Though multi-disciplinary artist Aoife Dunne is only 25, her achievements dazzle. Aged 12, she started an online magazine with contributors from all over the world, set up a web design business and won a scholarship to the Royal Irish Academy of Music. At 13, she produced a film that was selected for the Beijing Film Festival.
"It was very simply about the need to fit in. This is something that never affected me but I observed it throughout my childhood and it confused me. The piece was entirely shot from the knee down. Movement and sound told the story. It was an abstract take on an incident at school, where I was ridiculed for not getting the latest Reebok runners. Eleven-year-old me wasn't bothered that I had different ones. That night I painted my very worn runners, dipped them in glitter and they were a huge success. At lunch break, I ended up painting all their new Reeboks."
Dunne also spray-painted her bedroom wall, hung materials across the room and focused on imaginary friendships. "I remember thinking everyone was boring, hating class and feeling very alienated. I couldn't wrap my head around why things are the way they are. I would question everything. I drove my parents crazy. This extreme curiosity meant I couldn't take anything at face value. I still struggle with that, which is a little maddening."
Having trained as a dancer and performer, and with a first from NCAD, Dunne's work is "rich in allusions to art and space and concerned above all with the idea of pushing beyond an image and breaking through into the on-screen world".
With "a million ideas a minute", she spends "most of my time locked away in the studio", but "travelling, meeting new people and learning new languages and skills feed my ideas".
She can appreciate an oil painting or a bronze sculpture but she is not interested in traditional art. "I can't paint or draw" and she sees art "as something much greater than what lies within a frame". Dunne's work is an exciting amalgam of all her interests: performance, sculpture, sound, costume and technology; see her video Limitless.
Art allows Dunne "to become my true, authentic self". In this empowering image, Genesis (pictured), she has presence. The headgear, with its clock on top, the asymmetrical divide, the steely green and purple colours, the earrings, necklace, white jacket and circular foreground, is a self-portrait for our times.
"What first took shape as a physical installation has since transformed into a virtual universe due to the confines of pandemic-induced restrictions. This work has been completely created in self-isolation. I have filmed, directed, edited, produced, styled, costumed, performed and crafted the entirety of this digital work, which itself leads spectators on a fantastical tour of the future."
For Dunne, "dress has such a transformative effect, it allows us to reach beyond ourselves, acting as a catalyst to explore and experiment with our character". And her work "is very much about being a young woman in the world today, combining personal narratives and remixed references, carefully constructed to challenge the psychological complexities, desires and illusions that haunt late-capitalist culture".
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, so Genesis goes. Dunne named this piece Genesis "as all throughout this year, we have experienced so much tragedy that it truly felt like 'the end of the world'. I wanted to flip this thinking and focus on the beginning of a new - an insight into an absurd yet exciting future."
Dunne believes "art forces us to confront our deep dark truths. Whatever and however I'm feeling will always come out in its rawest form. This is the same for viewing and experiencing art: it forces us to think about things we have never thought of before."
And what troubles Dunne? "Our limited beliefs. I don't subscribe to the word 'no'… I truly believe that anything and everything is possible, always."
September 18 is Culture Night, and Aoife Dunne's 7th Sense - an immersive sound and light installation exploring the acoustic creation of space - launches at 8pm at The Lab Gallery, Dublin 1, and runs until October 24.
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