Volver de la Guerra: links between art, war and memory.
War is a distinctly human activity. So is art.
Judith McCarthy, Curator of Donegal County Museum
Dr Garrett Carr, Senior Lecturer, School of Arts, English and Languages Queens University
Alena Kunkel – Expertise in Forensic Psychiatry
Hosted by Adriana Valderrama Lopez
“The heritage landscape is a past curated from the present, involving selective remembering and deliberate concealing in equal measure… that heritage is bound in present-day concerns and shape by the power of memory, identity and belonging”. (Crooke and Maguire, 2018 p.3).
Fort Dunree has been an important defensive site down through history, the winding fjord of Lough Swilly, one of Ireland’s great natural harbours has played a role in many historical events from Viking invasions to the Flight of the Earls, the rebellion of 1798 and World War 1. Unusually it remained in British hands following partition in 1922 and was only transferred to the Republic of Ireland in 1938. During the Second World War, Irish forces were stationed at Fort Dunree to prevent the warring nations violating the country’s neutrality. The Fort was used by the Irish Army for training until 1990. Today however, its stunning natural beauty and abundant wildlife are drawing increasing numbers of visitors to one of Inishowen’s most beautiful and peaceful locations.
Fort Dunree Military Museum was first opened to the public in 1986 to present the vital role that Fort Dunree played in coastal defence, neutrality protection and a range of coastal artillery and artefacts that give meaning and insight into the day-to-day operation of the Fort. The Fort is also home to the Rockhill Collection, a private collection of military memorabilia belonging to Jackie Keenan and Jim Gallagher who have placed it on loan to Fort Dunree Military Museum. This exhibition is housed at the Saldanha Suite with a Wildlife Discovery Room and art exhibitions.
These exhibitions of contemporary art which take place at the Saldanha Suite are produced by Artlink. Artlink was formed in 1992 and is the longest established professional art company in Inishowen, Co. Donegal. Artlink office, studio and workshop spaces are based at the Fort Dunree Military Museum.
Considering the historical heritage of Fort Dunree and the different possibilities of discussion and representation that each of the spaces that are currently part of the cultural life of the Fort can offer to the community, we propose a seminar. The aim of this seminar is to explore the artistic and material representation of war and peace in different contexts. The possibilities of art as a social catalyst.
Art and war have a complex relationship, the two are opposite: art is creative, war is destructive. War is a distinctly human activity. So is art. Furthermore, art has been used as propaganda, to bolster morale and nation-building on the one hand. To campaign against war through visceral and highly personalised responses to the brutality of war, on the other. Moreover, art can enable us to remember violence, recording the experience of people who may be forgotten by the historical record, and to rewrite the history of war, but it can also facilitate the forgetting of violence by censorship. Thus, war inspires art, but art can also be looted in wartime or destroyed by war.
Art also offers a means to expand our understanding of the nature and character of war through the application of different lens, and, crucially, a means to understand society’s changing attitudes to war and peace. Thus, after a war, art can enable people to recover. It is no wonder then that as long as humanity has fought wars and sought peace, artists have responded in as varied and diverse ways as the wars that provoked them.
The seminar will reflect on the relationship between art, war, peace and memory. The panel will discuss on the possibilities of art as a tool or medium that can complement peace-building processes through the representation of conflict to encourage community dialogue, the elaboration of the past and the thinking of a new collective future. Starting from the exhibition Archaeology of Colour: Returning from War, we will consider on the possibilities that a constant dialogue between the Military Museum and Artlink can offer to the region and the world, and in this case, especially to societies in transition such as Colombia and Northern Ireland.
Since the first half of the twentieth century, authors such as Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer have identified profound changes in art, both materially and procedurally, as well as conceptually. Such changes are the result of the conquests of modern technology and the profound reconfiguration of the social world. More recently, since the 1970s the arts have not only been working with canvases and materials, but also with concepts, people, institutions, social problems, among others. Thus, nowadays the work of art is thought of as part of a whole and, as such, it is expected to dialogue with society.
For societies in transition, that have lived prolonged periods of violence such as Colombia and Norther Ireland and are now facing the challenges of peace building, the questions about the role of museums, archives, memorials, cultural heritage and their contemporary representation through art are of a great interest. The panellists will discuss the importance of art in facilitating processes of memory and the influence it can have on the way a society moves forward from reflection and understanding of violence, trauma and loss, and also the relevance of art in the construction of collective and subjective narratives around these traumatic/complex events with a view to redress.
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