Paris Street Flower, 2014

The Work

Street Flower depicts a young generation of Vietnamese women living in Paris now, as well as the daughters of women who traveled by boat to Europe in the 1970’s. This work began during a Residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, in the summer of 2014

Here the women wear jackets within Parisian landscapes that they previously wore moving through the streets of Vietnam by moped. In Vietnam the jackets are worn to protect the skin from the sun. The jackets are multi-coloured, with floral patterns. They are not traditional, nor do they reference the past. Rather, they are a part of contemporary culture, referencing a momentum that is forward facing. Moving en masse through the streets of Hanoi and Saigon, women wearing these jackets, appear like a moving garden. The displacement of the Vietnamese jackets, re-locates aspects of Vietnamese sun, style and subtlety of substance, within a Parisian landscape.

Photography enables us to recreate one world within another. It has the ability to transport like a magic carpet or the white horse from the tale of Tir na NOg (Land of the Young). Within these images colour and dress become a language, and the photographs a kind of fabric, which transform and re-imagine complex personal identities. Here the environment is malleable, a hybrid of two or many more worlds. 

“The exile therefore exists in a median state, neither completely at one with the new setting nor fully disencumbered of the old, beset with half-involvements and half-detachments, nostalgic and sentimental on one level, an adept mimic or secret outcast on another. Every scene or situation in the new country necessarily draws on its counterpart in the old country" (Said, 2000, 370-371).

Ailbhe Greaney’s photographic practice investigates the intrinsic link between the photograph as document of place and as creator of place. The re-creation of place through photography, re-photography, repetition, doubling and mimicry in an effort to “re-member” and/or identify is examined. It investigates the camera’s ability to create a “third place”, neither here nor there, and to realise the imaginary aspects that embody any emotive place. Here the transformative powers of photography within our culture are considered, particularly how these powers relate to the reformulation of place and the reconfiguration of memory.

In this way the materiality/immateriality and malleability of photographs is explored, as well as the importance of repetition, gesture and performance within the traditional photo album and social media. This reflects upon the use of technology in navigating family divides, and in the creation of an impossible view.

Ailbhe has been Lecturer in Photography at Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art since 2007 and Course Director of the MFA Photography Degree since 2013. She is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Ulster University Art & Design Research Institute (RIAD). She has recently been appointed Fulbright Commission Ambassador to Ulster University, and acts as an advisor for both the Irish and British Fulbright Alumni Societies, IUSA Culture Panel and as a selection panel member for the Fulbright Commission Ireland’s Student/Scholar Award in the Arts.

Prior to her appointment at UU Ailbhe worked as a Curatorial Intern under Jennifer Blessing at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, on the exhibition: Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection; 2004; as well as Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present; 2004;  and Matthew Barney The Cremaster Cycle; 2003. She has served as Editorial Assistant at Blind Spot Magazine, New York; Advanced Digital Imaging Artist with Lux Imaging, New York; Gallery Assistant (Voluntary), Here Is New York Exhibition, 116 Prince St, New York; Manager Digital Output Centre, School of Visual Arts, New York and Graduate Teaching Assistant, MFA Photography Dept; School of Visual Arts, New York, under the mentorship of Sarah Charlesworth, Anna Gaskell, Collier Schorr, Stephen Shore, Charles Traub and Randy West.