Duet for me and Robbie


In 2003 The Robert Emmet Society commissioned a number of contemporary artists to respond to the revolutionary period 1798-1803, on the occasion of the bi-centenary of Robert Emmet’s death in 1803. Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol was the venue for the exhibition entitled ‘Dearcadh’ and curated by Jenny Haughton Participating artists were offered the use of prison cells in the gaol to install and realise individual works of art.

‘Duet for me and Robbie’ is a multimedia installation by the artist. The installation featured two gilded bird cages, one cage featured a video recording of the artist on a small monitor whistling the rebel melody ’ The Bold Robert Emmet’, on a loop.  Robert Emmet became an icon of resistance even up to the 1916 Rising when Tom Maguire, IRA Commandant in Co Fermanagh, wrote the ballad, Bold Robert Emmet – the Darling of Erin.

The second gilded cage contained a live song canary (named Robbie). Young canaries are intelligent birds and are skilled at signing and mimicking sounds they hear in their environment. Over the course of the exhibition ‘Robbie’ learnt and sang the rebel melody in a duet with the video recording of the artist. The acoustic of the prison cell added a layer of poignancy to the installation.

Artist note: After the exhibition Robbie the canary moved into the artist's home where he lived to a ripe old age.

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