Stephen Brandes - La Place des Grandes Abysses

Uillinn, Skibbereen, Ireland, 24 July - 4 September 2021

This Exhibition first took place at  the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, September 18 – October 31, 2020.  It was due to open in February 2021 in Uilinn but was postponed due to the pandemic.  The show opens on 24 July 2021.  


La Place des Grands Abysses (2020) is the conclusion to a project that has occupied the artist for the past ten years, across a variety of media. The exhibition includes a monumental drawing, small collages, drawings and paintings, and an hour-long video work in the form of an animated slideshow.


At its heart is the story is a fictional character, Albert Sitzfleisch; an employee of the cultural section of the Council of Europe, who has spent his life travelling, and has just been made redundant. He is now travelling again with his severance money, writing a book on optimism, and also looking for work. The year is 2069.


The tragi-comic non-linear narrative takes us through his final months, starting in Kinsale, on the South coast of Ireland, where he has taken a sabbatical from his job to start writing his book, to his after-life as a ghost and an unwitting tour-guide of the ruins of the Place de Vosges a century later. The narrative is also broken by the insertion of tangential episodes - including the history of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's death mask and a damning TripAdvisor review of an Athenian restaurant.


In parallel with literary fiction, the work is a result of research, observation and invention. The imagery, both in the video work and the accompanying drawings and collages, also supports the narrative but digresses, to allow for multiple readings.


La Place des Grands Abysses offers both a meditation on the legacy of the Enlightenment and a speculative portrait of Europe in the near distant future. It also attempts to consider our shared histories and destinies with a balance of dark humour and poignance.

6 July 2021