Dublin According to the Man Putting Art in Irish Caves

The Irish artist talks of Dublin, his work and Ireland.

AlanJames Burns is a Dublin-based visual artist who's traveled through Europe for the past seven years with his art and his newest project is no less than stellar.

His latest series "Entirely hollow aside from the dark," involves playing sound in Irish caves for a 4D, immersive experience. He spent two and a half months scouting cave locations, cutting down 50-60 options to a final five with help along the way from hundreds of locals willing to assist him as he walked across mountaintops and through the caves.

The collaboration with writer Sue Rainsford and sound editor Ian Dunphy—along with a team of Burns's friends—is what he calls a "19-32 channel pyscho-acoustic event" with immersive artwork installed in caves.

Men standing in the mouth of a cave
Caves of Keash (©Trevor Whelan)

What’s your spirit city?

Dublin I love it. It’s a very friendly and open city.

What do you want people to take away from their experience with your work?

I wanted them to experience artwork as a very experiential piece. I want them to look at the species and how they process thoughts and be inside someone else's consciousness.

You can only have one type of regional cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it?

Anything with mushrooms in it. I’m a vegan.

Window, middle or aisle seat?

Always window, I’m a visual person. I look to see images I don’t get to see every day and I don’t fly every day.

What's home for you when you're not touring with the show?

Dublin, I've lived here for the past 12 years on-and-off.

Best things to do in Dublin?

Go see the art, we have some whopper galleries or take a walk along the gorgeous coastline of Clontarf and grab a coffee from the best coffee shop in the city, Ebb & Flow.

Sunrise over water
Clontarf's Bull Island (©Giuseppe Milo/Flickr, Creative Commons)

What are some of the city's top restaurants? 

Etto, on Merrion Row, for sure, it's a casual style restaurant doing contemporary Irish food with strong Italian and Spanish influences and a cracking wine list.

Describe your travel personality in three words.

Sleepless, energetic, wanderer

Favorite travel partner?

The people who I’m currently traveling with now. The people who I’m traveling with I’ve chosen to spend months working with developing this project.

The Aillwee Caves in Ireland
The Aillwee Caves were a place Burns enjoyed visiting in his youth. (©Germán Poo-Caamaño/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Best city you discovered on your tour?

Ireland’s a small country, it’s nice going back to places you went as a kid [like Aillwee Caves.] I’ve seen a lot of beautiful parts and a lot of beautiful people.

The exhibition was commissioned. Is there a sense of pride in keeping it in Ireland? Were you approached by officials about keeping it local or vice-versa?

I didn't have a choice. Thank God [Fingal County Council Arts Office] commissioned it. Six months after that me and my friend pulled off an event and we went to the [Arts Council of Ireland Touring and Dissemination of Work Scheme] and they put a large amount of money behind it.

What are the plans for your work when this tour is over?

If there is interest, I’d like to bring [the exhibition] internationally or abroad.