Tell us something about your background as an artist
My grandmother was a painter and she taught me and my siblings to paint with oils when we were quite young. I continued with art in school and for a while, I considered studying interior design or architecture – areas which still have a big influence on my work now. Eventually, I studied Environmental Art at the Glasgow School, which was brilliant. The course had a focus on social engagement and making art outside the usual galleries and institutions.
Volkshotel is a specific environment, how does that relate to your way of working?
I always make work that responds to my environment. I like to experiment with how social and physical surroundings can affect our behavior. The Volkshotel residency fits very well with how I approach making artworks: inhabiting a space, observing how it is used and then mess with it.
Is there something you like to leave behind, after the residency?
I have been using the existing furniture from the hotel to create alternative ‘scenarios’ for use. These will be temporarily installed in the building. It is possible for the hotel, or the guest, to keep using them.
How did you like staying at Volkshotel?
It has been great and weird! Staying in a hotel and not being a tourist is strange. Normally, you would be out visiting the city all day, but we aren’t leaving, our purpose is different. Having breakfast and dinner in the same place and staying in identical bedrooms made me feel like I was getting institutionalized. It reminded me of a hospital or prison that had been decorated really nicely. I also began watching a lot of the 1967 sci-fi series ‘The Prisoner’, which is about a secret agent who is held captive in a surreal village. This definitely fed my overactive paranoid imagination.
And last but not least, what’s your impression of Amsterdam?
I have been living in Rotterdam for my Masters at the Piet Zwart Institute, so I am used to the Dutch culture. Amsterdam is much busier than Rotterdam with more tourists and nice old buildings, and the cycling is a bit more serious! I am intrigued by the Netherlands approach to architecture and city planning. Compared to Ireland, the whole place feels really ‘man-made’ and logical. I hope to stay after I finish studying, and Amsterdam is definitely somewhere I’ll be spending more time.
Portrait pictures by Raymond van Mil