Year

2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Creative Arts

Department

Faculty of Creative Arts

Abstract

The Irish Linen Memorial creative project is an ongoing site conscious memorial installation which seeks to re narrate the almost 4,000 deaths which took place during the fraught period in contemporary Northern Ireland, called ‘the troubles’. The dead, far from being gone, remain as a powerful part of the community. How we think about the dead, and the stories we tell about the relationship between the dead and the living, are central to imagining new forms of community and narratives of nationhood. An intimate, yet public, monument to those killed, The Irish Linen Memorial is created on white, linen handkerchiefs, with the names printed and overstitched with embroidery, and spotted with sewn hair. As an adjunct to this counter monument, I constructed a personal installation on the subject of ‘mending’, developed through a residency at The Gunnery studios in Woolloomooloo, Sydney. In addition to The Irish Linen Memorial, in 2002 and 2004, I invited fellow artists to dialogue with the work that, in turn, produced a dance theatre performance and a seven channel sonic surround original music composition. As well, in 2005, new media components were a part of the installation. In all, this project comprises this exegesis, several gallery installations, a DVD that documents the artwork and a portfolio of images in a booklet. The exegesis outlines the complexities of a hybrid memorial grounded equally in contemporary sculpture and textiles. I have outlined the historical context of the material culture of linen and presented a general overview of the socio political landscape of contemporary Northern Ireland from a feminist postcolonial perspective. My case studies center on how installation artists tackle socio political issues of national concern. The thesis exegesis reflects upon the new theoretical positionings of feminist theory in relation to sculpture and textiles, text and textiles, feminist theories of the public and the private, the greater visibility of the migrant artist, in particular, the self consciousness of the migrant artist in Australia, together with the increasing conflation of High/Low, Art/Craft arts practice into an elastic hybridity. The case studies I examine to explore these themes are the work of USA artists Richard Serra (b. 1939) and Maya Lin (b. 1959); in particular Lin’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, 1982, an anti monument on a reconciliatory theme of national importance, and Serra’s Tilted Arc, 1979 89, a courageous exposition of the working chiasmatic power of a federal, pedestrian plaza. My other case studies are contemporary artists Narelle Jubelin (Australian, currently based in Spain, b. 1960) and Doris Salcedo (Colombian, educated in New York City, b. 1958), whose installation artwork is based in sculpture and textiles, and both of whom address touch as an important component of their work. Jubelin addresses national issues through the extreme juxtaposition of petit point needlework with large scale architectonic forms. Salcedo works with art as a witness, re configuring furniture and clothing, leaving the viewer with the affect of the terror, grief and trauma of living with daily political violence. The dimensions of this book are the size of the handkerchief used in the creative project. The side bar of the exegesis acts as a reminder of the central concern of my artwork from 2001 – 2005: honouring equally all those killed in the troubles, listed chronologically. Thus, the exegesis becomes another artwork: a site, displaced and conveniently mobile, as is The Irish Linen Memorial and the book upon which it is based, Lost Lives: the stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the troubles, 2000. The exegesis seeks to pick, unpick and rethread a sense of the fragile, recuperative work involved in a community emerging from conflict, the place of my birth.

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