Art of the Troubles: Culture, Conflict and Commemoration
Ulster Museum, Belfast
Friday, 6 June 2014
Conference: 9:30am – 16:00pm
Speakers include: Garrett Carr, Anne Devlin, Colin Graham, Neil Jarman, Daniel Jewesbury, John Killen, Jimmy McAleavey, Paula McFetridge, Roisin McGlone, Nuala McKeever, Cahal McLaughlin, Malachi O’Doherty, Glenn Patterson
This conference is a collaboration between IBIS and the Ulster Museum to complement the ‘Art of the Troubles’ exhibition currently on show at the museum.
It explores the role of art and artistic interventions in reshaping social relations in Northern Ireland. Conflict and division within Northern Ireland has often been seen to relate to differing modes of belonging: Clashes occur at many levels, from the level of elite political leadership to everyday interactions surrounding visions of legitimacy and constitutional rights, perceptions of historic grievance and images of what constitutes communal allegiance. The recent talks process (chaired by the American diplomat, Dr Richard Haass) aimed at devising a policy framework for moving beyond these clashes ended in relative failure.
Haass proposed that a new ‘civic vision’ should take the place of these divergent perceptions and the conference takes as its point of departure the role that art plays in troubling received imageries, undercutting political tendencies towards polarisation, and providing a fresh lens through which to envisage change. In this way, the conference takes as its inspiration, and starting point, the Ulster Museum’s Art of the Troubles exhibition, which developed in conjunction with Wolverhampton Art Gallery, which provides a broad representation of artists’ responses to, and reflections on, the Troubles. Art of the Troubles comprises 60 works, from 48 different artists, including paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and sculpture. Encompassing a range of themes universal to conflict – such as suffering and loss, violence and destruction, imprisonment, sectarianism, traditions, territory, and life in the midst of turmoil – the conflict is responded to through a plethora of mediums and approaches.
In response to the overarching consideration of the role art plays in responding to, address and countering conflict, the conference will address the following questions: How do visual objects shape the perception of division? How do (or even can) they work to reshape perceptions in ways that represent (or undercut) inclusivity and consensus? How do visual symbols work to reveal forms of belonging and sharing that remain obscured and hidden by more mainstream ethnonational imagery? What is the role of popular visual culture in fostering plurality, peace and stability? What interventions are necessary to promote change and transition in the post-Haass era? How do visual arts work to dismember reified memories and reconfigure alternative futures? What lessons can be drawn from other post-conflict and deeply divided societies in promoting reconciliation through visual art?