Jonathan Gilhooly is a practising fine artist and academic.
With a cross-disciplinary approach, incorporating video, installation and performance, Jonathan has a particular focus on the relationship between magic and forms of contemporary art practice.
Jonathan has exhibited widely and his practice-led PhD formalised his work on the relationship between conjuring and artistic practice. He lectures on the critical and historical study of art at the University of Brighton.
Jonathan Gilhooly lectures in Critical and Historical Studies. He is a practising artist whose work centres upon the relationship between magic and forms of contemporary art practice, and he has exhibited widely both in the region and nationally over a period of some twenty years.
He was a founder member, in the 1980s, of Red Herring Studios and Gallery in Brighton. Although trained in Fine Art as a painter, his practice has since broadened into a cross-disciplinary approach, incorporating video, installation and performance.
In 2001 he was funded through a major award from Arts Council England, and spent two years working and collaborating with a professional magician and circus performer. This collaboration culminated in two solo exhibitions at Manchester Metropolitan University, and the Gardner Arts Centre in Sussex, as well as the inclusion of two commissioned pieces at the De La Warr Pavilion as part of the exhibition ‘Variety’, and a video/performance at the Nightingale Theatre, Brighton, in 2005 and 2006. More recently he performed as part of the Hayward-touring exhibition ‘Magic Show’ at Chapter in Cardiff. In 2010 he completed a practice-led PhD in Fine Art, awarded by UCA and University of Kent; the title of his PhD thesis was Enchanted Objects: Agency in the Magic Act and Contemporary Art Practice.
Jonathan Gilhooly’s work explores the ways in which the objects, strategies, and concepts of conjuring—what Simon During has called 'secular' magic—might be seen to converge with those of contemporary art practice.
In his PhD project he employed theoretical concepts deriving principally from Alfred Gell's (anthropological) theory of art and agency. In Gell's theory, an index/artwork is a mediatory (or secondary) agent, from which the (primary) agency of a social other can be inferred. Gell's concept of enchantment, but also his interpretation of the status of the artwork as provisional and problematic, rather than aesthetically or semiotically determined, is deployed as a means of creating a productively meaningful relationship between art and magic, both of which can be said to occlude the 'abduction' of agency in distinctive ways. Finally, Gell's concept of agency provides a robust yet fluid set of paradigms for exploring the mobile, tripartite relationship between artist, artwork, and spectator.
This relationship is explored in studio-based work by reproducing some of the forms and strategies associated with the magic act, and by considering how the effects of the magic illusion might position the viewer in relation to a set of beliefs about the world. In this sense the magic act (and/or object) operates as a kind of fulcrum between the work and the viewer, signposting a particular orientation towards the work, but simultaneously destabilizing any straightforward response in favour of a more complex set of reflections. These themes are considered through four discrete but interrelated areas, each of which spring from elements of my practice, and can be seen to represent different aspects of agency: the liminal nature of performance, the 'enchanted' object, the 'magic' of moving image technology, and the concept of the cognitive 'trap’.
Gilhooly, Jonathan (2011) The shuffling gait of a fit man: performance as wilful ambiguity and deception In: Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy, 8-9 December 2011, Sussex University, UK.