Sarah Browne: Buttercup

Saturday 13 April – Saturday 8 June 2024
Sarah Browne: Buttercup | Saturday 13 April – Saturday 8 June 2024 | SIRIUS | Image: to the right on a horizontal black background, is a photo of some Holstein (black-and-white) cows (or bullocks?) bunched together across the photo, taking up most of the image space; the cow closest to the middle is looking back at the camera; tags hang from both ears; the earth they are standing on, in bright sunlight, is dried mud; behind them at the top of the photo we see green grass; to the left of the photo, in yellow serif font on the black background, the words “She put in more time daughtering than mothering.” – spread over two lines

The artist Sarah Browne examines spoken and unspoken bodily experiences of knowledge, labour and justice. She engages with alternative and suppressed practices and narratives associated with marginalized personhoods, acting in solidarity with people excluded from or undermined by mainstream normative and value systems, whether legal, scientific or political.

Browne’s practice involves film, publishing and performance, and her works are presented in both institutional contexts and the public realm. She often works with people of formal and informal expertise (children, lawyers, poets) to establish a new community of knowledge or concern through art.

The exhibition Buttercup features a newly created film of the same title, realized in collaboration with David Donohoe, Helena Gouveia Monteiro, Elaine Lillian Joseph, Daniel Hughes and disabled consultants. The film is presented on two screens through a looped sequence alternating between captioned and audio-described versions, developed in dialogue with Joseph and Hughes. These differing sensory translations are accessible for all visitors.

The film consists of a voice-over attempting to describe and comprehend a childhood photograph, framed as a traditional family portrait. This photograph, which recurs throughout, depicts a girl wearing a Communion dress with her father and her pet cow, the eponymous Buttercup, at a farm. Other imagery takes in views of cattle and pasture at the site of the photograph, suggesting a rural scene, either bucolic or extractivist.

The film evolves through a narration in the style of a memoir, responding to the institutions of family and property implied by the photograph. The narrator approaches the photograph repeatedly, and through her ongoing rumination, unfolds entangled relationships of human and animal, agriculture and art making, mothering and domestication, care and violence. The farm can be viewed as a place of learning about society at large that involves implicit hierarchies, from gendered forms of labour to interactions with disability and the allocation of autonomy or freedom.

The footage includes still and slow-moving images, and was shot in 16mm and produced through cameraless animation on celluloid by Gouveia Monteiro and Browne.

The score is produced by Donohoe, and combines field recordings from the farm with experimental drone and brass chords, generating alternating physical sensations of warmth and unease, and thus communicating in ways the narrator struggles to voice.

The exhibition also features a sculptural piece, Safelight, which functions in the gallery as a darkroom light, and suggests both a heating lamp for newborn animals and a Sacred Heart, that last a domestic artefact of devotion in the Catholic tradition. Tucked discreetly behind it are a cattle ID tag and a Saint Brigid’s cross, used to protect animals in cowsheds. Thus, the sculpture syncretizes state/bureaucratic procedures of agriculture with animism, and attends to experiences of danger, perception and exposure.

Browne uses ‘parallel play’ as a neurodivergent method of collaboration, while refusing any pathological judgment devaluing such engagement. As part of this approach, she has invited writer Sarah Hayden to respond to Buttercup. Hayden’s contribution, as if […] wearing anklesocks, forms a distinct text that is interdependent with the film, intended to be heard in the air or read on the page, and is presented as a performance accompanying the exhibition.

Saturday 13 April – Saturday 8 June 2024
The Old Yacht Club
Cobh, Co. Cork
Telephone: +353 21 481 3790
Opening hours / start times:
Wednesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 17:00
Admission / price: Free

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