In early 2015, the National Gallery of Ireland invited Sarah Pierce to engage with the ESB CSIA in the ongoing research project: Visualising the Irish Diaspora. The aim of this collaboration was the creation of a new artwork by Pierce exploring the concept, themes and subject of this art historical project.
Pathos of Distance is formed around 42 images relating to Irish migration and diaspora, created between 1813 and 1912. Sourced from countries around the world, they have been photographed and reproduced to their original scale. Pierce presents them in a series of sculptures constructed from items of second-hand domestic furniture, culled from the stocks of suppliers in Dublin. In bringing these disparate images and objects together, these sculptures evoke the concept and rhetoric of diaspora, suggesting themes of displacement and hybridity.
Hybridity is further articulated through the exhibition itself, which is at once a display of the images uncovered by the research project and an artwork. The sculptures are accompanied by research notes, inventories and references, which provide historical information, and insight into the thoughts and processes that guided the project.
Through a diverse and sometimes challenging range of imagery, relating to the lives of extraordinary people and disparate communities, Pathos of Distance reveals a distinct variety of approaches to the visualisation of the Irish diaspora. The visual relationships and sightlines in the exhibition, invite the viewer to consider and question the role and significance of images in the formation of a diasporic cultural identity.