Art Review: ‘I can say this with absolute certainty. I was there’
The collaboration of knives, forks and newspapers make for an interesting exhibition at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast, by artist Sue Morris and University of Ulster lecturers Greg McLaughlin and Steve Baker.
The exhibition centres around the idea of conflicting perceptions of historical events and the relationship between an eye witness account of an incident compared to a politically driven, official statement. The events explored in the exhibition are the Miner’s Strike of 1984, Bloody Sunday and the Hillsborough Stadium disaster.
Art and academia collide, with Greg McLaughlin and Steve Baker abandoning their usual medium of print to take their first steps into the art world with this interesting multimedia installation, which is split into three galleries.
The first gallery focuses on the idea of the eyewitness testimony and for me it was the most personal and thought provoking piece. It was set in quite a still and isolated kitchen environment with a real eyewitness account of Bloody Sunday on the table and echoing eerily through speakers. What resonated with me was my first impression of the space, it seemed simple on the surface and the domestic setting was something any viewer could relate to, but when you looked closer and listened more intently, you could see and hear a very personal, raw and real account of what was experienced by an eyewitness to Bloody Sunday.
The second gallery provided a montage of images from the Miner’s Strike, Bloody Sunday and the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, playing continuously on opposite walls. I think Baker, McLaughlin and Morris successfully portrayed the idea of distraction and contradiction of media consumption, as each of the events opposed each other and the sounds and images playing collectively ended up distorting one another.
The third gallery cleverly mirrored the first, with the domestic kitchen setting presenting itself again but with a highly mediated make over. Each element of the kitchen setting was individually covered in newsprint and the sound of news bulletins from Bloody Sunday played on loop in the background. This gallery was the most controversial in my opinion, as the concept of a private and homely space was diluted with black and white newspaper, dull lighting and the sound of radio news.
The culmination of the three spaces, which were interconnected and open, showed the effects of propaganda on the everyday environment and how it can distort and contradict the idea of a first hand account and the integrity of what a witness experiences.
Greg McLaughlin, Steve Baker and Sue Morris have successfully made art and academia accessible to those they would not normally reach, by collaborating together and going beyond the academic. ‘I can say this with absolute certainty. I was there’ is a fascinating and moving glimpse into Bloody Sunday, The Hillsborough Stadium disaster and The Miner’s Strike, focusing on what connects each of these events and how they have been distorted by the media message.
The exhibition has been short listed for the EVA International, Ireland’s Biennial of Contemporary Art.