What if almost the only words available are the lyrics from a song? What if everything you would want to articulate must conform to the words of this song?
ro’ ro’ is new work by Jaki Irvine and a companion piece to an immersive 13-channel video and sound work, Ack Ro’, showing concurrently at Frith Street Gallery, London.
For The Bower, Irvine has created a set of 12” vinyl LPs, recorded over two days, with Louise Phelan’s trapped vocals at times drifting, urgent, despairing, forgetful, as she echoes Joe O’Farrell’s haunting tones on flute, Izumi Kimura’s piano and Sarah Grimes percussive elements that attempt to reach out to one another and find a way forward, despite the limitations.
Alone or in groups of two, visitors are invited to sit with the records and play them simultaneously from two turntables — a combination of composed elements and ambient sound — and become immersed in the soundtracks; an intimate reflection on being and listening, of holding on and letting go, in the space.
Ro’ ro’ rose glows gently in pink neon on the wall nearby.
The neon is part of a larger group of neons that loop across Frith Street Gallery, all derived from anagrams of Cracklin’ Rosie, the title of a Neil Diamond song from 1970. Treating language as endlessly reconfigurable, the neons present this text as modular sonic components: repeated, distorted, anagrammed or spliced into their most elemental forms. They simmer down, for instance, from the mournful ‘alone alone’, to the playful ‘alonio’, to finally, a single, primal and resonant ‘o’.
The installation Ack Ro’ from which ro’ ro’ is derived is structured by forms associated with dementia and Alzheimers, which leave sufferers with a depleted sense of time. The piece proposes that music might offer a temporary respite. Using repetition, pace and rhythm, Irvine’s work offers a loophole in the cruelty of disease – a means to navigate, to hold on, to briefly return, perhaps to mourn and to let go.
Generously supported by Arts Council England and The Arts Council of Ireland.