Ailbhe Ní Bhriain
Inscriptions of an Immense Theatre
The Muses (2018):
"This series uses images sourced from early colonial or 'Orientalist' photography in combination with imagery of damaged quarry walls. Central to the work is the relationship between imperial inscription and loss. The colonial archive is considered here in its strange duality as both cultural record and cultural disruption – its surface act of preservation belying a deeper act of destruction. The quarry walls mirror this paradox: the geological history that is revealed in these walls has been made legible only through an act of geological destruction. The images are paired through loose digital collage, interrupting the familiarity of the originals and drawing them into an unexpected connection. The work is presented in the form of jacquard tapestry and photographic prints. The translation to tapestry draws on the fetishisation of fabrics within the genre of colonial photography (the ubiquitous drapes and veils, which stage both scene and figure as culturally authentic and exotically ‘other’). In recalling both theatrical backdrops and luxury objects, the tapestry is also a reference to the acquisition and staging of culture which defined the colonial project."