The Inhabitant, Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, Dublin, 2011.
The Inhabitant, a solo exhibition by Irish artist Martin Healy comprises two of Healy’s most recent film works Fugue (2011) and Last Man (2011). Healy’s work encompasses film, video, and photography and the subject matter references popular culture, science fiction and film.
The films reflect Healy’s interest in early science fiction novels such as Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian novel We (1921)and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward 2000 to 1887 (1888) both of which explore Utopian societies. The main subject of Fugue is loosely based on Julian West, the character from Bellamy’s Looking Backward, who is cast forward in time to the year 2000 in Boston where he describes the future city. Fugue is filmed in Tapiola, a garden city built in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Finland.The vision of modern living in Bellamy's book Looking Backward influenced the development of garden cities, as did the writings of Hekki Von Hertzen whose starting point was the individuality of man and closeness to nature.
Fugue is a dystopian depiction of the present and a psychological portrait of an individual who has become dislocated from time. In the film we see an isolated figure move through the deserted landscape. The term fugue describes a specific psychological disorder that was first classified in the late 19th century and refers to ‘double consciousnesses’ or a psychogenic flight. A fuguer is an individual who moves between identities that are the product of competing temporalities. The primary symptom of fugue is unexpected travel away from home or work usually accompanied by confusion about personal identity or even an assumption of a new identity and the inability to recall ones past. The film depicts this sense of estrangement through the use of the deserted landscape and lack of expression by the individual, which allows the viewer little relation or empathy for the character. This dislocation or schism is continued in Last Man.
A disused airport terminal in Cork, Ireland completed in 1961 provides the backdrop for Last Man.The film’s protagonist continues the futile task of working within the empty building, the camera lingers on defunct waiting and baggage claim areas, projecting a possible future where airports will become a thing of the past, leisure travel will no longer be part of the everyday.
Both films can be viewed as a meditation on the degradation of urban living and dystopian projections of the future where the individual who was so much a part of late capitalism becomes the catalyst of their own demise.