this issue contains
>> Portrait Cornelia Parker
>> Gerard Byrne: The world is a stage
>> Annelies Strba: Idyllic Worlds
>> Interview: Yehudit Sasportas

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These temporal shifts in meaning also inform Byrne's other works, in which the artist re-enacted or staged certain scenes from newspapers, books, or TV. Among these was Hommes à femmes (Michel Debrane) of 2004, based on an interview between Jean-Paul Sartre and a female journalist; an advertisement for Chrysler cars that features the company's president talking to Frank Sinatra for Why it's time for Imperial, again (2000); as well as New sexual lifestyles of 2003, another Playboy panel, this time on '70s attitudes to sexuality. Byrne prefers the openness of the term "reconstruction" for these film pieces, partly because he favors the open-endedness of the word, and partly because he slightly resents being pigeonholed as one of a group of artists engaged with re-enactment. These might include anyone from Jeremy Deller, who restaged the bloody scuffle of 1984 between police officers and coal miners for The Battle of Orgreave (2001), to the darling of the art scene, Maurizio Cattelan. Only recently, Cattelan ruffled feathers at the 2006 Frieze Art Fair with his re-presentation of a controversial performance by Gino De Dominici at the 1972 Venice Biennale. In imitation of Dominici, Cattelan had a man with Down’s Syndrome contemplate three objects the artist had arranged in the booth of the Wrong Gallery.

Why is it time for Imperial again, Filmstill, 2000
Courtesy The Artist and Green on Red Gallery, Dublin

All of Byrne's works enact new experiences – "They are doing something, they are not just pastiche" – whether through his willful manipulation of an original text or through his lighting and selection of a portion of landscape. Byrne mentions how he "first became interested in acting in relation to photography and film when I was in grad school in New York," not in order to claim any anteriority to other artists interested in re-enactment, he says, "but as a way of critiquing representation." For an uncharacteristically sculptural show, In Repertory of 2004, he actually videotaped viewers as they "performed" among an installation of stage sets from Oklahoma and Mother Courage – "the whole thing was theatricalized," says Byrne.

New Sexual lifestyles, Filmstill, 2003
Courtesy The Artist and Green on Red Gallery, Dublin

Like Shakespeare's pronouncement that "All the world's a stage," Byrne believes that "the process of using a camera involves some implicit enactment," whether it's a tree or an actor in front of the lens. Like the great bard, Byrne too is interested in exploring topics of mainstream knowledge: "I work hard to use broader reference points than that of a narrow, fine art pursuit of the medium."

His fascination with Beckett's Waiting for Godot, for instance, was not born out of any scholarly or literary pretensions, but from an interest in how such a sparse, arch-modernist piece of theater became so well received all over the world. Byrne grinningly detects the same phenomenon regarding the complex jazz composition Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet , which became a popular hit record in 1959.

Indeed, his work oscillates between various registers, such as advertising and factual filmmaking, journalistic and landscape photography. "After all, photography evolved out of an amateur pursuit, and I still like the idea that it has an ambiguous place in a gallery context – is it documentary, or is it art?" Byrne mines and enjoys the specific position of photography, which he describes as "something of a mongrel, which has no clear lineage like painting."

In the News ITN 2104, Natural History Museum, 2002
Courtesy The Artist and Green on Red Gallery, Dublin

Due to his varied practice, Byrne has never thought of his career as a structured entity, something that is causing him some anxiety as he prepares to stage a major show as the sole Irish representative at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. "I've always struggled with the idea of a mini-survey, as I find it hard to reconcile different projects just because you have made them." Although patterns undoubtedly recur throughout his work, much of it, especially the photography, is, as he says, "a ruminative affair," and may not mature into a work of art for many years. "Even though the art world is small, in Venice it seems like a big place, so I would like to do something that is coherent and gives a unified impression of my work."

A country road, a tree, evening: Near Cruagh, on the road
between Kilakee & Tibradden, above Rathfarnham, Dublin Mountains, 2006
Courtesy The Artist and Green on Red Gallery, Dublin

As for his credentials as an artist representing his country, Byrne says: "I'm certainly not working with Irishness in a thematic way, but it is a mitigating factor in the work. Beckett is close to home, and there's an unavoidable inheritance," he adds, before presumably heading out in his car for the fifth winter in a row, to once again search for that elusive tree, that rural country road, and that perfect sunset that might speak to him through the pages of a long-dead playwright.

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