Killruddery: Listening to the Archive

From May 2019 – March 2023, I was artist-in-residence at Killruddery House & Gardens in Bray, County Wicklow as part of a practice-based PhD at SMARTlab, Inclusive Design Research Centre of Ireland, University College Dublin, funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC).  My principal supervisor was the wonderful Prof. Lizbeth Goodman, Director and co-founder of SMARTlab.

Killruddery is a beautiful estate with original 17th century ornamental gardens, home to the Brabazon family and seat of the hereditary title, the Earl of Meath. The family’s ancestor Sir William Brabazon was brought over to Ireland by King Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries and rose to the rank of Vice-Chancellor. For his loyal service in “establishing the King’s authority” he was granted the former St.Thomas’ Abbey in The Liberties, Dublin in 1545, and the estate came with a summer house for the monks at Killruddery. The family have been living at Killruddery since 1618 and their archives trace a long and complex history of their life on the island of Ireland. 

The research project Killruddery: Listening to the Archive, examines an historic private archive through strategies of listening and soundwalking and produced The Ancestors – an interactive sound trail laid out in the grounds of the estate, which explores a hauntology of archive using records belonging to the Brabazon family as source material to produce a series of immersive sonic encounters through re-enactment, field recording and enchantment, accompanied by the voice of a ghostly poet-philosopher, The Keeper of the Archives.

During the research, I collected hundreds of hours of binaural field recordings gleaned from soundwalking the estate, talking to the family, becoming intimate with the architecture, landscape and archives. Inspired by so-called Stone Tape Theory, my intention was to summon the sonic revenants of the archive for the listener within the grounds of the estate, using the smartphone as a kind of modern divining tool. Stone Tape Theory asserts that the phenomena of ghosts can be understood as ancient ‘tape recordings’ captured by old buildings through a form of sound writing or phonography, and that through technological intervention, these spectres can be replayed as if they were archive recordings.

One of the short audio essays “Walk This Place” created for The Ancestors was made intially for A Manual for Rematerialisation published by the Creative Futures Academy in Ireland and exhibited at the Dublin Art Book Fair 2021.

The Ancestors is hosted on