Double Inheritance

‘Nature can only mean inheritance transmitted through genetic code, while culture is the inheritance transmitted through non-genetic vehicles.’ [1]


Exploring this double inheritance, which Agamben references, is the catalyst for this ongoing series.  The use of the camera, itself already encoded as technical inheritance, enables the production of the images which attempt to make sense of our sense of place and time. The doubling through which we are produced, moment by moment, pixel by pixel, is the subject of these works.

[1] Agamben Giorgio. ‘Infancy and History, Essays on the destruction of experience’ (1993) Verso, London.
Future Fossils

Future Fossils is a series which examines the systems and processes which govern Photography’s relationship to the contemporary material experience.   

In ‘Footprints, In search of future fossils’ (2020) David Farrier offers a compelling  analysis of the ‘the processes that will transform a megacity into a thin layer of concrete, steel and glass in the strata’. At the heart of Farriers meditation is inescapable fragility of all human actions / creations. The infrastructure necessary to support our contemporary communications systems has a vernacular industrial functionality that disguises its impact on our material relations with the landscape.


In a globalised world, the material nature of land loses its relevance somewhat as our methods of communication transcend physical travel / physical borders. Photography mirrors the condition of our contemporary material experience in the face of the very real threat (crisis?) of a disappearing material culture and the emergence of a pixelated, globalised, technologically conditioned experience.
Inventing ireland

Out of frame is the North Atlantic Ocean, ceaselessly tearing into the Donegal shoreline above which each of these caravans have been placed.
Perched on the boundary of two great competing forces, these flimsy fabrications almost taunt the Atlantic in a ludicrous game of dare as they retreat into the rock face as far they can, looking incongruous and utterly impermanent.

I have borrowed the title ‘Inventing Ireland’ from Declan Kiberd’s book of the same name (first published 1995).  The book is a critical tour de force examining the creation of a nation state and in particular the complexity of the history between Ireland and England in relation to each Nations self-image.


This series of photographs is part of a larger on-going project in which I am examining my part in the age old Irish diaspora. As is so often the case with émigré’s, I live with a latent sense of ‘returning’. But return to what exactly?
Ireland is, as Kiberd outlines, something of a fragmented mirror and those who look into it expecting anything but a broken image of themselves are inevitably going to feel forever frustrated. My journeys back to Ireland to visit my family offer me the opportunity to reflect on my own condition and reinvent my relationship with ‘Ireland’. These photographs are therefore not so much concerned with evocations of a lost state but are more a meditation on Land / Place and our desire to connect with it.
Labelled Faces in the Wild

Labelled Faces in the Wild  is a suspended collaborative archival project between Michael McGinley, Martin Grimes and the curatorial staff at Bolton Museum. As part of our proposed investigation into this archive, we engaged with the outcomes of earlier research where possible. Anthropologists Moor and Uprichard identified that subjective encounters are prompted by the sensual and material characteristics of archival material.[2]Following their lead we began to RESCAN and OBSERVE both the archive itself and the apparatus that houses and enables it.

‘The continuous work of looking, if you’re really looking critically and with imagination, is to track that dynamic between submission to power and the unpredictable artistic understanding of it, the latter always beyond the artist’s conscious intentions’.[1]

Building on the museums ‘Art of Noticing’ programme, ‘Evidence and Perception’ were the central motifs in our ambition of stirring the imagination of future viewers. Mandel and Sultan’s 1977 publication ‘Evidence’ and Claudio Hils 2004 publication ‘Archive - Belfast’ offer aesthetic and conceptual guides. Our aim was to produce a body of productive knowledge (exhibition of photographs, audio and film and publication) that would contribute positively to the ongoing dialogue with the Worktown archive.

[1] Matthew Collings, (As Antonio Gramsci), Art Review, Vol 65, No 5.
[2] Moor, L and Uprichard, E ( 2014 ) The Materiality of Method: The Case of the Mass Observation [Online].


Other Evidence

Willie Carson senior was a freelance photo journalist in Derry, N-Ireland. His documenting of 'The Troubles' led to his work being published internationally.The body of photographic evidence that Willie generated thoughout this period was enormous and only a small percentage of it found its way into journalistic use at the time.

Other Evidence represents the beginning of a collaborative project with Mary and William Carson focusing on the legacy of their fathers photojournalistic output. The photograph has been at the centre of Derry’s history over the last half century. ‘The Troubles’ and the ensuing peace process have provided photo journalists a constant source of newsworthy images. It is perhaps easier to contain a problematic City by recycling the well trodden images of violence and protest than to address the texture of the real lives of its people.


What is it that you do?

The title ‘what is it that you do? Is a reference to the exhibition of the same name involving a collaboration of Martin Grimes, Malcolm Evans and Michael McGinley. The exhibition was part of the ‘Annual Programme’, an independent arts venue run by Martin Vincent and Nick Crowe.  

Born out of uncertainty and a shared sense of disillusionment with ‘myth of origin’ Michael McGinley and Martin Grimes formed a creative partnership under the working title ‘since 1963’.  Exploring themes such as: identity; authorship; spectacle; media; language and value, the pair pair produced a series of public installations in galleries such as the Blue Coat Gallery Liverpool, the Arts Council Gallery Belfast, Sheffield hallam University, Salford University, the Castlefield, the Cornerhouse Manchester.

Within their studio practice the pair explored the function of ‘play’ and the notion of the ‘work’ of art. This practice involved the playful re-contextualising of found industrial materials, ranging from the recouped detritus from decommissioned mills, tarmacadam, rubber, glass to musical instruments and organic materials. The photographs presented here are records of some these experimental performative studio events & public installations.


Copyright Michael Mcginley 2023