About The Work
Darkness had no need
This long-term project explores the darkest locations in the world through large format photography. Certified by different organizations through strict light measuring procedures, these sites provide the best conditions for viewing an unimpeded night sky. Predominantly used by astronomers, these sites are selected for their distance from centers of urban densification. The necessity of these measures is solely triggered by anthropogenic factors.
Since 2017, Whelan has been travelling regularly to these dark sites across the world, focusing specifically on the places themselves. Directly connected with overpopulation, errant light pollution mortally affects migrating birds, fish, bats and sea turtles and is a contributing factor in the decline of insect populations, and consequently invaluable ecosystems. It disrupts the human cicada rhythm, leading to significant physical and psychological problems that are only just beginning to be understood. Photographing the places at night, using a large format camera with long exposures, the base chemistry of the film records traces of light that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye. Inherent in this project is a gesture of impossibility: How can the immaterial be captured? How can absence be recorded? How can darkness itself be recorded on film? Only traces of the landscapes become visible. The uncanny lack of detail in these large-scale images is captivating - absence becomes presence. The project challenges the limits of photography, the minimal aesthetic of the images creates an unsettling contrast to the subject matter.
Michael John Whelan
b. 1977, Dublin, Ireland / Lives and works in Berlin, Germany
Michael John Whelan’s practise has been concerned with environmental changes relating to historical events and future projections. Investigating humanity's physical effects and inherent mutability, Whelan explores places and phenomena that resonate with a past or future trauma, resulting in photographic, film and sculptural projects.
Whelan’s work has been exhibited and screened internationally at MAK, Vienna; The Glucksman Gallery, Cork; Centre Pompidou-Metz, France; Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai; Kasteel Wijlre, Netherlands; Grey Noise, Dubai; Kunstverein Bochum; Galeria OMR, Mexico City; Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway; Kunst Haus Wien; Lismore Castle Arts, Ireland; Kiasma, Helsinki; Noorderlicht, Groningen. He received a BA in Fine Art from the Institute of Art, Design + Technology Dún Laoghaire in 2002 and an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design (University of the Arts London) in 2004. He has had two books published: ‘The sun shone on the nothing new’, published by Grey Noise/Lismore Castle Arts, and ‘Red Sky Morning’, published by Argobooks, Berlin. In 2018 and 2019 he received the Arts Council of Ireland Bursary Award, and in 2017 a Senate of Berlin research grant. His work is part of the collections of the Arts Council of Ireland, the University of the Arts, London, and the Institute of Art, Design + Technology, Dún Laoghaire.
Grey Noise represents art practices with a focus towards contemporaneity, and an emphasis on distinct, often experimental content. Not limiting itself to geographical representation, the gallery exhibits both emerging and established artists who demonstrate a defined conceptual premise in their oeuvre.