'Deus ex machina' is a term from Greek theatre, meaning ‘the god from the machine’. It refers to the practice of lowering an actor in the role of a god onto the stage, by ropes or wires, a figure who can intervene in ways exceptional to the established logic of the plot. In place of just such an agent Ex Machina puts a camera, its point of view shared directly with the viewer.
The video sequence for Ex Machina is created from helicopter, crane and wire shots recorded on location in Carlow, Ireland, in and around the partially asset-stripped Carlow Sugar Factory. Ex Machina is a subjective work, although made with an awareness of the role played by the factory in the earlier life of the nearby town (in an era brought to an end with the winding-down of the indigenous sugar industry in Ireland).
Throughout the video sequence the viewer's eye is compelled to follow an uninterrupted, forward-moving trajectory that starts high in the sky, several miles outside Carlow, from where the camera very gradually homes in on the sugar factory. After a few minutes, the ground draws rapidly closer, and the outer wall of the main factory building is penetrated violently, leaving the camera shuddering along a wire, high above an exposed, smashed interior. A series of shocking drops and tracking shots leads to the strange, lower levels of the factory. In the deepest, barely-lit, subterranean zone, the installation space is filled with deep, insistent sounds, like the movement of rock strata fracturing under pressure.
By stages, the camera arrives at the threshold of a large industrial interior occupied by a surreal mountain of waste sugar, coloured by the purple light of insect exterminators. Temporarily drifting free of its anchorage, the camera ploughs into the sugar, before being expelled at speed along its entire route of entry, back to the outskirts of the town, and up into the air.
The installation video sequence frames the factory according to a shifting perspective, by turns revealing it as a feature lost or discovered in a wide landscape, a monument or memorial, and a ruin.
Commissioned by Visualise Carlow for Visualise Carlow 2006,
a Carlow Local Authorities Arts Office initiative funded by The Arts Council, Ireland.
Inaugural exhibition/event: the ex-Trek Factory, Carlow, 20-27 May 2006.
Project lead, Carlow: Sinead Dowling (Arts Officer, Carlow County Council).
At Irish Sugar Ltd and Carlow Sugar Factory:
Dr. Sean Brady: shoot permissions, Irish Sugar Ltd.
P. L. Curran: shoot facilitator
John Delaney: shoot team
Mick McGuinn: shoot team
Helicopter: Mr. Pat Mealey (owner, pilot)
Special Thanks: Pat Curran ('saviour of the Mini-Discs')
Exhibition venue (ex-Trek factory):
Courtesy of Mealey Construction Ltd, Carlow.
'Trek' installation team:
Jim Wynne, Anthony Kavanagh, Mick McGuinn