Garry Loughlin – The Clearing House

In September 1983, a Russian diplomat by the name of Victor Lipassov and his wife Evdokia were expelled from Ireland. Lipassov was working in the Russian Embassy in Dublin, and it was believed that he was involved in activities deemed unacceptable for a diplomat working in a guest country. Very little information was released in regards to what such activities entailed, but this did not stop the speculation from political parties and the media.

The Lipassov’s expulsion led to the unearthing of a somewhat hidden truth. It revealed the presence of a border cutting through four counties in the Republic of Ireland. This border, unknown to the general public, marked a 25km radius of which Soviet diplomats could not travel outside without requesting permission from the Irish authorities. This travel restriction had been imposed at the request of the British government, as they feared that the presence of Soviet officials in Ireland would be a threat to their national security. Ireland being considered a neutral country meant there was a low level of surveillance compared to other countries in the EEC, making it a prime location for transferring information undetected. The free travel between Ireland and the UK also left open many avenues for information to pass through before making its way to Moscow.

Recording a journey along the outskirts of this 25km radius, The Clearing House explores the use of invisible borders as an attempt to gain territorial control. While searching for hints of the border’s presence, it also casts light upon the insignificance of such lines to those with power.

This imagery made around the border is interwoven with a narrative tracing the activities of the Lipassov’s time in Ireland. Drawing on assorted official documents, newspaper headlines and local hearsay, The Clearing House investigates the role that speculation plays in the absence of evidence, interrogating its role as ‘a tool of the powerless’.

Garry Loughlin is a photographer born and raised in Ireland, but is currently living and working in Bristol, UK. He holds an MA in Documentary Photography from University of South Wales. Loughlin is one of the photographers selected as Irish FUTURES Talents 2020. In 2019 Loughlin exhibited his latest body of work The Clearing House in Test Space at Spike Island, Bristol. He is the author of two self-published monographs; Between Spaces (2014) and A farewell to Arms (2016). Loughlin’s work has been exhibited in a number of exhibitions throughout Ireland, Europe and the UK.

Loughlin’s interests lie in the use of power, and the control of truth and territories by those with that power. He is driven by unearthing micro-histories and the discovery of elements that link series of events that initially seem fragmented. Loughlin primarily works with photography, interweaving his own contemporary imagery with archive and research materials. The visual fragmentation this approach presents reflects the complex narratives he wishes to convey.