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Frances Hegarty

Auto Portrait #21999

Auto Portrait #2 is a video self-portrait in which image and light, voice and noise, are digitally compacted to suggest a whole life being gathered up and re-lived in a few intense minutes.

In the quietest part of the video cycle, clicking left and right strobe lights fire alternately at a regular, sedate pace. They illuminate opposite sides of a female subject (the artist), seated for a formal portrait. Some distance from the screen is a bare loudspeaker in the beam of a spotlight, fixed to tensioned, vertical steel ropes.

With a single intake of breath, the sitter’s voice is heard from the loudspeaker. It is at once disembodied (apart from the on-screen image, and not lip-synced) and embodied (the loudspeaker is at head-height, its apparatus of suspension occupying a space analogous to Hegarty’s body were she addressing the listener, in person). The voice begins the recitation of a life, given as a mixture of personal memories and remembered world events.

As the frequency of the clicking strobe lights increases, it drives an increase in the rate of speech. The sitter becomes agitated, demonstrating both a resistance to the process underway, and a synchrony with it. Eventually the voice becomes implausibly fast and breathless, and the flailing on-screen figure is subsumed into white light and high-pitched noise.

After a crescendo, the pace slows, and the on-screen image darkens again. The sitter reappears, posed as before between sedately-paced strobes. The accompanying recitation ends with a final remembered event: ‘…making this soundtrack’ and a long exhalation. After a few moments, the cycle begins again.

Exhibitions of Auto Portrait #2 include: Peripheral Vision (Void, Derry, inaugural exhibition 2005, with Vong Phaophanit); Prepossession (Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney; Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 2005; with Willie Doherty, William Kentridge, others); Something Else (Peri Gallery, Turku; touring to venues in Finland
2005; survey exhibition of Irish artists); Frances Hegarty retrospective (Model and Niland Art Gallery, Sligo 2003).

The precursor work Auto Portrait #1 was part of 0044 (P.S.1 New York, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.; Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast; Crawford Art Gallery, 1999; survey exhibition of Irish artists based in the UK).

Hegarty’s Auto Portrait works have been discussed by a variety of writers, including Angela Halliday (2015), Shirley MacWilliam (2005, 1999), Katy Deepwell (2005), Sharon Kivland (2003), Monica Ross (2003). 


Duration Duration: 4 min
Edition1 of 3
Item NumberACQ.2023.FH.003
Copyright For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].
Image Caption
Frances Hegarty, Auto Portrait #2, 1999, Film, Duration: 4 min, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].

About the Artist

Frances Hegarty

Frances Hegarty was born in Teelin, Co. Donegal. Hegarty's work includes drawing, film and video, audio and live action, and public art.
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