12 Aug 2022

Fort Dunree's Artlink hosts first international seminar on ‘art, war, peace & memory’

Fort Dunree's Artlink hosts first international seminar on ‘art, war, peace & memory’

Artlink Fort Dunree is encouraging members of the public to attend its first ever international seminar exploring the links between art, war, peace and memory – ‘Volver de la Guerra / Returning from War’ – which takes place at the art collective’s stunning Donegal location from 3-6pm on Thursday, May 26. 

The free seminar will be hosted by Adriana Valderrama López – a former Director of the Museo Casa de la Memoria (a museum in Medellin, Colombia, dedicated to the memories & victims of armed conflict) – and will see a range of leading international academics, artists and psychologists explore the artistic and material representation of war and peace in Ireland, Colombia & Germany.

It will also focus on the theme of ‘memories’ of conflicts from around the world and the wide-ranging possibilities of art as a social catalyst or vehicle for change. 

Adriana, who is a psychologist currently undertaking a PhD in Heritage & Museum Studies at Ulster University, was also the curator of Artlink’s latest exhibition in April/May 2022 showcasing a significant body of new work by Colombian artist Mario Vélez depicting his country’s 60-year-old conflict – including paintings, drawings, sculptures and videos. 

Adriana said: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to host this important international seminar exploring the links between art, war, peace and memory – and the different possibilities of discussion and representation that each of the spaces that are currently part of the cultural life of Fort Dunree can offer to the local community. 

“I’m also excited that the seminar will include panellists with the international calibre of Alena Kunkel (an expert in Forensic Psychiatry from Germany), Dr Garrett Carr, Senior Lecturer at Queens University Belfast (& author of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’- The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border) and Judith McCarthy, Curator of Donegal County Museum (a Trinity College Dublin graduate who has recently completed a five-year-term as a member of the Board of the National Museum of Ireland).    

"Art and war have a complex relationship, the two are opposite: art is creative, war is destructive. 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.” 

Adriana added: “Our international seminar will therefore reflect on the relationship between art, war, peace and memory. The panel will discuss 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 Mario Vélez’s exhibition ‘Archaeology of Colour: Returning from War’, we will consider the possibilities that a constant dialogue between Fort Dunree 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.  

“For societies in transition that have lived through prolonged periods of violence such as Colombia and Northern Ireland and are now facing the challenges of peacebuilding, the questions about the role of museums, archives, memorials, cultural heritage and their contemporary representation through art are of great interest.

"The panellists will therefore also 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 or complex events with a view to redress.

“Indeed, I firmly believe that our upcoming seminar will provide a fascinating and illuminating insight into the links between art, war, peace and memory that will not only resonate with the local community but also people throughout Ireland and beyond.” 

Artlink Project Co-ordinator Rebecca Strain said: "Through our programme of activities Artlink endeavours to create opportunities for Irish and international visual artists that increases public knowledge and appreciation of contemporary art.

"We want to build national and international connections for the arts in the North West of Ireland and to make Fort Dunree a focal point of artistic interest along the Wild Atlantic Way.

"We are delighted to have made this connection with Colombia through Adriana by which we are exploring both Colombian and Irish heritage and how art can be a catalyst for peace-making." 

The free international seminar ‘Volver de la Guerra / Returning from War’ will take place from 3-6pm on Thursday, May 26 at Artlink Fort Dunree – with everyone welcome and refreshments provided. Booking for the seminar is via Eventbrite

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