Pennsylvania is home to more amusement parks and roller coasters than any other state. Pittsburgh’s main park, Kennywood, is a traditional amusement park opened in 1898 by the Monongahela Street Railway Company at a time when technological innovations that initially applied to mills, factories and railroads found their way to places of play and recreation connecting humans to the dynamism of technology in a very different way. During her explorations she met with the American Coaster Enthusiasts club (ACE). United by a common interest, ACE (founded in 1978) is the world’s largest ride enthusiast organization and has nearly 7,000 members across the U.S.
A number of works were developed with members of this club. Byrne worked with composer Nathan Hall on producing a choral score of the sounds of a journey on the ‘The Racer’, a historical wooden roller coaster at Kennywood, built in 1927. She later invited Pittsburgh-based members of ACE to perform “Coaster Choir,” a vocal soundscape of this journey.
Rhona Byrne makes sculpture, films, context specific installations, collaborative event-based projects and books. Her work explores and engages with multi-layered surfaces and the workings of the built environment and navigates intangible and transient layers of physical, mental and social space. In developing this series of works, Byrne examines the amusement park industry and in particular wooden roller coasters, their physical experience and people who love them. Prompted by an ongoing fascination with how these man-made places and structures came about and how they can affect emotional states and alter our involvement with our environment, Byrne went about visiting theme parks, roller coaster designers and manufacturers in Pennsylvania. Rhona Byrne is an artist who lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. She attended the National College of Art and Design where she received her BFA in Sculpture. Her art practice is site and context specific combining sculpture and spatial environments with performance and processes of participation that explore a negotiation of object, materiality, place and social practice. Her practice often operates on or occupies the ‘threshold’ between sculpture and architecture, sculpture and theatre, sculpture and performance, sculpture and environmental psychology. Rhona Byrne's hand-made objects, installations and collaborative, event-‐based, projects explore the interplay between people and their habitat. Her practice is predominantly context responsive which includes a rigorous approach to research into the particularities of a site, context and the people who shape it. She employs an interdisciplinary approach often collaborating with diverse industries, groups and individuals. Her work is often a catalyst to generate other narratives for its participants and an invitation to explore the person-environment relationship and the unstable conditions of place and affect, spatial experience, meaning and emotion.