Contra-Invention is an exhibition of the photographs Traffic Wardens (correctly termed Civil Enforcement Officers and amusingly abbreviated to CEOs) take in one British town as proof of unlawful parking there. The artist discovered that these images, of other people’s illegally parked cars, were easy to obtain and download from the local council’s system. Note: since the project in 2010 the system has been changed: art has an impact! Interestingly by default embedded in the downloaded image files is information such as camera type, shutter speed, aperture and more, exactly the kinds of data certain photography geeks love to keep. In addition, due to lack of expertise as photographers (or with the laws of physics presumably) CEOs occasionally capture themselves in reflection in their own pictures. Lastly it was possible for the artist to manoeuvre himself into the photographs by following warden’s around and waiting for the famous ‘decisive moment’. Lots of jokes and puns here: this is an exhibition of Fine Art etc. but more seriously questions are raised about the actual quality or significance of the images, if blown up and presented differently can these be viewed in relation to art/painting history?, who is the author?, is this political art?, what about cars as subject matter?
Micheál O’Connell/Mocksim has exhibited widely for a decade at locations such as The Whitechapel in London, the online world Second Life and a campsite in Venice. More recently, in 2011 Martin Parr invited him to show one series Contra-Invention at Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d'Arles and he was subsequently nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012. O’Connell is also engaged in a practice-led research at the University of Sussex linked to the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and the School of Infomatics. His interests include feedback loop theory, cybernetics, in critiquing confidence in these arenas as well as focusing on the comedic aspects of human existence, stupidity and error. He lectures on the MA in Digital Media Art at the University of Brighton, teaches Photography at Sussex and in the past developed successful courses in Digital Media and Games Design. His practice involves reappropriation, (mild) hacking, the use of past knowledge and specialism in certain fields of mathematical modelling and computer simulation.