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entirely hollow

Something very unusual is going to happen in caves around Ireland this summer

We talked to the artist responsible.

A SERIES OF very unusual events is set to take place deep inside caves around the island of Ireland this summer.

The brainchild of visual artist and Cavan native AlanJames Burns, the national tour of ‘Entirely hollow aside from the dark’ will see participants standing in the dark inside ancient caves, listening to an audio artwork via special ’3D’ speakers.

The five caves where the tour will take place are Caves of Keash (Sligo), Lickhill Cave (Skibbereen, Cork), Aillwee Cave (The Burren), Smuggler’s Cave (Portrane, Dublin), Pollnagollum Cave, Boho Waterfall (Enniskillen, Fermanagh).

Here’s a taster of what to expect:

Little Wolf Media / Vimeo

Burns has created the event in collaboration with writer Sue Rainsford and sound editor Ian Dunphy (tickets and more information can be found at the website).

He describes the installation as a “psycho-acoustic sound event within caves; ancient natural auditoriums carved into the underbelly of Ireland’s countryside”.

The immersive installation aims to create a visceral experience of journeying into someone’s inner dialogue by using cutting edge 3 Dimensional audio.

‘Wow, this needs something to happen to it’

It all came about through a residency that Burns undertook with Fingal Co Council, which led to the first cave event at Portrane.

The idea came out of the blue, Burns told “At one point walking across coastline at low tide I came across a cave. I walked into it and was blown away and thought ‘wow this needs something to happen to it’.”

He then thought about how he could use such a space to explore certain ideas. “I am really interested in how the mind works, how the human mind works, what is it taught, how is it thinking, how do we think,” he said.

“Is the stuff that goes on inside my consciousness the same as goes on inside your consciousness?”

3) Entirely hollow aside from the dark, AlanJames Burns Photo by Trevor Whelan (Aillwee Caves Clare)HighRes AlanJames Burns

He was also, at the time, working with people on the idea of hearing voices, as well as immersive audio and what that can do to audience.

“I was looking at that and for me my inner experience, how I experience my thoughts, is largely through an inner voice talking to myself rather than an inner image,” he said. “So I was thinking about all this and looking at all this and the cave is a living and breathing thing that was created over millennia. It was the perfect venue to look at and experiment with the phenomenon of the inner voice and voice inside one’s consciousness.”

He decided to use 3D spatial audio in order to “bring the cave to life”. He met with Sue Rainford, a Dublin-based writer, and she came on board to write the script, which was inspired by streams of consciousness and inner dialogues.

2) Entirely hollow aside from the dark, AlanJames Burns Photo by Trevor Whelan (Kesh Caves Sligo)HighRes Kesh Caves, Sligo Trevor Whelan Trevor Whelan

“We literally just sat around and talked to ourselves,” he said of some of the work on the piece. “Then tried to bring that out into an immersive experience for an audience.”

Putting on a show in a cave is not an easy thing – you’re at the mercy of the elements for starters. During the first installation, the tide came in and blocked the cave twice a day.

Each location had to fit health and safety rules and also have the right environmental conditions – in other words, not be too damp.

Caves in the dark

Burns has been blown away at the support shown by county councils, volunteers and others across the country. “People have been so helpful,” he said. “People have been throwing themselves at it. We nearly had people walking the coastline [for us].”

He visited around 50 caves before narrowing the list down to five viable locations in which to hold the events.

The tickets are booked online, and when the visitors arrive – each event takes place at night – they are given a torch. They are then guided to the cave.

“As you are walking into the cave, the cave is breathing,” said Burns. “Once inside you’re subjected to an inner monologue or assumed consciousness of sounds and words flying around your head. They’re coming from many directions. You have no idea how big or small the cave is. You’re brought on a journey through someone’s mind while trying to get out of your own mind.”

A documentary is also being made about the events. “It’s been some of the best times of my life,” said Burns, who has loved travelling around the country, meeting new people, and working with friends on the project. “This is all very new and exciting.”

An artist for 10 years, he was recently granted a residency at the Fire Station Artists’ Studios.

“This is by far my biggest project,” said Burns. “I love making art. Art for me is… I learn by making art. I am a dyslexic who doesn’t get much from reading and writing but I get a lot from making stuff and putting stuff together. By experimenting with materials and forms I learn so much. From working on this project I have learned so much about how thinking, thought and human consciousness works. [Though] no one knows how it works - I have created more questions than I have answers.”

‘Entirely hollow aside from the dark’ will take place from July to September 2017. For more details or to book tickets, visit the official website

Read: Good news for parents – kids are being given free admission to dozens of Irish heritage sites>

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