With a practice that encompasses photography, performance and building virtual reality realms, Séamus Gallagher is on the experimental edge of art in both form and content. (Their work is informed by their generation's climate anxiety and the need to “create personal spaces” as a non-binary person).
Weeks after gracing the cover of The Coast for a celebration of the mini-wave of personal-and-political art being made in Halifax, Gallagher has been selected as the Nova Scotian winner of the 1st Art! competition, a 17-year-old award that sees one artist from each province and territory walk away with a prize of over $7,000.
Gallagher believes they are the first person to win with a virtual-reality based work, as 2019 was “the first time they accepted time-based media—like video or virtual reality. It’s interesting it’s taken them this long,” they state, speaking by phone.
“I knew I was nominated but my phone broke so I assumed I didn’t win and was like ‘It’s fine, I didn’t want it anyway,’” they say with a laugh. “But then they contact me and I’m over the moon! It’s one more push post-grad.”
Along with the cash prize—which Gallagher is debating using to pay down student debt or use to invest in a new camera or computer to further their practice—the win will see them showcasing their work in Toronto this November alongside the other 1st Art! winners.
Gallagher describes their winning piece, haus of haraway, as “an architectural space I created, a house which I made in an Oculus Rift.” As they told The Coast last month, “One of my professors used to say 'pay attention to what you pay attention to,' and I always thought that was really interesting. I've always been interested in digital culture and computer programs, and I've liked finding a way of threading my interests in that realm with my queer identity as well.”