April 5, 2018
Michael John Whelan
Michael John Whelan’s sound installation Hydrogen Helium (2018) was first realised during his residency at Alserkal Arts Foundation. Through the names of twenty-eight obsolete star constellations, he explores ideas of loss, change and a new unrecognisable lexicon.
The constellation Noctua the Owl, plate 32 of Urania’s Mirror, 1824
In Hydrogen Helium (2018) a solo voice lists in alphabetical order twenty-eight obsolete star constellations that were named after animals. Named between the 16th and 19th centuries, some were officially recognised for decades, others for centuries. In 1992 the International Astronomical Union held a general assembly in Rome where they decided the 88 modern constellations to be adopted by the global astronomy community; all others were removed. The speakers are arranged in a circle facing inwards. Each channel begins at a different time than the speaker to its left, allowing the names of the constellations to merge, shift and grow together, creating both a cacophony of loss and the birth of a new unrecognisable lexicon.
‘The final form of Hydrogen Helium had been growing slowly on notebooks, phone notes and studio walls for over a year since recording the voiceover with Cillian. It’s always an exciting occurrence when spaces, resources and works align like they did at the residency, where I was able to realise the sound installation for the first time.’
– Michael John Whelan
Hydrogen Helium was installed as part of Alserkal Arts Foundation’s Spring 2018 public programme. Voice: Cillian Murphy Sound recording: Brian Crosby
Michael John Whelan (b 1977, Dublin, Ireland) has exhibited and screened his work internationally in institutions, galleries and project spaces, including solo exhibitions (selection) at Rua Red, Dublin; Grey Noise, Dubai; Kunstverein Bochum and Boetzelaer|Nispen, Amsterdam. Group exhibitions and screenings (selection) include Centre Pompidou-Metz, France; Kunsthall Stavanger; Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna; Lismore Castle Arts, Ireland; Dortmund Kunstverein; Kiasma, Helsinki; Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; Museum Bochum; Noorderlicht Gallery, Groningen; Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, Dublin. He received a BA in Fine Art from IADT-DL, Dublin in 2002 and an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design (University of the Arts London) in 2004. He was an artist in residence (Spring 2018) at Alserkal Arts Foundation and presented Hydrogen Helium (2018) as part of his residency.