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© Susanne Bosch, 2009
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Project Arts Centre
Opens July 2, Thursday at 6pm, until August 15
Belfast Exposed Photography
Opens July 1, Wednesday at 7pm, until August 7

‘Sinn Féin’, ‘Ourselves Alone’, or ‘We Ourselves’ refers historically to Ireland being an occupied and colonised country for centuries.‘Ireland is not like other European countries. It is, historically, a colonised country not a coloniser, some would say Northern Ireland still is a colony… Its troubled history left its legacy of a minority question’[1].

The issues of, who belongs to the nation, the modes of belonging, within those borders - or even, who constitutes a minority - have all been intensely fought over. ‘Ourselves Alone’ is a term that nowadays might represent the idea to be able to take care of the existing community. It appears to be the conclusion of how to handle an economical crisis situation. The term also includes the idea of sending people (foreign-national community members) back home to their place of origin. The concept seems to imply an inability to support the Other any longer [2].

(Y)ourselves Alone? In the 8 posters and one billboard, Susanne Bosch has taken away objects and individuals that clearly have no origin in Ireland. Working with the idea of a wish, ‘to be in a nation of one’s own’, she removed ‘foreign objects’, all that is not local. This included foreign made cars, non indigenous plants, people, Jesus, non local businesses, foreign foods and services ... If one removed everything that is not indigenous to a specific nation, for example, 70% of the material used for construction is imported, fuel for locally produced cars is imported, the street furniture is not produced in Ireland, vast quantities of food is imported- not much at all would remain. Would (Y)’ourselves Alone’ function successfully in a global world, isolated on an island? What would remain that is actually local? Darwin suggested that survival via cooperation and collaboration might be more appropriate in today’s world than the survival of the fittest.

[1] Miller, D., Rethinking Northern Ireland: culture, ideology and colonialism, Longman, Harlow, Essex, 1998, p253-274

[2] http://www.citizensinformation.ie/categories/employment/migrant-workers/employmentpermits/work_permits [accessed online on 10th October 2010].

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As the stones shift beneath our feet, where will discontent arise? Has post-boom Ireland already begun to witness an upsurge in nationalism as unemployment rises rapidly in 2009?

Project Arts Centre and Belfast Exposed have invited four artists with a common interest in the complexities of multi-cultural living to make new work for The Prehistory of the Crisis (II). This exhibition brings Susanne Bosch, Anthony Haughey, Daniel Jewesbury and Sinéad McCann together at a time in history when economic recession underscores every cultural and artistic event taking place in Ireland, North and South. This situation is not just symptomatic of the recession that has hit many globalised economies since 2008. Ireland’s recession brings with it one of the most pronounced changes in fortune, and significantly, Ireland’s first major drop in productivity since the boom days - the swan-song of the Celtic Tiger. For Northern Ireland the credit squeeze, compounded by cuts in public spending, threaten the unfinished work of economic and social regeneration promised by the peace process.

Many migrant workers have left Ireland in recent months and with imminent changes to the eligibility for new work permits coming into effect across both jurisdictions, many more non-EEA citizens will be denied the right to work, forcing them to leave the country. The Prehistory of the Crisis (II) situates itself in a moment when the idea of crisis is twofold: while the term is strongly associated with the impact of economic recession, the cultural crisis which might or might not emerge is bound to be characterised by a relationship to ‘the other’.

The Prehistory of the Crisis (II) will be presented simultaneously in Project Arts Centre in Dublin and Belfast Exposed in Belfast, split over the UK and the Republic of Ireland, yet united by the island of Ireland. The art works in each exhibition are related, but not identical, and we hope to build a web of discourse between these two exhibitions which can help to open a public discussion about migration and attitudes towards individuals or minority groups. The artists don’t propose solutions to these problems, instead they will attempt to cast the discussion in new light – abstracting and performing notions of power play and disempowerment, suggesting what the future may hold. They will give a voice to otherwise muted perspectives, and provide a window into scenarios and activities, allowing spectators to design their own response to the exhibition.

This exhibition was preceded by The Prehistory of the Crisis (I) at Project Arts Centre in 2008, which brought together four European artworks and artists, Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin (FR), Jeanne Faust & Jörn Zehe (DE), Aernout Mik (NL), Andrijana Stojkovic (RS). Each of the artworks drew attention to the shifting attitudes towards immigrants (often within the contexts of various guest worker schemes), and the resulting clashes, conflicts or crises that have played a major role in defining ideas of culture within countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and France.

The Prehistory of the Crisis (II) is curated by Tessa Giblin (Project Arts Centre), with Monica Nunez (Belfast Exposed). Please see www.projectartscentre.ie for information on public talks associated with the exhibition, programmed by Jonathan Carroll, and www.belfastexposed.org for events taking place in Belfast.