Souvenir 2016 – Dublin

‘Commemorative activity is by definition social and political, for it involves the co-ordination of individual and group memories, whose results may appear consensual when they are in fact the product of processes of intense contest, struggle and in some instances
annihilation’. John Gillis
Rita Duffy is an Artist who questions any conventional readings of traces of the past, she upends the gestures and the symbols, acting as a divining rod for the alternative ‘truth’.  Crucially she messes with the ideas on which conflict has often rested – in doing this, she suggests that the conflict itself arises from shifts that are universal in nature, that have their roots in something more primeval, be it changes of world order, in the role of women among many others.  In The Souvenir Shop, Duffy examines the absurd nature of the symbols of the 1916 Rising and the Great War backdrop, of how the borders between the nascent republic and the changing orders of European ascendancies.  In addition to this, she elaborates the fetishized nature of what remains after revolution: the appropriation of symbols that remain; emotions that are neutralized and de-humanised; and what survival requires.  Helen Carey Curator
 ‘I stepped off the bus from school outside Hamilton’s newsagent one evening in 1973. It was dark, wintertime and dismal, my only thoughts running to what I’d wear when I’d shed my maroon uniform. Such is the inner workings of the 14 year old mind. Curiously, metal pedestrian barriers lined the Stranmillis road, securing a flow of teatime travellers in their cars. I walked towards the zebra crossing rolled out like a huge black and white rug, leading directly to St. Ives Gardens. I stood between the belisha beacons, both feet carefully on the kerb and gradually the full spectacle of our local grocery shop in rubble came into focus. My senses took flight. I might have been standing on a magic carpet held in a moment of perfect surreal motionless. Tins and boxes littered the rubble, chaotic shapes strewn over the tangle of pipes and alarm siren. What once opened its door miraculously to  -129540 – the magic number was in tatters. The initial shock gave way to the simple realization: someone had blown up the Co-op at the end of our street and the contents were disgorged onto the pavement.  A sharp energy fled to my legs -was our house still there? Three doors behind a mountain of rubble and groceries, I pushed my hand to the upright front door. What had been there when I left for school was no longer -all had changed, utterly.….……the event is gone, we are left with stories. With a historical event, we not only have to bear witness, that is to tell what happened and address the needs of ghosts – we also have to interpret and conclude so that the needs of people today, they the children of ghosts, can be addressed in addition to the knowledge of history – we need the understanding of art –stories to identify, even unify, to give meaning, just as a painting is Colour that makes sense -so a story is life that makes sense.’  Rita Duffy

Film by Art O Briain