Conflicted Memory brings together Rita Donagh, Miriam de Búrca, Ruth Goddard, Adela Jušić, Christiane Baumgartner, Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Ninar Esber, an international group of eight female artists, whose experiences of living within conflict zones, or places of political unrest, address the issues that surround the concept of recollection.
Against a backdrop of nationalism, apartheid, civil war, and social and political change, Conflicted Memory also looks at the role of the artist in areas of conflict, where artists are often amongst the few that can carve out an alternative space for reflection, imagination and discussion beyond the entrenched fault lines.
The construction of memories and the related processes of recalling, rewriting, commemorating and forgetting, ultimately stem from a moment of personal or collective action that defines how history is written. Conflicted Memory reflects upon the prolonged nature of this process and, by accepting competing narratives, presents a view which is more nuanced than the absolute terms of truth and reconciliation which are characteristic of the political discourse that takes place in the aftermath of conflict.
Between them the artists explore the scope of memory, considering its personal, collective, subjective and selective forms. Some memories are held within a particular landscape, or are inscribed into texts, objects, national symbols and media images. Although exhibiting in various media- including print, drawing, painting and video- the artists share a contemplative approach to the emotionally-charged themes with which they deal. Also sharing a common method of creation through destruction, each work in some way involves either a blurring, layering or distortion of an image to make visible what was once hidden from view; and translating a momentary flashback into a lingering presence.
Rita Donagh’s work is an important precursor to the work by the young artists represented in this show. Fusing architectural drawings, cartography and newspaper images, her collages map key moments of the conflict in Northern Ireland, which she experienced first-hand in the 1970s.
Miriam de Búrca engages with her own experience of the persisting divisions in Northern Ireland.
Ruth Goddard reflects on her childhood memories of the end of apartheid in South Africa, crystallised in the day when the old history schoolbooks at her primary school were exchanged for new ones.
Adela Jušić tackles the memory of war in a very direct and personal way. Her work The Sniper (2007) is the expression of the artist’s own attempt to come to terms with her father’s involvement in the war. Jušić’s video installation narrates the entries from her father’s notebook, where he diligently recorded the number of Serbs he killed when he was member of the Bosnian army, with the artist’s hand drawing a red circle from which the image of her father gradually appears.
Christiane Baumgartner’s work Klassenkameraden, a screen-printed triptych based on one of her old school photographs, triggers her ambivalent memories of a childhood in the socialist GDR and locates her in a place and time relegated to history, where individuality was shunned.
Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s multi-media work revolves around her memory of, and on-going engagement with, Tunisia and the Middle East more generally. The tension between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ social and political values- expressed in her wall inscriptions and reinforced by the fragmentary nature of her installation- conveys a sense of living in several time zones at once.
Ninar Esber’s work deconstructs symbols of national identity. A selection of alternative flags based on these colours are visualised as wall paintings. Thus, the certainty at the heart of nationalism, projected by the display of national flags, is destabilised and transformed into something unrecognisable.
K. Yoland collects, creates and layers images in her multi-media work. In her video X-Steps Removed, a photographic image of the conflict in Gaza in 2008-09 flashes in front of our eyes like the countdown to an explosion.
CONFLICTED MEMORY 29 April – 1 June 2013 Alan Cristea Gallery London