RHA Learning Event

Pluck @ RHA Presents: Two films by Aideen Barry ARHA
15 Sep 2020

To accompany our program of conversations considering the legacy of the women’s movement in Irish Art, Pluck Projects present a selection of works by Aideen Barry ARHA that demonstrate her contribution to recent film and performance work in Ireland.

Aideen Barry ARHA, Enshrined, 2016, Not to be Named or Known, 2015.

Aideen Barry’s performative films mutate scenes of domesticity and family into weird dramas that capture the dysphoria of inhabiting traditional feminine roles. First shown in the RHA in 2016 as part of her major solo show Brittle Field, Enshrined is an absurdist vignette of working motherhood. Barry sits in a cramped and featureless office between two towering stacks of paperwork, brushing  aside the eggs that pop unbidden from her mouth so that they roll across the desk  to smash in a sticky yellow pool on the floor.  As she frantically taps at the keyboard her stomach rises and swells and she gives birth to a plump baby boy. Now her typing is interspersed with relentless breast pumping, as she expresses milk  while the baby sits untended on the floor, playing in the slick goo of discarded eggs.


As joyous to watch as they are unsettling, Barry’s work exploits animation’s ability to make material those aspects of psychic life most intimately shaped by the pressures of domesticity and motherhood. Using her own body, she creates images of startling intensity, undertaking extreme physical commitments that capture a sense of rising anxiety and claustrophobia. In Not to be Named or Known, Barry acts out a persistent wordless narrative of the domestic turned frenzied. With imagery that veers from the metaphoric to the metamorphic, her body becomes a passive host to objects that have taken on a sinister life of their own. Writhing snakes of vacuum hose emerge from her hair, a squadron of forks tears a roast chicken to pieces, and mischievous domestic familiars morph from the carnivalesque and fantastical to become something more murderous and strange. What this uncomfortable plot twist exposes is the combination of hilarity and terror that emerges from many points in her work. Barry’s leveraging of the capacities of the Gothic or uncanny to convey competing psychic pressures places her work in a lineage of artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Dorothea Tanning and Leonora Carrington, each of whose work has explored the dissonance, anxiety and menace of the domestic and of motherhood. Animation, in its mass media form has often been associated with perpetuating hetero-normative gender codes in the form of the princess, the witch and the fairy godmother. However Barry explores the ways in which this lo-fi but labour intensive technique can re-frame and push against dominant representations of gender and domesticity.

Further Reading

Tina Kinsella, ‘Gaping Mouth’d: On the Politics of the Body in the Work of Aideen Barry and Alice Maher’. Fair is Foul & Foul is Fair. (Washington DC: American University Museum and Katzen Arts Center, 2019)


Una Mannion, ‘Live Art in Ireland’,  In: Jordan E., Weitz E. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Irish Theatre and Performance. (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2018)

Áine Phillips, ed. Performance Art in Ireland: A History. London: Live Art Development Agency, 2015.


Aideen Barry ARHA is a visual artist whose work has been widely exhibited in solo and group exhibitions and commissions in Ireland and internationally. Significant projects include: residencies and exhibitions at IMMA, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Headlands Centre for the Arts, San Francisco, Matucana 100 in Chile, Louise T. Blouin Gallery, UK, Galeria IH ESP, Artscene Shanghai,  Project 304 Gallery, at Bangkok Thailand, BAC Geneva,  Art OMI, The American Film Maker’s Co-op and  Yaddo in New York , NASA Kennedy Space Centre, Skaftfell in Iceland, and the Banff Centre, Canada. In 2019 she showed in a two person show with Alice Maher curated by Dr. Tina Kinsella, Fair is foul & Foul is Fair, at the Katzen Center at the American University Museum in Washington DC. Barry is currently working on a commission for Kaunas 2022 the European Capital of Culture in Lithuania and the Bunting commission for her piece Oblivion for the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Music Network. She has upcoming projects at the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg in South Africa this month, and will show solo next year and 2022 at LCGA, Centre Culturel Irlandais, the Canada Council in Paris, and other projects at the East Wing Doha in Qatar, ArteBA in Buenos Aires in Argentina and Artissima Art Fair.

In 2019 she was awarded the Myron Marty Fellowship at Drake University in Iowa and taught at NYU New York, Edinburgh University,  VCU Virginia and George Washington University. In October she will take up a temporary teaching position at Penn State University for the Anderson Lecture Series. Barry’s work is in several important art collections including Art Omi New York, The Francis Greenberger Collection, Trinity College, Dublin, The Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork, Department of Education & Skills, Office of Public Works, Centre de l’Art Contemporary, Malaga, ESP, The Butler Gallery collection, NUIG Collection and The Arts Council of Ireland, Centre de l’Art Contemporary and the University of Malaga, ESP. She is an elected member of Aosdána and was recently elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy.

Pluck Projects is a curatorial collaboration founded by art historians Sarah Kelleher and Rachel Warriner that champions innovative work and seeks to reassess the histories of contemporary Irish art


Commissioned by The Arts & Heritage Trust, UK for The Gallery of Wonder.

Led by Arts&Heritage, the Gallery of Wonder referred back to the origins of museums – the collections of wonder and natural history/medical exhibits, shown within traveling caskets. Delivered in collaboration with Irene Brown of Newcastle University, this contemporary Gallery of Wonder commissioned new work to engage new audiences in marvellous and magical contemporary art. It toured Northumberland’s agricultural shows during the summer autumn 2015.


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