Art in focus: David Trimble by Amanda Dunsmore
‘Keeper ‘ is representative of a growing phenomenon whereby artists address, explore and use archives as a primary material
David Trimble, from Amanda Dunsmore’s, which is at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane until July 22nd
What is it?
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.
How was it done?
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.
Where can I see it? 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 22nd