Ciarán Walsh: They Echo in the Sublime Stillness of Infinity

March 17 – April 14, 2013


Light & Wire Gallery presents They Echo in the Sublime Stillness of Infinity, a project by Berlin-based artist Ciarán Walsh. The artwork, composed for the online platform forms a textual and visual narrative that explores the problem of colonial history that still resonates in European ethnographic museums.

For Light & Wire Gallery, Walsh has created a piece composed of three dynamic elements: an expansive but reticently dark photographic image of a large exhibition space– dimmed vitrines with shadows of objects within them; second, a text that reveals an interview between undisclosed persons, one of which describes a psychologically troubling encounter with the museum’s exhibition hall; and third, a series of blurred images depicting museum objects on display and fields of pure color that cycle in a loop to create a digitalized version of a impressionistic landscape. Walsh’s textual framework might be a memory, a dream, or perhaps a fabrication, but it leaves an unsettling constellation of experience and history onto the viewer.

Through sustained attention and contemplation, the complex arrangement begins to unveil its enigmatic content. In his shadowy imagery and slow text, Walsh reveals the obscured historical narrative of the Herero people, an ethnic group that inhabits part of Southern Africa, mostly in present day Namibia, that were subject to German imperialist genocide in the first decade of the 20th Century, resulting in the death of nearly 65,000 Herero people. One result of this massacre is referenced directly in Walsh’s piece – about 3,000 Herero skulls were packed off for study by German biologists and anthropologists, often remaining as relics in the storage of university hospitals and museum collections until the skulls were repatriated in 2011. Though the event was commemorated in an apology in 2004, it remains a controversial subject among Germans.

They Echo in the Sublime Stillness of Infinity continues Walsh’s ongoing research into the spatial staging, aura, and power relationships inherent in ethnographic and historical museums. The title comes from an unnamed German soldier who was quoted after the massacre of the Herero that “…the death rattle of the dying and the shrieks of the mad … they echo in the sublime stillness of infinity.” Walsh’s project infuses the resonance of these cries into the material and discursive fabric of a fictional museological space, a world of epistemological and ontological shadows.

Ciarán Walsh was born in Carlow, Ireland. He has exhibited in various spaces in Ireland, Germany, and elsewhere, including Project Arts Centre, Dublin; Visual Carlow, Carlow, Ireland; Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin; Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin; and Stedefreude, Berlin. In 2013, Walsh will be included in major exhibitions at the Crawford Gallery, Cork, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.