Room 8

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Originally exhibited together, O.K. Corral 2008, An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity 2008 and Puppy Chow 2009 are all intricately constructed using pages from vintage magazines that Gallagher has saturated in blue ink. Cut into strips, the pieces are glued to the surface in complex overlapping patterns that resemble a dynamic vortex through which the different layers of collage can still be discerned.

The title of An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity refers to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Hundreds of impoverished black men who had contracted syphilis were studied by the Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972, to trace the long-term effects of the disease. They were never told that they had been infected, nor were they offered any treatment, even after penicillin had been established as an effective cure. Gallagher returns repeatedly to this scandal, and the figures of nurses who appear in several works relate to Eunice Rivers, the trusted point of contact for the subjects throughout the forty-year period.

The film installation Osedax 2010 (a collaboration with Edgar Cleijne), is based on whale fall, the scientific term for dead whales that have fallen to the ocean floor and are consumed by scavengers. It includes a synced projection of painted glass slides and a 16 mm film. Using 3D animation Cleijne and Gallagher draw into the film, weaving between these watery passages. The dark surrounding walls of the projection room are milled with numerous abstract markings, recalling Polynesian reed mapping, Queequeg’s engraved coffin, and the scars that mar the skin of the whale. Osedax foregrounds the leitmotifs of earlier work, including the fluidity and cryptic nature of symbolic systems that have become indecipherable, either through obsolescence or loss.