On Daniel O’neill

By Corey Herynk


Dan O’neill’s work meditates on the notions of transition and temporality in relation to a political, spatial, or even existential subject. In doing so, O’neill’s work actively plays with boundaries and at times challenges teleologies.

His Flagball, for example, could be understood as an abutting of the means with the target — the vehicle with the destination.  While on the other hand, as a decisively unanchored demarcation — a threshold that functions only provisionally — a ruling of land meant to be kicked around by anyone and everyone.  An invested viewer may even be prompted to consider it in relation to Foucault’s notion of discontinuity: a boundary, or historical period is merely fashioned by our intuition into a ‘factual’ continuum, but in reality is a sum of disparate events stemming from an array of factors (environmental, geographical, cultural, et al.)  With the playful aesthetic, it draws attention to and pokes fun at both our consciously perceived stability of meaning and our political and bodily interactions with space.

In other embodiments of O’neills work, specifically his video projection installations, one finds conceptual explorations dissimilar to, yet still relevant to that of Flagball.  Here video projections aim to persuasively conceal the beginnings and ends in a seamless loop; though the projections remain infinite in duration they nevertheless exist in a spatial finitude.  While the contents of the projection inhabit a nonspace and fluidly integrate into the support they are projected upon, they are still clearly delineated from this physical wall space by a rectangular frame or window delivered by the projector’s projection area.  This border between projection plane and physical environment functions quite differently than with Flagball — limits here could easily be transcended and in effect operated provisionally.  This projected border is singular, static, and maneuvers only 2 dimensions.  Because of this a viewer experiences a diminished level of integration between the projected space and their own physical space.

One of Dan’s most recent projected installation [I don’t know the title], of which utilizes this nonspace, depicts a tripartite planar division of figural human groups.  One group monotonously and mechanistically labors, one strolls the expanse of the picture plane inattentive to the other two surrounding worlds, while the other addresses the viewer (and here it comes closer to dissolving this virtual and actual boundary) with a sort of confrontational gesture and a quirky costume.  The identity of each group is left somewhat ambiguous; through there is still a certain indication of a division of labor — as we have manual workers on the right, two groups of non-workers on the left, and a third group (or individual) of mental worker(s) in the audience — and thus a political undertone.  A Marxian approach — historical materialism— to understanding, appears to be presented here as if it were an eternally subsisting structure of social organization.

While O’neill’s earlier work, Flagball, seems to be operating from a post-structural stance, the aforementioned video projection appears to emphasize eternal structures that constitute the basis of our historical knowledge.