exhibition image, small

Sadie Murdoch

exhibition image, small


16 June 2021 — 3 September 2021

16 Jun 2021 — 3 Sep 2021

I dialogue, Kinch



Aerolith   Aeronautic   Akasic records of all that ever anywhere wherever was



As I write this, May (2020) edges into June, and much of our planet remains in some stage of enforced seclusion: alone, together. I dialogue, Kinch, an exhibition that dances with James Joyce’s Ulysses, would have opened today, on Bloomsday, but remains airborne—now until this time next year—as particle matter, due to a virus that also spreads by aerosol transmission (and where certain sounds, when spoken, are more likely to carry quantities of virus particles)[1]. Strange new media, face masks implore us to take care when sculpting air into sound.


Though some one-hundred-and-two years older, Ulysses speaks through airbound registers, too: literary mass carved from upswells and emanations of “wavespeech” telegraphed into language(s) sung, spoken, silent. An amalgam of English, Italian, and Latin, alongside invented phonetic code of his own, its shifting aural mix echoes the Joyce family’s own migrations and multi-tongue parlance at home. (Triestine Italian was his dancer-choreographer daughter Lucia’s first language, and Joyce’s language of choice, for it was “easier on the voice”.)[2]


I wonder if this condition of suspension that I dialogue, Kinch tangoes with mid-crossing, of not having ‘landed’ per se, would “howsomever” suit Joyce, whose own verbal strewing predisposes slippages, flow, and forces that “[contravene] material borders”.[3] In Ulysses, terra firma becomes tidal when treated by him, just as airs and tides monologue as if mouths themselves. “Seesoo, hrss, rsseeiss, ooos … speech ceases. It flows purling, widely flowing, floating foampool, flower unfurling…” “Mouthed fleshless lips of air.” “Muskperfumed.”[4] All matter is talkative in his cosmos.


Certain works in I dialogue, Kinch tack around the book. Others tune in and transcribe its textures in tandem with Joyce’s echolocational ear—amplified, no doubt, by a lifetime of worsening sight (note his eyepatch in Berenice Abbott’s portraits), it drives a rhythmic feeling-for that moves us, episode to episode, wavelength to wavelength, across conversations, scenarios, and sites in Dublin. “Rhythm begins, you see. I hear.”


Enter Simon Popper’s manuscript, Ulysses (2006), a reel-to-reel retranscription of Joyce’s every word, reordered here in attenuated alphabetical arrangement like a heap of verbal playing cards. Absurd absurd absurdity ABU Abulafia abundance abundance abundance abundant abundant ABUNDANTHaddington haddock haddock haddy Hades hadnt hadnt hadnt hadnt … Echoic ghostwriting (phonotation?) in spoken word affect, this text begs to be run as “soundmeat” through a voice. It even sits, on the page, like Joyce’s protégé Samuel Beckett’s 1972 monologue, Not I, staged in pitch-darkness save for an illumined mouth.[5]


Sadie Murdoch’s commissioned works, saturate, “wet printed” black and white photographic montages, emit at different volume—dancing us by way of a muted daughter, Lucia, towards her author father.[6] In these, Murdoch reperforms scant trace imagery of Lucia’s movement lexicon, best known to us in Berenice Abbott’s 1926-7 portraits of her that Beckett treasured, hieroglyphic (voguish then), in fishtail chainmail. Triangulations in choreographic conversation occur, though, as Murdoch migrates artist, poet, and similarly milieu’d scenester, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, into her images. (Elsa’s Cast Iron Lover poem appeared in the same 1918 issue of The Little Review that inaugurated Ulysses’ serialised instalments.)


Other works in fermentation stage encompass Tim Berresheim’s cryptic prints of rail tracks; Sonja Blum’s clay vessels with neo-Grecian biro inscriptions of “technological rush backwards”; Paul Harrison’s data-generated sculptured map-abstractions of Ulysses’ Dublin locales that unfold in linear echo to the book’s chapters: a Borgesian cartographic facsimile; Oskar Korsar’s heraldic life-size triclops horse bust wrought in stone-like plaster; Agata Madejska’s audio installation out of which redacted political speech—strung together, in Joycean tangle, from Theresa May’s occasional emotive utterances at the podium—rains phonetic into a listening enclosure enfolded around deep grayscale cloth, the colour of Abbott’s photographs; Alan Phelan’s illumined transparencies that co-opt archaic photographic processes incubated in early twentieth-century Dublin; and Joel Tomlin’s smoked-through sculptures of crackpot glass vessels on carved wood.


It remains to be seen what other throughways will be taken, tried, and morphed, as the show ferments, brined by the book and cultured by potencies and precarities in our present.

“What’s cheese? Corpse of milk.”




 – Emma McCormick-Goodhart, June 2020




image: Flush Poised Mars Red by Sadie Murdoch •  inkjet print on archival paper, 50.8 x 40.7 cm



[1] See, for example, Knvul Sheikh, “Talking Can Generate Coronavirus Droplets That Linger Up to 14 Minutes,” The New York Times, May 14, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/14/health/coronavirus-infections.html.

[2] Joan Acocella, “A Fire in the Brain,” The New Yorker, December 1, 2003, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/12/08/a-fire-in-the-brain.

[3] Susan Schuppli, “Material Witness: Media, Forensics, Evidence,” (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2020), 63.

[4] Recurring olfactive motif-notes include: cigarette (“ashwand”); seaweed; milk; underwear; church; burnt liver on the stovetop.

[5] Watch Billie Whitelaw’s record-fast performance of Not I televised on the BBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFQH7hhDTSE. She introduces the broadcast, describing, “that’s all there was on the stage: my mouth, with one little light.”

[6] The two developed a para-language that, largely uncredited, wrote itself, while Lucia improvised within view of her father’s writing desk, into Finnegan’s Wake. Lucia’s own brother saw to it that her papers were burnt.

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