Document Type

Theses, Masters


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) to the Technological University Dublin, 2007.


In the late 1980’s, flying somewhere over the ocean on one of my many journeys to visit family in Ireland, I wrote this Haiku. Some years later, I re-read it while sitting in my studio surrounded by scraps of old travel tickets, letters and other ephemera. Looking at the poem once again, I began to wonder about home and to which, if any, I belonged. Late one evening, listening to the voices on BBC Radio 4 crackle over the air waves into my damp Dublin studio, I looked out at the construction sites for the city’s new steel and granite utopias and thought about the number of migrant workers silently travelling to and from these sites at the most isolated hours of the day. As the skyscrapers and new apartments heralded Ireland’s new economic, environmental and social change, I began to see, for the first time, the connections between my stories of displacement and the stories of those employed to built the new world rising around me. How shared histories impact on the representation of national identity is not something that has been fully explored in Irish curatorial practice to date. It is possible that this is because Ireland has only recently been affected by global mobility. In this thesis I will attempt to establish how artists and curators can facilitate more open and pluralistic representations of national identify in exhibitions of contemporary art. How I as an artist and a curator can understand the division between national and international, local and global, in a manner that is more open and fluid than past representations of Irish national identity in exhibitions of contemporary art is addressed using postcolonial discourse. Examining the term nation and looking at representations of national identify is a complex process that often reveals contradictory arguments. The many shifts and transformations that have taken place throughout the country in recent years will also be taken into account in this discussion. Despite the fact that many artists practising in Ireland today are embracing a more global perspective, their practice often retains an identity that is rooted in the local. There are curators who approach this mixture of local and global with caution, as they fear that the work might be bound up with ethno-nationalism. Other curators simply do not feel that debates surrounding national identity are relevant today because air travel and global movement have transformed the notion of home, belonging and national identity from its former static status. This thesis wishes to acknowledge that global mobility has created what could be termed a crisis of representation in the contemporary Irish visual arts. This crisis of representation is addressed over four chapters in order to ascertain if a postcolonial approach to curating can offer a more fluid representation of Irish identity in the 21st century.