Elaine Byrne: Whenceness

5 - 28 May 2016

Kevin Kavanagh is pleased to present Whenceness, an exhibition by Elaine Byrne.

Whenceness is comprised of two videos, Pure Codology and Rakoczy March developed during Byrne’s fellowship at the Whitney Independent Study programme in New York, alongside twenty-four new works on paper. Collectively the work deals with the intersection between fiction and reality derived from Joyce’s Ulysses, episode 12,Cyclops. The episode deals with race, racism, anti-Semitism and what it means to be Irish, where Bloom’s Judaism is raised as a central point of conflict with the Irish-nationalist character, the Citizen. Bloom counters the racial identification of nationality with the more modern interpretation of a group of disparate people working together for a common goal. “A nation?’ Says Bloom ‘A nation is the same people living in the same place”.

Using original newspaper from 16th June 1904, the day Ulysses is set, Byrne highlights the news of the real day, a day which is mostly known through the fiction, considering what changes over time and what stays the same.


In Rakoczy March, a 41-minute video piece, two uilleann pipers attempt a classical composition referenced in Ulysses as being played by Irish pipers. During the course of the video both musicians become increasingly exasperated as they try to navigate  the notes of the musical composition. Pure Codology focuses on a joke which has laid hidden in the book, which Byrne then overlays with a fictitious narrative, set within the context of the rise in left wing politics in Hungry. The premise of an ‘in joke’ in both videos assumes that there is a group of people with enough common ground  to share the joke, and furthermore that there is another group outside the joke. Both works point to the tragedy of the impossibility of communication, establishing that music doesn’t cross all cultures and jokes frequently get lost in translation.


Throughout Whenceness, Byrne considers words such as  race, people and culture, where many crucial meanings have been shaped by a dominant class and by professions operating within its terms.


Whenceness will be accompanied with a text by Ingrid Lyons that further contextualises the work in terms of its historical and literary references.


Elaine Byrne received an MA in Visual Arts Practices (MAVis) from IADT, Dun Laoghaire in 2010. She has exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad- recent solo exhibitions include La Diritta Via, Montoro12 gallery, Rome, 2016, RAUMPLAN, Limerick City Gallery of Art, 2014, RAUM, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin, 2013. Selected group shows include the Whitney Independent Study Program, Elizabeth Foundation of the Arts, New York, 2015, Maximum Entropy, CPS Project Space, New York, 2015, Transferiencias, UAM, Mexico City, 2014, Centre of Fine Art Photography, Colorado and TULCA Festival of Arts, Galway, 2011 and 2009. Byrne received the Curtin O’Donoghue Emerging Photography Prize in 2012, other recent awards include the Arte Laguna sculpture prize, Venice, 2014, the Celeste Residency prize, 2015, the Irish Arts Council Bursary, 2015 and Project award in 2014.

With thanks to Nora Alter, Alicia Ibanez Flores, Cassandra Guan, Vivien Igoe, David O’Rourke, Santiago Solórzano and Soyoung Yoon.


And special thanks to uilleann pipers Leonard Barry and Padraig Carberry McGovern, and to Martha Goldmann and Ferenc Takacs of the Hungarian Joycean society.