HOME: Brian Duggan

Brian Duggan’s installation draws on the network of environmental testing systems put in place across Europe in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The Chernobyl accident unleashed huge amounts of radioactive material, spreading across the Soviet Union and into Europe, and initiated monitoring for increases in radiation as a first warning system. In Ireland, a network of permanent testing sites are distributed throughout the country. Duggan’s work, entitled Breath I mean something more than air after a line from Thomas McCarthy’s poem After Surgery, consists of an arrangement of working air filters that have been placed throughout the gallery and which are accompanied by data sheets recording the atmospheric pollution from sites across Ireland. These filters are thus a document of the air we breathe, the environment we live in, and a visualisation of the different particles which are absorbed by and which circulate through our bodies. 

While they specifically record the conditions of locations in Ireland, the filters also reveal differences in air quality: those taken from urban locations are more clogged with dirt and dust. They bear a resemblance to charcoal drawings, suffused with grey and black tones, almost sparkling with the trace elements of oil and other pollutants. The data sheets counter this delicate, formal richness, revealing the insidious, unseen presence of toxic elements in our everyday surroundings. Duggan’s project therefore represents a sample of a moment in time, in the place we live.