Amanda Dunsmore’s pro­ject is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non whereby artists ad­dress, ex­plore and use archives as a pri­mary ma­te­rial

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE CRITICS’ CHOICE - AIDANDUNNE


Amanda Dunsmore’s video por­trait of David Trimble is part of her pro­ject Keeper, a “so­cial his­tory art­work” cen­tred on the peace process in North­ern Ire­land, lead­ing to the Good Fri­day Agree­ment 20 years ago. This is the first time her 20-minute por­traits of David Trimble and John Hume, who were jointly awarded the No­bel Peace Prize 1998 for their ef­forts, are be­ing shown. De­spite the ac­co­lade of the No­bel and the ces­sa­tion of armed con­flict, one ma­jor con­se­quence of the Belfast Agree­ment was that it bol­stered the more ex­treme po­lit­i­cal group­ings, the DUP and Sinn Féin, at the ex­pense of the Ul­ster Union­ist Party and the SDLP.


Keeper is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non whereby artists ad­dress, ex­plore and use archives as a pri­mary ma­te­rial, even cre­at­ing their own archives. Mak­ing art in or of the archive may sound dry and aca­demic, but that is not the case. The devel­op­ment is log­i­cal given the stag­ger­ing vol­ume of archival ma­te­rial that so­ci­eties have pro­duced. Marry that with dig­i­tal imag­ing tech­nolo­gies and you have a re­source of unimag­in­able scale that in­cludes ob­jects, doc­u­ments, im­ages and text. The Ir­ish video artist Dun­can Camp­bell, who won the Turner Prize in 2014, is a good ex­am­ple of an artist who has worked con­sis­tently in this way, as is the 2012 Prize-win­ner El­iz­a­beth Price. Dunsmore’s work in­cor­po­rates film, video, ob­jects, au­dio record­ings and photography. The core of this show­ing of Keeper is made up of the por­traits of Hume and Trimble, con­cen­trated large-screen pro­jec­tions that go be­yond the way they are ha­bit­u­ally rep­re­sented in frag­men­tary news footage or stu­dio in­ter­views.


Keeper is on view at the Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane, un­til July 22nd. Be­sides the video por­traits, the show in­cludes works cov­er­ing the co-founder of the Peace Peo­ple move­ment, Mairead Cor­ri­gan Maguire, Betty Wil­liams (No­bel Peace Prize win­ners in 1967) and Ciaran McKe­own. A new piece, The Peo­ple’s Por­traits 1899-1918, com­prises 100 prints from glass plate prison neg­a­tives.

Is it a typ­i­cal work by the artist?

It’s per­haps ex­cep­tional in its his­tor­i­cal sweep but it is con­sis­tent with Dunsmore’s com­mit­ment to doc­u­ment per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences that rep­re­sent trans­for­ma­tions in so­ci­ety. Rather than mak­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions within the tra­di­tion of for­mal por­trai­ture, say, she aims to cre­ate por­traits draw­ing on the tech­nolo­gies and cul­tural forms of the mo­ment. The over­all Keeper pro­ject be­gan with Dunsmore’s arts res­i­dency at The Maze prison from 1998. In­cluded in the Hugh Lane show, Billy’s Mu­seum (2004) re­lates di­rectly to The Maze: it is a film doc­u­men­ta­tion of a per­sonal archive of items col­lected by prison of­fi­cer Billy Hull. Dunsmore’s other projects in­clude Be­com­ing Chris­tine, cu­rated by Liz Burns and made in part­ner­ship with Chris­tine Beynon. It charts Chris­tine’s 12-year jour­ney of tran­si­tion to be­com­ing a woman and in­cor­po­rates a se­ries of self­ies taken through­out that time span. Plan – A Por­trait of Weimar, from 1997, mar­shalls 900 enam­elled Ger­man street signs, rich with his­tor­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tions, dis­carded fol­low­ing the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of East and West.

■David Trimble, from Keeper by Amanda Dunsmore Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane un­til July 22 nd

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