D1, 2018. Edition of 1,000 copies. Hardcover, casebound, 290 x 370 mm., 88 pp. + 10'' vinyl record, color illustrated throughout. Photographs by Eamonn Doyle.
In his Dublin trilogy (i, ON and End.) Eamonn captured the combined actions of the city and its population as they played out in front of him. With K, he moves away from the urban east coast to the western Atlantic edge of Ireland, to a landscape that, in places, appears out of time, a parallel world untouched by human presence. Through the intense colour images of K, we follow a figure that shape-shifts as it travels across this landscape. Entirely veiled in cloth, the figure is spectral, changing in colour and materiality as it is pushed and pulled by gravity, wind, water and light. In places it appears almost gaseous, in others it is molten and then, at times, the weight of being earthbound becomes apparent. Accompanying these colour images, K includes a number of dense black and white photographs that appear to describe some kind of seismic evidence.
Printed on a number of pages in the book are stratified layers of hand-written letters from a mother to her dead son. Eamonn’s brother, Ciarán, died suddenly at age 33 in 1999. His mother, Kathryn, never managed to escape the grief of such a time-reversed event, right up until her own death in 2017. In the letters, we can make out a word here and there, but the cumulative effect is their appearance as musical notation, a veil of sound waves, a phonetic score for lament.
Working with a 1951 recording of an Irish Keen, musician David Donohoe has composed a new, two-part piece for voice that accompanies this body of work for exhibition, and is included in the book as a 10" vinyl record. This layered and ever-changing composition forms an integral part of our experience of K, relating directly to it in both form and expression. The Keen (or Cine, from the Irish caoinim, “I wail”) is an ancient Irish tradition of lamentation songs for the dead, to carry their spirit over to the other side and to act as a cathartic expression of grief for those gathered around. Traditionally Keens are performed directly over the body of the deceased by women. In some of the images of K, the contorted and wind-blown shapes of the figure and cloth seem to take on the form of the wailing sound itself.
With his Dublin work, Eamonn looks at how the contemporary forces of the city and the movement of its people continually shape each other. In K, he seeks out the primal, even primordial, forces that have sculpted and driven us into being. The cruelty of the speed of light is that we can only ever look back in time. The further we look out, the further back in time we see. But this does bring the past into the present as we attempt to understand, even though sometimes we just cannot. This is as true of a photograph taken on the streets of Dublin as it is of one taken of plasma clouds in distant galaxies. And we can only comprehend any of this by passing through the vibrations of time, like a song cast out to the cosmos.