Fire Station Artists’ Studios first approached Tone Olaf Nielsen and Frederikke Hansen from the Danish curatorial collective Kuratorisk Aktion (KA) in June 2009 to develop a mentoring programme in Ireland with artists, whose practices are socially engaged. The Fire Station has a long history of supporting socially engaged arts practice and was interested in KA’s activist curatorial practice, as well as the postcolonial lens KA applies to their work, which since the collective’s formation in 2005 has examined the complex relations between historical colonialism, capitalist globalisation and neocolonial forms of exploitation on the one hand and postcolonial forms of conviviality on the other. Following a research trip to Ireland in January 2010 and a public hearing, KA proposed the think tank titled Troubling Ireland.

Aim of the think tank
The aim of the think tank was to provide a critical, aesthetic and discursive platform for socially engaged arts practitioners in which received notions of Irish identity, history and politics, and Ireland’s relationship to global capitalism, would be probed and unravelled. The think tank asked its participants to detect, destabilise, un-think and potentially transform the notion of ‘Ireland’ and its relationship to the global world order.

To view the think tank programme, click here (.pdf)

Following a public call for applications, selected participants were:
Kennedy Browne (collaborative partnership between artists Gareth Kennedy and Sarah Browne based in the Republic of Ireland)
Helen Carey (curator based in Dublin)
Anthony Haughey (artist based in Dundalk, Co. Louth and Dublin)
Anna Macleod (artist based in Dromahare, North Leitrim)
Augustine O’Donoghue (artist based in Dublin)
Susan Thomson (artist and writer based in Dublin)

Structured as a year-long mobile think tank convening at five different socially and politically significant locations in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the think tank developed a stimulating environment for discussing how art and curating can contribute to troubling dominant perceptions of the Irish pasts and presents, and allow a re-imaging of possible futures. These meetings took place over weekends in Dublin, Belfast, Limerick and Manorhamilton. They were comprised of knowledge sharing and building exercises, thematic readings, open slot presentations by participants, screenings, walks-abouts with local experts, lectures and discussions.

The think tank concluded in summer 2011 with a collective decision to produce artwork as an outcome of the think tank under the umbrella title of Troubling Ireland. This work would be imagined as a campaign. This campaign has its initial manifestation in September 2011 with the launch the Troubling Ireland website and a two-week Public Poster Campaign. To coincide with this campaign and as a conclusion to the think tank programme, there will be Public Hearing in Liberty Hall, Dublin on Friday, 16th September, 2011 from 2–4:30pm. Participants will discuss the methodologies behind the think tank and their individual poster responses to the idea of troubling Ireland. Further work will be developed by participants on related themes in 2012 with a view to exhibition in 2013.

The Think Tank programme thanks the following for their support:
Leitrim Sculpture Centre, Manorhamilton; Ballynafeigh Community Development Association, Belfast; Daghdha Dance Company; and Occupy Space, Limerick.

Fire Station Artists’ Studios is funded by The Arts Council, Ireland.

Kuratorisk Aktion
Kuratorisk Aktion [Curatorial Action] is an all-female independent curatorial collective committed to curating radical critique and critical action. The collective was formed in 2005 by Danish independent curators Frederikke Hansen and Tone Olaf Nielsen with an aim to take curatorial action against the injustices and inequalities produced and sustained by global capitalism. This has resulted in an ongoing curatorial investigation into the complex relations between historical colonialism, capitalist globalization, and neocolonial forms of exploitation on the one hand and postcolonial forms of conviviality on the other. In a broad body of projects, ranging from cross-disciplinary exhibitions to film programs, publications, and public discussions, Kuratorisk Aktion strives to examine how colonialism’s catastrophic race- and gender-thinking continues to structure the nationalized, racialized, classed, gendered, and sexed divides of globalized corporate capitalism. KA’s recent projects include: Rethinking Nordic Colonialism: A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts (2006), The Road to Mental Decolonization (2008), Metropolitan Repressions (2009), TUPILAKOSAURUS: Pia Arke’s Issue with Art, Ethnicity, and Colonialism, 1981–2006 (2010), and Troubling Ireland (2011–12).

Fire Station Artists’ Studios
Located in Dublin’s North Inner City, the Fire Station Artists’ Studios was established in 1993 to support professional visual artists. It provides subsidised living and working studios for Irish and international artists, as well as training and sculpture workshop facilities. Fire Station is also committed to supporting socially engaged arts as well as promoting dialogue and debate around this ever expanding area of arts practice. Over the years it has commissioned a number of ground breaking public and socially engaged arts projects including Inner Art (1997), Home (2002), Daedalus (2003) with Esther Shalev Gerz, 12 Angry Films ( 2006) with Jesse Jones. As part of its annual studio award Fire Station invited Polish artist Artur Zmijewski to Dublin in 2008-09 to develop a project, the final outcome of which was the film Two Monuments (2009), which was exhibited along with Democracies in RHA, Dublin in 2010. This coincided with the publication of The Applied Social Arts: Artur Zmijewski (2010). The Fire Station commissioned Troubling Ireland in 2010.