Relic of Memory 1, 1998
Vaulted arches, steel Welded steel table 25 x 8 x 2.5 feet
Relic of Memory 11, 1999
Steel box, rocks 20 x 60 feet
“One of art’s functions is to recall that which is absent – whether it is history, or the unconscious, or form, or social justice”
Mining the repositories of memory, Anne O’Callaghan reconstructs the natural and human histories issuing from this site. In Relic of Memory, domestic and architectural structures fabricated from contemporary industrial materials are introduced into the environment. An eight-foot long steel table squarely placed in a moss-laden clearing bears the inscription “Huron – Hatherly – Ruttan,” identifying the generations of people who have inhabited this territory. Alternately, the poetic insertions on the reverse trace the organic constituents of the earth: “Petrified Wood – Dead Lava – Cooling Star – Incarcerated Ghosts” – extending the historical continuum. Nearby, an area of hollowed ground is vaulted by a pair of steel arches joined at the vertices by a single cross beam. The multi-valence of O’Callaghan’s armature underscores its cultural dexterity, admitting allusions to the sweat-lodges of indigenous cultures; the oratories or small stone churches from the ninth and tenth centuries which populate the Irish countryside; and, through its boat shaped configuration, the diasporic history of migration and settlement. Higher on one end than the other, the structure rephrases the uneven terrain below. A sense of movement is engendered, bestowing on the steel an organic sensibility. Rather than offering shelter, O’Callaghan’s armature frames the encompassing landscape, reorganizing our experience of the site.
In a subsequent project, a steel vitrine is positioned at the apex of a sequence of stone markers. Referencing museological systems of categorization, O’Callaghan recontextualizes and codifies the natural artifacts of the immediate locale: rock, moss, lichen. Reminiscent of cairns, the piled stones at its base evoke historical antecedents: the demarcation of burial sites, or signposts on a journey. However, their apparent randomness implies a more natural occurrence. Remnants of a one hundred year old wall, these stones are employed as a tectonic vocabulary through which natural and human boundaries are redrawn. Meandering across the coarse surface of the shield, the stones, in fact, emulate the gravitational flow of water, inverting the re-ordering of nature within cultural categories.
Excerpt from Carolyn Bell Farrell, “Axis of Time,” The Tree Museum, (The Tree Museum, 2000)