GTG Diversity Forum: Resources & Reading

Esther Andare’s Blogs So Far

15th Jan 2021: Continuing the work of making the Arts diverse and inclusive

18th Dec 2020: Reflecting on our diversity conversations in 2020

30th Nov 2020: Show Us Our Culture

23rd Oct 2020: Black History Month – Celebrating Black Voices


UPDATED Organisations in NI and ROI that are doing amazing things!

Please note this is not an exclusive list – If you are aware of more, please email them to us!

Angelica Network

ArtsEkta

Belfast City of Sanctuary

Belfast Multi-Cultural Association

Beyond Representation

BeyondSkin

Black Culture Movement

Black and Irish

Bounce Culture

Diverse Youth NI

JoinHer Network

Migrant Centre NI

Origins Eile

UKPivot

United Against Racism


Esther’s Recommended Books for Black History Month

FICTION

  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola
  • East of Acre Lane by Alex Wheatle
  • That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

NON-FICTION

  • Black and British: a forgotten history by David Olusoga
  • Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
  • British: On Race Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch
  • Tribes by David Lammy
  • Afropean by Jonny Pitts
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Recommended Articles

Eight mentorship schemes for POC

Racism in Northern Ireland: ‘Nobody born to be a racist’

‘Where are you really from?’ Growing up black in Ireland

Young and black in Northern Ireland

Blackwash – What it’s like to be black in Northern Ireland

‘There is a lot of hard work to be done’: How the art world can step up for Black Lives Matter

BBC Newsround: What is racism – and what can be done about it?

How black women were whitewashed by art

GTG Workshop: Drawing inspired by Outburst!


We’ve been lucky to see this year’s Outburst exhibition What al-Nadeem Knew here in the gallery, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to share it with the public yet, as we are still closed under Covid-19 restrictions. We hope we can re-open in time to welcome you all back to see it.

In response to the exhibition, our Gallery Assistant Katharine has created a fun drawing workshop for our Junior Gallery artists. In the activity Katharine and Esther explore how we might imagine a person differently if we take away pronouns that are used for a girl or a boy. We are going to try to describe someone we know purely by what they look like, what they like to do and their personality and then draw them!

The person you draw may look different to the person you know! 



What you are going to need:
2 pieces of paper
Something to draw with: pencil, rubber
Something to colour with: pens, pencils, crayons, paints etc.
A partner for the exercise (if no one is available you can also print off our suggested list of descriptions)


Exploring the GTG Gallery Archive: Juno Calypso


Continuing our re-cataloguing of GTG Exhibition Archive material, Gallery Assistant and artist Katharine Paisley writes about one of her favourite (re)discoveries so far!

Recently, we’ve been sorting through old archive material – as a new(ish) member of the GTG team, I’ve found this a great way to get to know the Gallery’s past and the journey it’s been on to get to where we are now.

Something that stood out for me in the archive was an old show programme for Juno Calypso’s ‘The Honeymoon Suite’. I don’t want to disappoint Calypso by falling into the gender stereotype but the beautiful pink imagery pulled me in!

On the programme’s front cover Juno Calypso’s character ‘Joyce’ stands in a blush pink room, surrounded by pink furniture and ornate pink curtains, this contrasts against her costume of a wig, a white beaded wedding dress and a pink electronic beauty mask. The only other objects in the shot include a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Oil and a plate.

Described as a ‘photographic mission’ ‘The Honeymoon Suite’ captures Calypso’s week spent posing as a travel writer at a couples-only honeymoon resort in Pennsylvania, while in character as her alter ego Joyce. London born photographer Calypso has been using this alter ego since 2011 to ‘re-enact the private underlife of a woman consumed by the laboured construct of femininity’.

All of my work essentially boils down to two things: desire and disappointment […] The honeymoon hotel is a space charged with anticipation, and desire. I like to put my character through the rituals that would otherwise play out in these spaces with two people – the preparation, and then watch as disappointment unfolds. Solitude and loneliness are big themes. I’ll only ever appear alone.” Juno Calypso.

The photographic work has a really beautiful almost ethereal feel to it. I would have assumed these places were sets if not told otherwise. Calypso described the resort as clearly being dreamt up in the head of a man; solely designed ‘for looking at your lover, or at yourself’. Apparently, Juno saw pictures of the Hotel in Pennsylvania, decided instantly she needed to go there to make work and was on location with her costumes and camera a week later.

The pastel shades and lighting are delicate and pretty, which contrasts against the sexuality Joyce is exploring and the assortment of anti-aging products she is desperately experimenting with.

The juxtaposition Calypso’s single, lonely ‘Joyce’ brings to these honeymoon suites almost creates a humorous tragedy. Joyce is acting out all these rituals that would normally take place between two people, but alone in one the most aesthetically romantic places you could imagine, it’s almost as if she’s in on the joke.

Alongside the exhibition programme was a zine titled ‘FEMALE GAZE’, which was created in collaboration with Go Girl, Golden Thread Gallery and Juno Calypso. The zine was a product of a workshop titled ‘Zining the Female Gaze’, each page was designed by a participant of the workshop. The work created aimed to visually combat the male gaze; edgy, feminist, collage is how I’d describe the resulting zine.

The Honeymoon Suite exhibition was produced in partnership with Belfast Photo Festival.



About Juno Calypso

Juno Calypso was born in London in 1989, and is a London based artist working with photography, film and installation. She developed ‘Joyce’ in 2012, channelling suburban isolation by placing her in garish sets furnished with pastel curtains and plastic food. Her degree show was awarded both the Hotshoe Portfolio Award and the Michael Wilson Photography Prize.  In 2013 The Catlin Art Guide featured Calypso as one of 40 of the most promising new artists in the UK, subsequently shortlisting her for the 2013 Catlin Art Prize. She was British Journal of Photography, IPA Series prize winner in 2016 and her work has been featured in The Guardian, Dazed & Confused and in the projects section of the British Journal of Photography. For her latest project, What to do With A Million Years, Juno staged photographs in a mansion built underneath Las Vegas in the 70s as a shelter from nuclear terror, and currently owned by a mystery group attempting to achieve immortality. 

Image Credit:
Juno Calypso, 12 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time, 2013, Photographic C-Type print, 101.6 x 152.4 cm / 40 x 60 in.


GTG Artists Present: Thomas Brezing


Perhaps Our Awakening Is Our Deeper Dream by Thomas Brezing is an exploration of human mortality, made in the wake of the death of the artist’s mother.

While the exhibition’s run in our Project Space was unfortunately cut short by the latest Covid-19 restrictions, Thomas has used the documentation photographs by Simon Mills to create this new short film tour of the artworks, with unique insight into its creation and his inspirations.



About the Exhibition

The exhibition consisted of works on paper – incorporating drawing, painting, print, poetic texts and collage – as well as four large artist books and an installation which quietly address fundamental existential questions: the transience, impermanence and fragile nature of our lives (and selves). The range of media and of modes of presentation reflects the artist’s interest in investigating different kinds of image-making and different ways of representing self, other, and the ties that bind us and which are loosed by death. This formal exploration mirrors the philosophical preoccupations captured in the exhibition’s title: the nature of consciousness, of reality itself.

The title image presents a central motif of the exhibition in which birds – creatures of both earth and sky – are emblems of grounded transcendence.

About the Artist:

Thomas Brezing is a Dublin based multi-disciplinary artist. His choice and use of materials is often intuitive, the product of experiment and improvisation. He enjoys allowing the work evolve on its own terms so that over time it finds its own form and determines its finished state. Time, loss, memory, absence are abiding concerns, as is his investigation of the nature of identity and, for him, the umbilical connections between his ‘German past’ and his ‘Irish present’.

About the Curator:

Sharon Murphy is an artist and curator based in Dublin. She has commissioned public art in a range of contexts and been curator-in-residence at Draíocht Art Centre since 2017. Murphy has curated and produced large and small-scale visual art projects and exhibitions in both gallery and public art contexts since 2009. Her work as a curator at Draíocht has been committed to the practice of emerging and mid-career artists and has focused on interdisciplinary practice, visual culture/new technologies, performance and work for children and young people.

Black History Month – Celebrating Black Voices

GTG New Needs Intern Esther Andare writes to mark Black History Month in the UK.

Entering the later part of 2020, we are left to adapt our lives to the ‘new normal’ due to the pandemic, but also to deal and process with the aftermaths of the Black Lives Matter protests. These worldwide protests that are still ongoing in some states in America stemmed from the unjust killings of black people, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers.


Mural in honour of George Floyd in West Belfast, 2020

Growing up in England, Black History Month was never something that was overtly highlighted or celebrated.  To put it simply, there is a significant lack of representation within the educational system; Black British history is never taught and often substituted for a single lesson on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Not that these revolutionary historical figures should not be taught; however, they are not the be-all and end-all of black history. So, it is evident by the increased awareness of Black History Month this year, that things are changing, with major organisations such as Sainsbury’s and the Royal Mail partaking in spreading awareness. This leaves me with a glimmer of hope that momentum from all the protests over summer in terms of racial inequality has not been lost. However, more is needed than just symbolic gestures and acknowledgement of the month. There needs to be racial equality in all aspects of society and culture; more uncomfortable conversations had about the realities of being Black.

The commemoration of Black History Month in the U.K. began in 1987 by a Ghanaian analyst, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. His original goal was to use the month to create a cultural space in the U.K. Addai-Sebo whilst working at the Greater London Council, hosted Dr Maulana Karenga to talk about the contribution of black people throughout history month was first celebrated in London. Eventually, Black History Month was celebrated and recognised by local authorities and voluntary groups around the U.K.

Last week whilst going through the gallery archive, I came across the 2012 Main Space exhibition, Loss. The exhibition was curated with the collaboration of the Imperial War Museum and featured Jananne Al-Ani, Annabel Dover, Rozanne Hawksley and Steve McQueen. To commemorate Black History Month, I will discuss Steve McQueen and his work Queen and Country, which was shown with Loss.



Before going through the archives, I was only really aware of Sir Steve McQueen as the Director of the Oscar-winning film Twelve Years a Slave and upcoming T.V. miniseries Small Axe.  McQueen is also equally as talented an accomplished artist, he was the recipient of the Turner Prize in 1999 and currently has an exhibition at the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. McQueen is very vocal about racism within the arts and pushes for diversity amongst the art, particularly in the film industry. In a recent interview with Esquire where McQueen reflected on the killing of George Floyd, he also noted the conscious efforts that he went to put a person of a minority in every single department whilst filming Small Axe. Mainly because McQueen believed that ‘what’s behind the camera [diversity] should be reflected in front of the camera.’


Image courtesy Imperial War Museum (c) Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Queen and Country was made to both commemorate and remember the individuals that fought and died in the Iraq War.  In 2006 McQueen travelled to Basra in Iraq, spending six days embedded with British troops. The work was initially meant to be a film about the soldiers he spent time with; however, due to restrictions, McQueen found other ways to convey the Iraq conflict. McQueen created an oak cabinet that was mounted with double-sided panels. The panels displayed 168 stamps showing the soldiers on the sheets along with their names, regiments, dates of death. McQueen used stamps because of their beautiful scale, allowing the photo to be recognisable and stamps could go around the world. The poignant work looks into the loss of lives and how that translated into a national loss, and in the same breath, Queen and Country explores the idea of remembrance.


Queen & Country at the GTG in 2012

I find McQueen’s tribute to the dead soldiers to be incredibly poignant, due to the numbness that people feel about war and the deaths that are entrenched in war as stamps are such a public affair and would be seen by many people, forcing the viewers to confront the effect of war and remember the loss that comes with the conflict.

‘Conflict and loss are so intrinsically linked that the problem of how to remember, how to memorialise, is ever-present.” – Sir Steve McQueen


Watch Steve McQueen’s Mangrove on BBC iPlayer from the 15th November and Amazon Prime on the 20th of November. Mangrove is a part of a 5-episode miniseries anthology, Small Axe, depicting the lives of Black British people during the 1960s and 1980s.

Other Black History Month events in Northern Ireland:

ACSONI (African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland) Black History Month talk series starting on the 27th of October with Esther Stanford Xosei

U.K. Pivot’s BHM Poetry and Dialogue event on the 24th of October

Also, because Black Lives Matter everywhere around the world, follow the various hashtags and support the movements:

Nigeria #EndSARS – A movement is fighting against police brutality. As a result of the protest, the Nigerian government shot at unarmed civilians.

The Democratic Republic of Congo #Congoisbleeding – Due to armed groups fighting, there are thousands of Congolese people being murdered and displaced.

Zimbabwe #Zimbabweanlivesmatter – The government has turned into an Army state, attacking innocent citizens.

Namibia #ShutItAllDown #ShutItAllDownNamibia – Young people in Namibia have been protesting about ongoing gender-based violence. The protesters are demanding that the government take action to fix the problem.

Not Alone continues in Rome

For the past two weeks, our touring exhibition ‘Not Alone’ has been installed in the Roman home of curator Micol di Veroli and exhibited to the world through her Instagram. Once Micol unpacked the artworks (under the curious gaze of her beautiful cat!), she displayed them amongst her own belongings, and wrote about impressions and inspirations she has drawn from them.

She wrote: “When the pandemic hit us, the world seemed to have stopped. It didn’t take us long to realize how the pandemic could block some things, while others continued to flow inexorably and untouched. With the lockdown in place, millions of people have been confined to their homes. Art has been a companion for many, with artists and museums feeling the need to keep the relationship with their audience alive simply by changing the “spatial dimension”, and by proposing the cultural content via social platforms including Facebook and Instagram. From these assumptions, Not Alone was born, an exhibition involving 8 Irish artists who responded to the call from the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast…”

Here are her writings and pictures of the exhibition so far.

‘To think about things together that appear to be separate’ by John Rainey, 2020. Parian porcelain.

“During the lockdown, thousands of women were forced to share an apartment with an abusive partner or relative. “To think about things together that appear to be separate” is the title of John Rainey’s work borrowed from an essay on intersectional feminism by Angela Davis. The nineties mark the beginning of the third feminist wave. From here, something begins to change. A new awareness is in the air. We realize that until that moment feminism had always spoken exclusively for women, alongside women. And not only. It was just a certain type of women: Western, white, healthy, wealthy. Therefore, there was an urgent need for inclusion. It was time to speak for all those women whose voices are further oppressed due to various personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation, origins, culture of belonging. Hands intertwined with the colours of the Pride flag want to remind us that privileges are not a merit but to defend those who have less than us. “


The Second Shift: On Crumbs of Shadow by Clare Gallagher, 2020. Dryer Lint, Dimensions Variable

“’If you want to be an artist, make all the men you want but don’t have a family’, said Nanda Vigo, undisputed lady of design and of an original artistic research centered on light. In short, being a woman, mother and an artist at the same time hasn’t always been easy. Many artists have given up their careers after giving birth to a child. Clare Gallagher is an artist and a mother. In the series of photographs called “The Second Shift“ she captured the B-side of the life of a woman artist, who returns home and is taking care of her family and housework.  The Second Shift: On Crumbs of Shadow is the testimony to the hidden work faced by a woman on a daily basis.”


Sutured by Sharon Kelly, 2020. Scrim, thread

“Sharon Kelly’s practice in recent years has focused on the areas of human experience and the body. In 2018, he she created the “Mind Fuel“ cycle, a survey on the body of athletes under stress. Subsequently her his interest shifted to the body / mind relationship and disease. In the first months of 2020, she was a BSR fellow, and this work represents the cycle carried out in Rome. The work poised between ex-voto and a museum find of human anatomy takes us inside the “Clootie Wells“ or the fabric fountains, an old Irish tradition linked to healing. Pieces of cloth are immersed in the water of the sacred well and then tied to a branch, while a prayer invokes “the spirit of good”. According to tradition, as the rag disintegrates over time, the disease vanishes.”

Not Alone will be with Micol for another week, and then it will continue on it’s journey, travelling next to Amsterdam. Follow its travels on Instagram!

‘Not Alone’ departs for Rome!


Our touring exhibition ‘Not Alone’ has left Bologna, and is on its way to Rome!

Carefully packed up by our first curator Chiara Matteucci, the artworks will now travel 400km across Italy to the home of Manuela Pacella in Rome. Manuela is an independent curator and writer, and she has visited and worked in Northern Ireland many times in the last decade, including guest curating exhibitions in the Golden Thread and at the MAC, Belfast.

We can’t wait to see her interpretation of the exhibition! (And fingers crossed everything arrives in one piece!).

Make sure to follow us on Instagram to see the arrival, unpacking and installation of ‘Not Alone’ in its second show in Italy.


GTG Artists Present: Aisling O’Beirn


Artist and Belfast School of Art lecturer Aisling O’Beirn has created this wonderful film collage tour of her studio, and a gallery of work for our latest edition of GTG Artists Present.



Aisling states that her work “explores relationships between politics, space and place, uncovering tensions between disparate forms of official and unofficial information. I examine space and place as physical structures and political entities through sculpture and animations relating to observed and theoretical structures being studied by contemporary astronomers and physicists.”


“I use a range of materials and process for installation and site-specific work, depending on context. Dialogue and discussion are key to participatory projects which have often involved long periods of research. The work is shown in galleries and a variety of public contexts.”

“I established dialogical relationships with astronomers at a range of institutions for recent projects focusing lay persons understandings of astronomy and theoretical physics. The body of work Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, was developed through ongoing dialogue with Armagh Observatory. Quaternion Quest resulted from work with Dunsink Observatory (The Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin) whilst Light Years from Here through The Centre for Astronomy NUIG, Galway.”

“These works explore ways laypersons attempt to understand scientific and political developments and how these articulate something of the political landscape. Failure and the unexpected are often integral to my processes, beginning projects from the stance of not knowing but seeking to understand. Dialogue, planning and long term engagement are key to this practice which evolves through both formal and metaphorical means. Many of my dialogical methods, interest in politics and pedagogy also extend from my roles as an art school lecturer and trade union rep.”

“With all these works I set myself the task of trying to understand difficult or abstract scientific problems using dialogue with astronomers through making, using the process of making to try to comprehend and discuss. When manipulating materials I have to physically and spatially grapple with various forces and phenomena such entropy, order, disorder and balance which can be understood both scientifically and politically. This making results in a variety of sculptural forms, whilst documenting the dialogical process of making, discussing, seeking feedback from scientists and modifying result in video works and animations.”


Aisling will also take over the GTG Instagram this weekend, with more insights into her work and inspirations!

GTG Artists Present is funded by Community Foundation NI.

Images Credits

  1. Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, installation shot MAC International 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo Simon Mills, Curated by Hugh Mulholland, MAC Belfast  Anne Barlow, Tate St Ives & Başak Şenova curator Crosssections
  2. 2) Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, installation shot MAC International 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo Simon Mills
  3. 3) Installation shot of Slices of Time in Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law. Photo Simon Mills
  4. 4) Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, Ursa Major, installation shot MCAC gallery 1, mixed media, dimensions variable, curated by J. Baker
  5. 5 Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, Uma Upsillion, curated by J. Baker
  6. Boolean Logic, Instillation shot and detail, salvaged timber, easel & drawing on Fabiano, dimensions variable, Glucksman, Cork, curated by F. Kearney
  7. Boolean Logic, Instillation shot and detail, salvaged timber, easel & drawing on Fabiano, dimensions variable, Glucksman, Cork
  8. Light Years From Here (622, Hirji: Albaset Dhanoon) , in Tulca, The Headless city, 2016, curated by Daniel Jewesbury
  9. Idir Iarracht agus Teip / Between Attempt and Failure, Danlann Dillon Belfast, ladders, easel, salvaged timbers and clamps, dimensions variable, installation shot 2016
  10. Quaternion Quest ‘The Bridge’, salvaged timber & clamps, dimensions variable, the LAB, Dublin 2014, curated by S. Barrett

GTG presents ‘Not Alone’, a unique touring exhibition for our strange new world…


Inspired by a fragment of an old song, Golden Thread Gallery director Peter Richards had an idea for an entirely new kind of exhibition, one that could overcome the distances forced between artists and curators worldwide by the Covid-19 pandemic. Not Alone is an exhibition in a bottle, containing eight new works from some of the leading artists on this island: Graham Gingles, Joy Gerrard, Sharon Kelly, John Rainey, Chloe Austin, Ailbhe Greaney, Megan Doherty and Clare Gallagher. Each has created a piece of art tiny or portable enough to fit inside a glass bottle, yet powerful enough to convey vast philosophies, stories and ideas, and endless possibilities of interpretation.

Packed up, the exhibition will now be sent out into our strange new world to international curators who will each mount the exhibition/s in their own homes. Installing and arranging the works in their space as they see fit, they will each create a new configuration, new context and new connections for the exhibition.

They will then pack Not Alone back into its bottle, and send it on to the next destination. At this moment in time it is on its way to Bologna, Italy, where the first curator, Chiara Matteucci, is waiting.

And after that, it will go to Rome, and then Amsterdam, and then… to destinations as yet unknown. It may never return, but we will follow its journey around Europe and share each iteration of the exhibition online.

Read the full story of the inspiration for this unique exhibition for our times, including more information on the artists and the artworks, in the presentation below.


Media enquiries:

Mary Stevens, Exhibitions Officer, Golden Thread Gallery info@gtgallery.co.uk / 028 90 330920 / www.goldenthreadgallery.co.uk

GTG Director and curator Peter Richards is available for interview, as are the artists involved.

Notes to editors:
Golden Thread Gallery (GTG) has played an important role in the provision of contemporary visual art in Belfast and Northern Ireland since it was established in 2001. Our mission is to present quality and innovative artistic programmes that capture the diversity of contemporary arts practice, and which engage, educate, challenge and inspire. We strive to build and engage the widest possible audience for contemporary arts, extending the reach of the arts, nurturing a deep understanding and enjoyment of current visual arts practice within the broader community, while developing, supporting and promoting the work of contemporary Northern Irish artists and visual arts practice. The GTG is a recognised charity, and our core funders are the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.

Eight Years On: Ambulatorio Belfast Anniversary


Eight years ago today on the 11th July, we opened Ambulatorio Belfast by Oscar Muñoz to the public at the Crumlin Road/Flax Street interface – meaning the interface itself was opened to the local communities for the first time in decades. Today we look back and celebrate the story of how this extraordinary temporary public art intervention within one of Belfast’s most contentious interfaces came to be.


Press Eye – Belfast Northern Ireland – 9th July 2012 – Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

How did the project begin?

Ambulatorio Belfast would not have happened without the Draw Down the Walls project: a collaboration between North Belfast Interface Network (NBIN), Lower Shankill Community Association (LSCA) and the Golden Thread Gallery (GTG).

Draw Down the Walls was created to imagine a city without barriers. North Belfast is no stranger to the news, but stories were generally focused on the negative and did not reflect the growth in positive relationships being built between communities. Bringing an international artist into the mix encouraged residents and visitors to see the area differently and provided opportunities for young people to have creative involvement in the social decisions that affected their lives.


The Artist

Oscar Muñoz lives and works in Cali, Colombia. His work has been exhibited in numerous group shows including the Venice Biennale (2007), Prague Biennale (2005), and Cuenca Bienal (2004). In 2008 he had solo exhibitions at the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada; the Herzliya Museum, Israel; the Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA), London, UK; and the Museo Extremeño e iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Badajoz, Spain.

Oscar Muñoz: Narcisos, 2002 © ConstanceMensh Courtesy: Philadephia Museum of Art
Oscar Muñoz: Narcisos, 2002 © ConstanceMensh Courtesy: Philadephia Museum of Art

Highly regarded as one of the most important visual artists working in Colombia today, Muñoz has captivated audiences around the world with the universal subject that underlies all of his work – the commonality of loss and remembrance.

His experience of working in another conflict zone put the local into an international context, providing a unique window of opportunity to spotlight the relationships that are being built between historically divided communities as we move towards more hopeful times.

While Oscar’s work subtly alludes to the impact of the war in Colombia – another region immersed in political and social turmoil – his themes have a more universal appeal, exploring themes of memory, human loss and impermanence.

Ante la Imagen, 2009 © Oscar Muñoz, courtesy of the artist and Mor charpentier gallery

Muñoz reinforces this: “My work today arises from my interest in understanding how a society comes to accept war – or rather, a dark and corrupted succession of wars over more than 50 years and which have not yet ended – as part of the routine of living, where both the past and the present are plagued with daily violent events which are persistently repeated”.

Creating the Ambulatorio Belfast

In February 2012, Oscar Muñoz was invited to visit Belfast and meet communities from both sides of the interfaces. 

As a response to this visit he developed Ambulatorio, a site specific installation using aerial maps of North Belfast sealed under a layer of cracked glass. 



Ambulatorio was initially created using aerial photography of Cali in Colombia.  In Ambulatorio Belfast, Oscar transformed the ‘no man’s land’ between the two barriers that separate the Crumlin Road and Flax Street. The artist installed a unique view of north Belfast at ground level, involving a series of photographic tiles across 120 feet between the two interface gates.


The Project Partners

Peter Richards, GTG Director recalls ‘Through the gallery I have had the privilege of working with many incredible people on many wonderful projects. But Ambulatorio Belfast still stands out as a truly special moment – a coming together of the best of people, to make this happen, regardless of obstacles.

I have so many memories of the project, some very vivid – such as the whole install team, myself included, sat on sandbags weighing down bolts whilst the adhesive set, in the lashing rain, to level out the panels!

But rather than me go off into sharing all my memories, I’ve chosen an extract from one of the texts in the catalogue; a transcribed conversation between the key project partners Breandán Clarke from the North Belfast Interface Network Ian McLaughlin from the Lower Shankill Community Association and Ruth Graham from the GTG about the reasons for getting involved, how it connected with the work they do and how Ambulatorio Belfast  impacted on the residents of interface areas.  

Imagining a City Without Barriers

Ruth:    I’m the Development Officer for Golden Thread Gallery and our involvement with Ambulatorio Belfast began with Draw Down the Walls.  When Peter Richards, the Gallery Director, was invited to pitch an idea for the Cultural Olympiad as part of the London 2012 Festival, it made sense to start with Draw Down the Walls and invite an internationally respected artist to make a proposal that would mean something to residents of interface areas.

Ian:      The Lower Shankill Community Association was formed in 2000.  Part of the work we do is to motivate our community to get involved in the regeneration of their area and the decisions that affect their lives.  I’ve been involved with LSCA at various levels from 2000 and have worked here since 2009.  Ambulatorio Belfast came to the fore through working relationships developed from the North Belfast Interface Monitoring Group, leading to Draw Down The Walls which, in turn, led to our collective involvement in the project.

Breandán: North Belfast Interface Network is one of the driving forces behind Draw Down the Walls and by using some of the conversations within Draw Down the Walls as a starting point, we were able to widen the context of the project to imagine a city without barriers, where the barriers were recognised as not being solely physical.  The opportunity to realise a project as part of the Cultural Olympiad was an ideal way to increase our impact on both a regional and international level.  Ambulatorio Belfast allowed us to engage residents living close to an interface that has been closed for almost 30 years and look at how it could be temporarily opened to allow this project to happen. We needed something people could connect to during what is historically the most contentious time of the year. Creating an artwork with an international artist, being part of the Olympics and seeing a good news story from north Belfast were all factors in increasing residents’ confidence to participate.  It also allowed residents to participate in community relations activity without really thinking about it: they were simply taking part in something together.

Ian:  It was also an opportunity for our residents to connect with London 2012, which had not impacted on Northern Ireland as much as it had with other areas of the United Kingdom.  By connecting with the project, ordinary community members felt a sense of pride through being “involved” in London 2012.  We also used the project as an opportunity to open another gate for the duration of the exhibition, funnily enough in Columbia Street, to make it easier for our senior citizens to visit the project.  This was actually requested by people who attended a consultation meeting before the artwork was installed.

Ruth: We found that the project introduced us to new partners and confirmed our view that high quality art can change the way people think about their communities.

Breandán: The feedback has been overwhelming, from local residents to media reports and reviews as well as being a live topic on Twitter and Facebook for the entire summer. The conversations generated within the community relations sector have gone to the most senior levels of government in Belfast and it has been benchmarked as a model of good practice by Belfast City Council & OFM/DFM.  The project was launched by DCAL Minister Carál NíChuilín and supported by DSD Minister McCausland & DOJ Minister Ford, demonstrating that Draw Down the Walls, by uniquely using contextual art to engage communities in community relations activity, can affect real change.

Ruth:    I spent a fair bit of time on the site so for me, the responses were first hand.  Most of them were positive and most were visitors the local area.  Comments ranged from, “I’m going to bring the wife to see this” to “why don’t they keep these gates open?” to “where’s the art?”. Most poignantly there was one visitor who had not been near the site since his brother was shot close by.  He told the invigilators that it was important for him just to be in the space. The project encouraged discussion about the past, the artwork and about barriers in general.  Art galleries can be silent – like libraries  – with Ambulatorio Belfast there was contemplation AND talking.

Ian:  We have had very positive feedback from everybody who was involved in the project and from those who visited Ambulatorio Belfast.   There were also some very interesting stories from our elderly visitors who vividly remember a North Belfast without barriers. 

Ruth:    I felt a difference when I returned to the site after being away for a week or two.  The site itself felt charged with layers of meaning and looking at Ambulatorio Belfast from a fresh perspective revealed an element of the project that can only be described as poetic.  In terms of real difference – yes, communities are talking more about how easy it should be to open more interfaces and there seems to be a desire for meaningful change, but there is a long way to go. 

Breandán:  Change began as soon as we started to discuss the potential of the project. The difference was that there was a resolute undertaking from everyone that whatever we did, it had to be embedded in the North Belfast community. To realise the project we had to get access to a space that had been closed for 30 years, we had to broker keys, then, with consent from residents, have a doorway cut into a steel barrier, so the difference had already been made. The space has changed forever both physically and contextually and so has the relationship between the communities. The next step is to gather the learning from the process, evaluate what was achieved and look at what we could have done better. People are talking about the future of these structures and the conversation has also begun about how we can use art to “create the conditions to imagine a city without barriers” when we use it contextually and with relevance to the audience. The real ownership of Ambulatorio Belfast and its legacy are the residents of Ardoyne/Shankill-Woodvale.

Ruth:    At the moment we are de-installing the artwork.  It was never meant to be permanent because that would freeze the space in some sort of limbo where the exhibition would always be open but the road would always be closed.  It is possible that we will develop more temporary projects on the same site as a way of building on the interest generated through Ambulatorio Belfast

Ian:      We should take this opportunity to build on the Ambulatorio project to create the conditions whereby interface barriers are consigned to the pastDraw Down the Walls is open!


Ambulatorio Belfast, commissioned with the London 2012 Festival in Northern Ireland, was well documented at the time, in the media:

BBC Evening Extra

Irish Times

In art reviews:

Culture Northern Ireland

Art writer Slavka Sverakova

In academia:

Études Irlandaises

In local journalism:

Shared Future News

TransConflict

And a beautiful publication was created which is still available to buy – sales support the work of the Golden Thread Gallery.


Ambulatorio Belfast was a project which created a space that gave people the freedom to explore the artistic value of the project and allowed people to experience, and participate in, an artist’s vision of a city without barriers.

And it showed the power of art as a force with huge civic importance. We look back on it today, eight years on, with pride and knowledge of what communities coming together in Belfast can achieve.

Aerial photography at Flax Street for the AMBULATORIO BELFAST