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Exhibitions > Past Exhibitions

Jaki Irvine If the Ground Should Open…

23 September 2016 – 15 January 2017

If The Ground Should Open… / 2016 detail / Courtesy of Jaki Irvine, Kerlin Gallery & Frith St. Gallery.

A major new commission for IMMA by Irish artist Jaki Irvine, If the Ground Should Open…, is presented here for the first time on the occasion of the centenary of the historic Easter uprisings of 1916. This new work takes as a point of departure Irvine’s 2013 novel ‘Days of Surrender’, which focuses on Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grenan. These were two of more than a hundred women who were ready to die or kill for the possibility of a different Ireland but whose stories were all but written out of official Irish history, consigned to the margins as the narrative was masculinised.

This new video and sound installation in the courtyard galleries uses their names as ‘the ground’ of a score for nine musicians. The eleven tracks were composed by Irvine using the canntaireachd system – originally developed as an oral scoring system for Scottish Highland pipes. The basic musical motif in classical piping (piobaireachd) is called ‘the ground’ of the piece, which is then built upon with additional notes and melodies. In If the Ground Should Open… the names of women involved in the 1916 Rising, form the ground. In this way they are performed and remembered, becoming part of the ground we walk on in 2016.  The project was also developed from the leaked Anglo-Irish bankers taped conversations.

Commenting on her work Irvine said “With If the Ground Should Open…, the legacy of 1916 is reconsidered in the light of a contemporary Ireland broken by corporate greed. Both the past and the present are reflected through a lens that is complicated, joyful, furious and hopeful”.

Irvine also goes on to acknowledge the contribution of the performers to the project “All of the performers brought their own extraordinary knowledge, generosity and musicality to this project and further developed it through personal interpretation and improvisation”. The nine performers include on vocals Louise Phelan, Cats Irvine and Cherry Smyth; bagpipes Hilary Knox; piano Izumi Kimura; violin Liz McClaren; cello Jane Hughes; double bass Aura Stone and drums Sarah Grimes. A one off live event of the work will be performed in full on Tuesday 13 December at the Great Hall in IMMA.

Watch Jaki Irvine talk about her work in her video introduction

If the Ground Should Open... is part of the official Ireland 2016 Programme.

This commission is presented as part of an exciting on-going initiative, New Art at IMMA, proudly supported by Matheson, which allows IMMA to continue to support artists’ vital work in a strand of programming that recognises and nurtures new and emerging talents, new thinking and new forms of exhibition-making. 

About the artist

Jaki Irvine (b. 1966, Dublin) is an artist who lives and works in Dublin and Mexico City. She is concerned with how we come to imagine and understand ourselves from within our privacy and often uses video installation as a way to reflect on moments where this process, awkwardly and unavoidably, comes spilling into the public spaces of our lives.

Her solo exhibitions include Project Arts Centre (1996), Kerlin Gallery (2004) and the Douglas Hyde Gallery (1999, 2005) in Dublin, Frith Street Gallery (1997, 1999, 2011) the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden, Germany (1998) and Delfina Project Space (2001) in London, Henry Moore Institute (2004) Leeds and Galleria Alessandro de March (2004) Milan. In 1995 Irvine was included in the seminal exhibition of Young British Artists, General Release, at the Venice Biennale, and represented Ireland at the 1997 Biennale. In 2008 Irvine produced a major video installation entitled In a World Like This, which was produced in collaboration with Chisenhale Gallery, London and The Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo. In 2011, a new solo exhibition of video works Before This Page is Turned, developed in the Dublin Graphic Print Studios, was presented at the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin. She has also participated in numerous group shows throughout Europe, Australia and Japan. Irvine is represented in the collections of IMMA, the Irish Arts Council, Tate Modern, FRAC and in numerous other collections, both public and private.

Associated Events

Artist Talk: Jaki Irvine, If the Ground Should Open…
Thurs 22 September, 6pm / Lecture Room

Artist Jaki Irvine introduces her new work which draws on her research of Elizabeth O'Farrell and her partner Julia Grenan, active members of the 1916 Easter Rising. Irvine discusses the ways this new film and sound work, and the forthcoming live performance, experiments with the Canntaireachd oral traditions of bagpipe music and a spoken-sung score. Moderated by Sarah Glennie, Director, IMMA. Listen back to this talk on Soundcloud.

Curators Lunchtime Talk Series
Wed 30 November, 1.15-2pm, Meeting Point Main Reception, FREE

Join IMMA Director Sarah Glennie, for an insightful walkthrough of this exhibition. No booking required.


Tuesday 13 December 2016 / 7pm / Great Hall, IMMA / €8 
Jaki Irvine presents a one-off live performance of the entire work, eleven tracks, performed by the project performers; Louise Phelan, Cats Irvine, Cherry Smyth, Hilary Knox, Izumi Kimura, Liz McClaren, Jane Hughes, Aura Stone and Sarah Grimes. Ticket price includes drinks reception after the performance.

Exhibition Resources

Read article including interview with Jaki Irvine by Maeve Sheehan - The nurse and the furrier who were Rising heroines in the Sunday Independent.

The Sunday Times review by Cristín Leach – Rebels and a modern cause Dublin artist Jaki Irvine has paired the Rising with the Anglo tapes in a remarkable commission (Paywall)

Listen to an interview with Jaki Irvine on Arena, RTE Radio One.

Read Gemma Tipton's Critic's Guide to Dublin on Freize.com, a round up of the best shows in Dublin which includes If the Ground Should Open...

Download the Exhibition Guide (pdf)

IMMA Blog - ‘Foreign Body’ – a poem by Cherry Smyth in response to Jaki Irvine’s If the Ground Should Open…

Media Release

Additional Support from

Official IMMA Hotel Partner


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