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If the Ground Should Open (2016)


8 Channel Video Installation

HD 16:9 B&W

Total Duration 48 mins

If The Ground Should Open…


Commissioned by Sarah Glennie for IMMA's 1916/2016  programme, If the Ground Should Open… was presented on the occasion of the centenary of the historic Easter uprisings of 1916. This 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.  

All works were composed by Jaki 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. This new video and sound installation uses their names as the ground of a score for 9 musicians. In this way they are performed and remembered, becoming part of the ground that contemporary Ireland has emerged from.

There are 11 'songs' altogether. The music is broken down across the space visually and built together again sonically.

It is immersive, but there is no ideal position from which to get an over-view.

This is in keeping with witness statements from 1916, where no-one had a complete picture of what was happening and witnesses referred to the part they individually played and also to what they heard, continually moving to make sense of what was happening.

Developed also from the infamous leaked recordings of Anglo Irish bankers' telephone conversations,  the legacy of 1916 is reconsidered in the light of a contemporary Ireland broken by corporate greed.


Vocals                         Louise Phelan

                                    Cats Irvine

                                    Cherry Smyth

Bagpipes                    Hilary Knox

Piano                           Izumi Kimura

Violin                           Liz McClaren

Cello                            Jane Hughes

Doublebass                 Aura Stone

Drums                         Sarah Grimes


Sound recording at                                         Windmill Lane Studios

Sound engineer                                               Ger McDonnell

House engineer/assistant studio manager  Rachel Conlon

Additional assistance from Oisín & Jack


All video footage shot and edited by Jaki Irvine at IMMA and Temple Bar Gallery & Studios.

Following a live performance in the Great Hall in IMMA, Dec 2016,  to mark the end of the exhibition, the work was then re-installed in Frith Street Gallery from March - May, 2017

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