Aisling McCoy / The Radiant City
The paradox of utopia, as “good-place” but also “no-place” was the starting point for this project. The utopia is an ideal creation of the mind, and yet it can’t be separated from the real place that inspires it. Our projections of utopia enhance our experience of place, allowing us to give meaning to the world by believing it differently.
The Radiant City explores ideology in architecture, particularly the utopia, through one of the icons of modernism -Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille. Designed in 1952 as “La Cité Radieuse” the building was conceived as prototype postwar housing for the city of the future. The photographs in the series were made at the Unité over 60 years later, in the autumn of 2014, and address the role, of both architecture and photography, in constructing the ideal.
Rather than document the haptic experience of the building, the series focuses on exploring the metaphysical experience of place in the search for utopia. The project explores the physical construct of the photobook as a way to investigate our experience of place as simultaneously real and ideal, space and image. The book’s design also draws parallels with Le Corbusier’s technique of architectural promenade – the sequencing of images is key in building up a kind of narrative which both elaborates and denies key themes; architecture as refuge and prospect, the artificial and the natural world, and the techniques of religious iconography and symbolism. The photographic language which emerges sets up conflicts and patterns, but ultimately the ambiguity of the images aims at inviting the reader to build their own perception of the whole based on significant fragments.
The use of mirrored images in the book and exhibition was influenced by Foucault’s writings on heterotopia, in particular the ability of the mirror to expand the perception of place “I see myself from where I am not… I discover my absence from the place where I am”. There is a reference to Le Corbusier’s use of a mirror at the cabanon to expand awareness of both interior and exterior space, but more crucially it is intended to draw attention to the flatness of the image, undermining its veracity through duplication. The opacity of the photograph as a two dimensional object is made clear, along with its dependency on the imagination of the reader to assign it a meaning greater than itself.
Aisling McCoy is a photographer and educator based in Dublin. She holds an MFA in Fine Art Photography from the Belfast School of Art, Ulster University. Having practiced architecture since graduating from University College Dublin in 2007, she has been working primarily with photography since 2012.
As a photographer and architect she is interested in the ideology of place, and how photography can be used to analyse the overlap between image making and place making. The conflict between the discipline of architecture as an intellectual ideal, created through images, and its translation into built form has always fascinated her and this question of the real and the ideal forms the basis of her practice.
Her photobook dummy for The Radiant City was shortlisted for the Kassel Fotobookfestival Dummy Award in 2015 and the work has been exhibited internationally.
Selected Group Exhibitions
2016 Belfast Exposed Futures, Peckham 24, PhotoLondon
2016 PhotoIreland invited gallery at Circulations Festival of European Photography, Le Centquatre Gallery, Paris
2015 Beyond the Camera, Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi Province, China.
2015 Fotobookfestival Dummy Award Kassel -travelling exhibition of shortlisted books, Rome, Madrid, Dublin, Kaunas, Oslo, Istanbul.
2015 RDS Student Art Awards Exhibition, Royal Dublin Society, Dublin.
2015 Scopic, MFA Fine Art Photography Graduate Exhibition, Belfast School of Art, Ulster University, Belfast.
All images ©Aisling McCoy and ©FLC