout and the feeling of fogginess. Eibhlís and I workshopped this concept on three different occasions, paring back our approach each time we filmed. Part 1 focuses on the sound of hesitation in order to materialise a lingering period of forgetfulness and an inability to articulate oneself. Part 2 expands on the same concept while also incorporating a sculptural prop from ‘pockets of time’. This intends to show case the sculptural work, reinforcing the performative element of productivity. 

The research process for slow puncture is ongoing. The material feels unfinished – scattered around the space, unsure of itself. A solution seems absent in the work and I’m not sure what the next stage of the research will look like. My brain feels leaky, more than likely to forget information soon after I’ve learned it.

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