Kennedy Browne: The Special Relationship
Krannert Art Museum
October 4, 2018 - February 9, 2019

A collaboration of Irish artists Gareth Kennedy and Sarah Browne, Kennedy Browne’s videos, workshops, and sculptural installations have probed common stories of global capital: the effects on workers of relocating companies, the visionary boyhood narratives of tech company founders, and struggles over privacy in the age of the internet. To produce their work, Kennedy Browne follows research threads from specialized and marginal business materials. To date they have mined blogs and support forums of tech company workers, business literature, archives of airport arrivals and departures, and the legal proceedings of privacy activists in Europe. The artists compile and rework texts from these sources into scripts for performance, casting actors as avatars of industry and labor.  

The exhibition surveys six bodies of work in video, sculpture, and text produced by Kennedy Browne since 2009. The presentation is named for one video titled The Special Relationship (2013), which juxtaposes a voice diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder with photographs of airplanes carrying US military personnel landing and departing from Shannon, a regional airport in the west of Ireland. Officially a neutral country in all wars, Ireland nevertheless has a special relationship with the US that the works in the exhibition uncover. From Ireland’s position “between Boston and Berlin,” a geopolitical frame once described by Irish politicians, Kennedy Browne gives US museum audiences new perspectives about both countries’ roles in international commerce and technoculture. 

The exhibition debuts The Redaction Trilogy, a complete series of video installations with accompanying sculptural elements. The artists produced this work over the last seven years in response to unfolding neoliberal systems of labor, technology and politics. Real World Harm (2018), the newest work, is a 360-degree video on Oculus, a virtual reality platform implicated in the concerns of the project. Partly filmed at the Irish Data Commissioners office, which is charged with the responsibility for upholding individuals’ control over how their data is used, Real World Harm stages a thought experiment concerned with contested rights to privacy and justice for online and actual citizenship.

The Myth of the Many in the One (2012) questions narratives of economic growth and progress that rely on a particular figure of entrepreneurial genius. The video distills the similar biographies of Bob Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and other notable characters into a single story accompanied by such artifacts as Napoleon biographies and a crib deconstructed by one boy wonder when he was a toddler.

How Capital Moves (2010) condenses rumors, speculations, and actual events from the online discussion forum of employees at a large computer company. The video installation stages interviews with a number of these figures, including a central character who was laid off on “wear your pajamas to work day.”  

The Special Relationship is Kennedy Browne’s first US museum survey. 

Curated by Amy L. Powell with research assistance from Alyssa Bralower

Interview with Niala Boodhoo on The 21st, Illinois Public Media:

Review by Pollyanna Rhee, “Between Boston and Berlin,” in The Avery Review: