Mairéad McClean: HEREUpcoming
6th Oct 2022 to 23rd Dec 2022
About The Exhibition
Award winning visual artist Mairéad McClean comes to Belfast Exposed this autumn with HERE. Combining new and previously exhibited work, McClean examines one of the most contentious episodes of recent Northern Irish history through a personal lens.
The new work made for HERE comments on the tension and anxiety felt by those living in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s during ‘an explosive period of conflict and political unrest’. A time when the pressures of danger and threat - both invisible and visible - permeated everyday life. McClean’s work unfolds the complexity of this experience through her memories of how she understood the place she was growing up in.
Dominating one gallery wall is a new, site-specific piece entitled Learning to Read (Northern Ireland, 1971), 2022. This work uses the characters from the reading book series ‘Janet and John’ as an aide memoire to the time. It connects in theme to a new iteration of her award-winning film No More, 2013. Taken a step further in the installation here, it includes Broadcast, 2016, and becomes a new work entitled Dialogue, 2021, a 'retelling' through story, history and memory of the period of McClean’s father's internment in Long Kesh prison in 1971/72. The story has new inflections and rhythms as if 'the film is now oral history, offering up co-incidences and new realisations'.
HERE seeks to explore what it means to be ‘of’, as opposed to being ‘from' a place. The use of images from the Belfast Exposed Archive in this is essential. Containing over 1 million images, the Archive is the largest of its kind in Northern Ireland. It houses images from both professional and amateur photographers, and is one of Belfast Exposed 's most important assets. Not only does the Archive contain a record of both the Troubles and the political upheaval of the Ceasefire & Peace Process, but it is also an unprecedented record of everyday life in Northern Ireland during the last four decades. The archive is an historical living document, recording political, cultural and social change.
‘Making the new work for HERE has made me think about what it means to be here in this stretch of earth, this city, this gallery, this archive, being in a particular family, experiencing it all in this body, with this mind, with these memories, at this particular time, in a place that I have not claimed but which has claimed me. It’s a unique experience for us all but when I look at it from this perspective, the balance changes for me and everything shifts.’
HERE asks us to think about how the politics and culture of a region are defined and how they define those who live here. The work reflects on how a place is governed and controlled and the impact this has on our lives. In doing so, HERE builds on many themes in McClean’s previous work.
McClean’s flexibility to consider completed works as materials for a new work mirrors a political approach, which as Shirley MacWilliam writes in the accompanying catalogue essay, 'aims not to myth make but to remain open to taking new points of view or looking at a bigger picture’. McClean approaches the 'bigger picture' in a nuanced and fluid way, searching for a range of outcomes, which are frequently or perhaps cyclically, in a state flux.
‘Sourced from both Mairead's personal archive and the archive here at Belfast exposed, this new work is wonderful. They give a sense of place in the context of both Northern Ireland’s legacy of the Troubles and the point that we are right now here in Belfast. Combined with some of her signature renowned films, HERE will engage audiences at a deep level, encouraging us to reflect on the past, bringing us to the present and create for our future’.
Deirdre Robb, CEO Belfast Exposed
Visual artist Mairéad McClean works across film, video, sound and photography using material from a diverse range of sources. Found footage, historical and family archives, filmed performances and televisual media, appear in many of her single screen films and multi-media installations produced over the past 25 years. Her work often features ordinary people as they cope with forms of control. Whether the camera follows actual events or follows enactments by a performer, people are seen to challenge or circumvent authority or to improvise with their own actions. Memory, and how and why we remember has been explored in much of her work.
McClean has received several awards for her work and was selected as a Decade of Centenary Artist in Residence working with Beyond 22 Virtual Archive Project at Trinity Longroom Hub, Dublin 2021/22. She was commissioned by the Wapping Project, London in 2018, The National Museums of Ireland 2015 and her video work No More (2013), exploring questions around the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland in 1971, won the inaugural MAC International Art Prize in 2014. No More was acquired for the National Collection of Ireland at The Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2017.
6th October 2022 | 18:00 | Belfast Exposed - Gallery IFree
Belfast Exposed is funded by Belfast City Council and Arts Council Northern Ireland.
This show has been curated by Deirdre Robb, Director, Belfast Exposed, Northern Ireland and Gary Sangster, Director, Drawing Projects UK, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Dundee.