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  • Art of the Troubles: Artists on film

    Art of the Troubles: Artists on film

    Over the past three months I have been busy producing a series of short films to coincide with the Art of the Troubles exhibition at the Ulster Museum. It has been, and continues to be, one of the most interesting and enjoyable projects I have ever worked on. Meeting some of Northern Ireland’s most influential artists, and listening to their experiences has been a real privilege.

    Jack Pakenham

    The exhibition itself brings together the work of 50 artists including Joe McWilliams, Willie Doherty, FE McWilliam, Rita Duffy, Paul Seawright, Jack Pakenham, Micheal Farrell and Richard Hamilton. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and sculpture.

    The original project involved the production of 6 mini documentary style films telling the story of the artists whose work features in the exhibition. However, due to the success of the original 6 productions, NMNI commissioned an additional 14! So far 15 artists have been filmed with 7 currently online.

    With each film I wanted to try and profile the artist, giving a personal background, why and how they reacted to the Troubles and the meaning behind their work. With a small budget, and a brief to produce films that had a ‘raw’ feel, I opted for a one-camera shoot, with focus on the ‘talking head’ and covering footage of archive material, personal imagery, the art and environment. Keeping the style of each film simple meant the focus was on the artist and what they were saying. I also feel that using just the one camera is much less intimidating and this probably helped put the subject at ease and speak more candidly.

    Involvement in this project has meant working closely with both NMNI staff and the artists themselves to ensure the best use of the art, the artist and the archive material. In particular I must mention Kim McWhinney Head of Art at NMNI and Anna Licehing, Assistant Curator at NMNI who have both been fantastic at gathering information on the artists and coordinating shoot details. Anna also acted as interviewer for each of the films. As I was operating the camera and recording sound it proved a great help to have someone who was capable of keeping the conversation going and encouraging the artists to speak openly.

    Rita Duffy

    It’s fantastic that the project was extended and is still ongoing. Not only are the artworks in the exhibition fascinating and thought provoking, but so too are the stories behind them and the events and experiences that made the artists feel like they needed to react. Both myself and JPR very proud that the films will also form part of the Art of the Troubles archive.

    Involvement in this project, I believe, has reinforced the opportunities that are present for organisations, like NMNI, to become original content producers, showcasing video and audio productions that provide additional information or entertainment, ultimately improving the user/visitor experience. It is fantastic that NMNI have embraced this and we hope the Art of the Troubles exhibition will be enhanced as a result of these films.

    Michael