Nicholas Keogh

Household objects become whimsical instruments at the Golden Thread Gallery

It feels impossible these days to visit a gallery space, thrift shop or any self respecting hipster’s loft conversion without finding an abundance of ‘reclaimed art’. However, few artists actually employ the technique with as much honesty, integrity, skill and humour as Belfast-based circuit-bending artist Nicholas Keogh.

Keogh’s simplistically titled A Solo Exhibition, currently on display in Belfast's Golden Thread Gallery, features as its main event a piece entitled ‘Dust Bin Disco’, in which Keogh has re-appropriated an abundance of household items to create a highly unique installation that is a feast for the senses.

What at first appears to be the average contents of a skip haphazardly turfed onto the gallery floor is in fact a smorgasbord of bleach bottles and empty food containers that have been filled to bursting point with electronics, coming courtesy of internationally acclaimed A/V artist and circuitry guru Barry Cullen. Snaking cables link these custom synths to various effects boards and stomp boxes.

 

These in turn are connected to a pair of Calor Gas oil drums that house a pair of speakers – and on which the words, 'SPECIAL BREW/I LOVE YOU' are affectionately emblazoned. This mighty rig is driven by a generator, housed in a bin on wheels.

As might be expected from a heap of rubbish, this little lot has a mighty hum emanating from it, although not of the nasal variety: the speakers are alive with a low rumbling sound. Upon closer inspection, each item on the floor is seen to be covered in unmarked buttons, knobs and sensors with a simple spray-painted instruction on the floor reading: 'PLAY'.

I reach out to a dial housed in an ancient packet of dog biscuits and give it a twist – the sound oscillates wildly. Leaving my self-made sound blasting out of the speakers, I flick a switch residing in a tin of the disgustingly named ‘Wagg’mms Dog Gravy’, which adds a fierce squeal of sonic mania to proceedings (and causes an involuntarily squeal of delight to spring from my mouth).

There is a truly infinite number of unpredictable sounds to be created with what, at first glance, appears to be a trash heap. As they say, one man’s rubbish truly is another man’s treasure. Keogh is a master of interactive art, and this exhiibtion combines high tech and low living. It is incredibly satisfying.

As sound bleeds in from the adjacent gallery space, I wander over to find a film playing on a cinema screen that reaches to the roof. Although the subject matter might be of some irritation to ardent animal rights apologists – featuring, as it does, a series of bluebottles being blown away with a shotgun – I take great pleasure in allowing my silhouette to be cast onto the screen alongside the hulking flies.

Hollywood monster movies of the 1950s and Japanese Kaiju flicks instantly spring to mind – the sense of play within this exhibition is palpable and infectious. It is unclear, however, whether or not any bluebottles were injured in the making of this production.

In the accompanying blurb, Keogh emphasises his enthusiasm for shamanic practices, an interest which appears to come to the fore in the final gallery space. This houses ‘Bin Disco 5’, a self-operating light and sound show housed in a converted skip, portholes crafted into the front representing a pinhole camera.

Inside, a beautifully crafted lantern resides, out of which an ethereal and hypnotic soundtrack plays. Juxtaposed with a trippy light show, this piece recalls the ritualistic films of Kenneth Anger, although Keogh's piece doesn’t quite embody the sense of joy that the rest of the exhibition does.

Perhaps most excitingly of all, the Golden Thread is hosting a series of circuit bending jam sessions with Keogh’s creations, all fully open to the public. This will culminate at the end of the month with audio visual artists Barry Cullen and Torsten Lauschmann hosting a disco in the gallery.

While it is unlikely that any dancefloor fillers will be played, it will most certainly demonstrate an endless world of creative possibility not just within circuitry, but in the items we dispose of daily.

A Solo Exhibition runs in the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast until February 15.