Artist in Residence: Fiona Hallinan, Octopus Parlour / Salon de la Pieuvre


Every winter Parsons Paris invites an artist in residence to take over our gallery and develop creative programming to engage and interact with our students. This year we welcomed Irish artist Fiona Hallinan who developed Octopus Parlour / Salon de la Pieuvre. In addition to engaging with our own students, captured the attention of many onlookers passing by. We chatted with Fiona to learn more about her background and how this project came to be. While her residency officially ends February 13th, the exhibition will be on display until February 20th.

Can you talk a little bit about your background? Where you are from and how you found yourself here?

I am an artist from Ireland. In the fall I did a 3 month Artist in Residence at the Centre Culturel Irlandais [Irish Cultural Institute] in Paris, bringing a moving food project to the space called the Hare. While I was there I met up with Alison Carey (Gallery and Logisitics Manager at Parsons Paris), as we had worked together on a big participatory project called HOMESTAY when she worked in the Science Gallery. Speaking to each other about our work since, we realised there were a lot of possibilities where my work could overlap with the residency program at Parsons Paris and also their future plans around food.


Your first project here at Parsons Paris was such a great success! Can you talk a little about your inspirations for this project?

Recently I have been working a lot with food. Before it was always an extra element in larger projects, and it has been becoming more and more central in my work. I wanted to explore how the service and presentation of food can alter an environment and create a device that would be involved in that exploration. Also, I wanted to create something that encouraged another way of creating conversation in this school. The installation is a device for sharing food on the one hand, but its real purpose is for learning and sharing ideas.



In part, the inspiration for this piece was an octopus. What is the importance of animals in your work?

The key idea with the octopus is that it represents process. An octopus’s brain is divided between its head and arms so it truly thinks by doing. This whole structure was built by doing and by collaborating with Alison Carey, Ivan Twohig and Amaury Remusat [the Gallery and Academic Technology team at Parsons Paris]. The project was a way for me to explore a new idea of space. In a normal classroom environment, there isn’t room for people to be aware of their own bodies. Everybody sits in chairs all facing the front of the room, and people are really disembodied from themselves. This space allows you to be self-reflexive in your understanding of your body in space in a way that a traditional classroom might not.


Was creating this project similar to your usual working process like?

Yes, I think this project really encapsulates my work very well, which is generally about creating new relational atmospheres between people, adapting to spaces, and collaborating. It was really wonderful getting to collaborate with Alison, Ivan and Amaury while also building everything using just the tools available here at school. I wanted the project to directly respond to the fact that this school is a site of creation and encourage people to create with what they have at their disposal.


How does travel factor into your work, if at all?

I have been quite influenced by food culture in the Middle East, which I got to know recently through studying at the Home Workspace Program at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, which I really recommend. I’ve been particularly inspired by the methods of sharing food in Lebanese culture, and also informed by working on a project in Istanbul and their cafe culture.




Interview by Kristina Parsons. Opening reception images by Puxan BC


Read on for the official press release:


Octopus Parlour / Salon de la Pieuvre with artist Fiona Hallinan – at Parsons Paris

Parsons Paris is pleased to announce this year’s artist in residence project, Octopus Parlour / Salon de la Pieuvre, a four-week proposition by artist Fiona Hallinan (Jan-Feb 2015).

The Octopus is an intelligent, resourceful creature, one who thinks through doing and adapts to its surroundings. It is this haptic, responsive nature that Octopus Parlour / Salon de la Pieuvre celebrates. The gallery is transformed into a light-hearted art / design object which enables the sharing of ideas, of conversation and of food. Here, seminars will be hosted, meetings will be held and collaborations will be explored. This project is simultaneously indebted to the influences of Middle Eastern hospitality and the tradition of French Salon culture. Food is seen as a material in this context, the sharing of which allows for a shift between educator and student, audience and collaborator, patron and guest.

The project draws on the resources of the artist, the hosting institution, and its community of students, professors and friends. The in-gallery installation was developed and constructed in the initial stages of the residency, in collaboration with Parsons Paris team Alison Carey, Amaury Rémusat and Ivan Twohig with input from many members of the schools’ faculty and administration.

Octopus Parlour / Salon de la Pieuvre is a seeding event prior to the launch of the MA in Food Design Strategies at Parsons Paris in 2016.

About the Parsons Paris residency program

In January and February of each year, Parsons Paris will host an artist / designer /curator in residence. This program complements the academic objectives at the school and integrates with the student body. Programmed activities, events and exhibition enhance students engagement with the school, with their curricula and with the city of Paris. Learn about last year’s artist in residence, Nicolas Maigret.

Artist Biography

Fiona Hallinan is a Dublin based artist, with a multi-disciplinary practice. Her work is often collaborative, and sometimes includes food as a conduit for exchange. In November 2013 she attended the Home Workspace Program at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut. In September 2014 she undertook a residency in the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris where she re-situated a mobile food project entitled The Hare, a collaboration with chef Katie Sanderson. In Heterodyne she works collaboratively with composers, inviting them to create scores for specific journeys. A mobile platform allows audiences to listen to scores made for specific places within a limited radius. Recent works have been presented in Mother’s Tankstation, Kerlin Gallery, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Brown University, Providence and Koc University, Istanbul.

Artist website:


Learn more about Parsons Paris on our official website.