An exhibition of Mark Currans photographs and videos examining the aesthetics of the high-tech clean room industry will open January 14 at the DePaul University Art Museum
, 2350 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. January 14 at the museum. Both are free and open to the public.
"The Breathing Factory", which runs through March 19, probes the cascading effects of globalization and economic swings in a Hewlett-Packard (HP) plant in Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland, which opened in 1995 and employs up to 2,500 workers. Acutely calibrated to the market, the factory employs and lays off workers based as needed. The resulting instability in personal lives is visible in Currans pristine yet emotionally charged images, providing an inside view of the economic boom known as the Celtic Tiger, which made Ireland the most globalized economy in the world.
Mark Curran is known for in-depth artists projects that combine photography, video and interviews to explore the complexity of ordinary situations, said Museum Director Louise Lincoln, curator of the exhibit.
The project was produced over a 20-month period, with each visit scheduled and cleared by security. Curran was accompanied onsite at all times, and all materials were vetted. It took nine months just to negotiate access to the plant.
The exhibition includes a life-size video projection with the sounds of the manufacturing process, which sounds like human breathing and is the first reference to the exhibits title. The second reference to the title involves how the plant takes in and lays off workers as needed, just as humans breathe faster or slower depending on the needs of the body.
The exhibition also will feature 11 large digital color prints of Currans works and the surroundings of the HP plant, notebooks in which the artist recorded his interviews with HP workers, video projections of work portraits and two laptops with looped videos.
Mark Currans projects work at the intersection of the human and the industrial, the local and the global, Lincoln said. The Breathing Factory incorporates names, faces and personal histories into an object as normal as an inkjet cartridge, and his remarkable photographs show the complexity of globalization and a volatile economy in human terms.