“Beasts” is the online exhibition at Kerlin Gallery Dublin showing Byrne’s black and white photographs of birds and animals shot inside a Swedish museum noted for its taxidermy …
What sparked your initial interest in Biologiska Museum and this project?
I first visited Stockholm in the winter of 2006, for an artist’s residency. The city properly hibernates during the season, and in my lonely explorations I stumbled across the Biologiska museum. Inside I noticed something very special about how the diorama itself appeared – something to do with the light. Only upon exiting the building could I grasp that the interior of the building was illuminated only by natural light from huge skylights overhead, which were covered in a thick layer of snow that winter. Thus began my interest in the diorama’s connection to daylight, and photography.
Tells us how you composed the images for the “Beasts” …
One of the pleasures of making the “Beast” photographs was the ability to carefully compose images that combined different animals in foreground and background arrangements that are not at all visible for the casual museum visitor. Using the right lenses compresses space between species, so I was able to make unlikely connections between hunter and prey, often posed harmoniously together in some of the photographs. And of course because I was able to walk carefully amidst the huge diorama, I politely brushed off a few cobwebs here or there, or discretely nudged my camera to avoid a slightly dishevelled example of the taxidermist’s handiwork.
How and where do you usually work?
I have a studio in Temple Bar Gallery & Studios which is my base. But a lot of work happens through travelling. I normally have to travel a lot for exhibitions, or to lecture and teach, and I do try to make these trips more than just obligational. I try to see things, and do some research. And making exhibitions is itself a learning experience. It all feeds my thinking, but the studio itself is a sort of matrix – a place where everything is processed, ordered, and configured. It’s a very idiosyncratic space – that makes sense only to me and to those I work with. The relationship between there and elsewhere is symbiotic. But it’s not just a template. As a way of working, it really has evolved naturally over years.
What are you working on at the moment?
Given the last year, I’ve been focussed on some older existing material – a series called “Useless” which is the apocryphal tale of a fancy camera. Going forward I’d like to develop a film project about a photo lab I used to work in in New York in the 1990s.
Need to Know: “Beasts” by Gerard Byrne can viewed online at Kerlin Gallery until February 27, where you can also read a fuller and fascinating description of Byrne’s interest in the Biologiska Museum, Sweden; www.kerlingallery.com.
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