Dr Rob Irving
Rob Irving works primarily with photography, experimental moving image, sound, and text. Through occasional covert interventions he explores perceptual links between the appearance of a place or landscape and phenomena associated with it. An obvious example is his work with crop circles in the nineties and noughties, which helped to transform sculpture from the production of objects on pedestals to something less amenably definable …boundary objects which hover ambivalently between art and architecture, science and religion, without belonging properly to any but whose existence is called into being in relation to an otherness.
Artists Phil Smith and Helen Billinghurst (Crab & Bee) recently said this about Irving in their book The Pattern (2020):
[Irving] is a dealer in truth and half-truth, a diagrammer, a brewer of modern folklore, a shaper of shifts in fields of crop. He uses Puckish hoaxes (like crop circle making) as the colour palette of his landscape art; bending and unbending minds across the storyboard of England.
Like a hunting dog with prey in its jaws, he relentlessly shakes the credulous and sceptical alike; tweaking both a ‘wyrd’ that wishes the mythical to be simply fact, and the positivism that simply wants the mythical to go away. Working in between simplicities, Rob has mapped a boggy yet inscribed terrain into which we have been grateful to step, if gingerly; one where myth and mathematics and serious empirical desk-based research never quite meet, but leave invitingly half-existing footpaths and cave entrances accessible and ruined chapel gateways ajar.
As trickster-geo-physicist he has measured the presence of half-there/half-hoaxed shadow sculptures under everywhere: “an extension of mythogeography, this is mythoarchaeology… with data.” We have sat in a room and chatted with Rob, but we have never walked with him (we’d like to). As with so many of our un-walked-with guides, it was as if he walked with us; on adventures which, in retrospect, only half-happened, or happened so vividly we can hardly imagine them as possible.
Crab & Bee, The Pattern, Triarchy Press, Axminster, UK, 2020