Paul Rooney is based in Liverpool, and makes music with words “investigating the intersections of music, myth, memory and place” (The Wire Magazine). His sound installations, videos, writings and records assemble the contrary, unpredictable narratives of particular places: stories of everyday life or of local folklore. Disembodied voices perform these narratives – often in relation to music or other artistic devices. The resulting works self-reflexively, comically and unreliably spook the present like unruly ghosts.
His sound installation works include Song (After Nature) for Lindisfarne Castle, a collaboration with Icelandic composer and cellist Gyða Valtýsdóttir, which was featured on Radio 3's Music Matters in 2022. His musical performance works include a touring one act rock opera, a 'variety night', a chamber piece with members of Manchester Camerata, and a 'reversal' of Stairway to Heaven with members of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
He has shown work at Tate Britain; Tate Liverpool; BALTIC; The Arnolfini; and Whitechapel Gallery; and has exhibited internationally at places such as Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. His works were included in the British Council show Electric Earth: Film and Video from Britain, which toured to eighteen international venues from 2003 to 2006; and British Art Show 6, which toured around the UK in 2005-2006. He has had solo exhibitions at Site Gallery, Sheffield (with Susan Philipsz); Kino Arsenal, Berlin; firstsite, Colchester; Matt’s Gallery, London; and the Liverpool Biennial. Rooney has been commissioned by organisations such as Ikon Gallery; Grizedale Arts; Film and Video Umbrella; Cambridge University Museums; and Tate Liverpool. He has undertaken artist residencies at The British School at Rome; Tate Liverpool; Proyecto Batiscafo, Havana; Mobile Academy, Berlin; and Berwick Visual Arts; and has been awarded fellowships at Durham University; University of Dundee; University of Oxford; University of Melbourne; and University of Wolverhampton. Rooney was the winner of Art Prize North in 2003; the second Northern Art Prize in 2008; and one of his sound installations and a video work were purchased for the Arts Council Collection in 2015.
Paul Rooney’s work has been broadcast by John Peel (Radio 1), Ian McMillan (The Verb, Radio 3), Huw Stephens (Radio 1), Stuart Maconie (6 Music) and Tom Service (Music Matters, Radio 3), and his 2007 post-punk dub 12″ single Lucy Over Lancashire was described by BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley as a “masterpiece”. His latest album is Surface Industries II (2023), the second of two ambient skewed-folk-pop albums focussing on service industries jobs, with guest vocals from folk singers Jackie Oates and Frankie Armstrong. These albums are released on Owd Scrat Records, a current ongoing label project by Rooney and other collaborators in which all of the label artists (apart from Rooney himself) are fictional personae with often longstanding and interrelated backstories.