Photographic and text installation, Temple Bar Cultural Quarter, Dublin.


The installation, Art for Ad’s Sake, consisted of photographs, posters, postcards, documentation and an accompanying essay. The starting point of the work was a commission for Absolut Vodka, which resulted in an exploration of the relationship between art, advertising and commissioning processes.

Absolut Vodka commissioned Augustine O’Donoghue to make a piece of work on the theme of fruit for an art exhibition they were organising in Dublin. After agreeing to take part in the exhibition, she was sent a contract and further details of the tasks involved in creating the artwork. This included using a combination of at least two aspects of the absolute bottle (its colours, the label etc). Through the process of developing ideas for the artwork, and through conversations with the PR company who were organising the exhibition, it became clear to the artist that the whole event was really just all about branding and promoting their new range of alcoholic drinks.

She decided to use the idea of branding to challenge some of the contradictions in her work being used as part of a branding exercise – thus promoting the consumption of alcohol – and instead used the opportunity of the exhibition to produce an image that might contradict this expectation, while working within the company’s commissioning guidelines. Considering the advice from the company – that “the topics for the Absolute exhibition should be timeless yet contemporary, and should surprise even those who have come to expect the unexpected from Absolut” – O’Donoghue’s concept seemed to fit the company’s stated aim.

Taking the idea of branding, she used ‘love-bites’ on her skin as a form of mark-making. She engaged someone to bite out the shape of the absolute bottle on her back, creating a not so glamorous image of Absolut Vodka. Another photograph was taken of the artist falling over in the street with some lemons and passion fruit – the contract had stipulated fruit. In an unplanned turn of events, as the picture was being taken, a hearse passed by in the background, putting the finishing touches to the picture.

On the day of the exhibition launch, O’Donoghue was contacted by the PR company, to inform her that they would not be showing her work. They felt the image of someone lying on the road with a hearse in the background might imply an accident and they didn’t want that association. Similarly, they felt the image of bitemarks looked like abuse. O’Donoghue pointed out that it would seem unprofessional for her work not to be exhibited, since invitations had already been sent out, advertising her participation in the show. A few hours before the exhibition opened, they suggested she could create “a little sculpture”, as long as it had nothing to do with sex, pornography, underage drinking, religion or driving cars. O’Donoghue briefly considered exhibiting an empty bottle, using the title Absolutely Nothing, but felt that it too would probably be censored in some way.

The exhibition opening was held at the Design Centre in Dublin, with an array of photographers on hand to capture the event for the ‘social diaries’ of glossy magazines. Unable to resist a goodtime freebie, the artist attended the reception and was photographed with bottles of Absolut Vodka cocktail in her hand! The PR Company wished to honour their contract with the artist and pay her the agreed sum of money for the exhibition, providing Absolut Vodka would become owner of the work, including all related rights and titles. The artist declined the offer, as she felt the experience had opened up new dimensions to the work which were worthy of further consideration and public presentation.

She began to think about Temple Bar as a fitting location for the work. The area is touted as a cultural quarter, but in essence uses the cultural concept to attract tourists, as well as locals, to the pubs and clubs in the area for the consumption of alcohol. The image of the Absolut Vodka bottle bitten onto O’Donoghue’s back was made into posters and posted onto walls in Temple Bar, while postcards were also distributed to pubs in the area. The work was exhibited as an installation, called Art for ad’s sake. All the images of the project were exhibited, along with documentation, including the contracts and correspondence with Absolut Vodka and photographs of the event, published in the glossy magazines. Copies of an essay discussing the project were available for the public to take home, along with the posters and postcards.