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Artist statement/gallery statements/or comments
‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’ is an exhibition of work by artist Ursula Burke for PS2 Gallery, Belfast. Burke’s intention is to promote a re-reading of contemporary representations of Ireland and Irishness. For this exhibition, she has created as series of porcelain sculptures and embroideries that offers wry, provocative and sometimes humorous representations drawn from a matrix of socio-political concerns.
The final lines of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 novel, The Unnamable, strangely presage the modern and late modern anxiety that has come to typify contemporary Ireland. It can be argued that the phrase, ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’ serves as a pre-emptory witness and warning to the phenomenon that was to become the field of ‘Identity’. The phenomenon of identity construction in the field of Sociology has reached its zenith in the last fifty years. On the whole, it can be argued that Irish identity is now less concerned with religious, political or gendered ways of being: identity is an act of ‘becoming’ that is played out again and again. Without any difficulty, the Internet facilitates the purchase of off the peg identities carried out as a private individual act with great ease and speed. Has this given rise to a cultural turn in which community and tradition is no longer the vestige of the Irish individual?
Values such as materialism, isolationism, exclusion and lack of dissent can be identified as characterising life in Ireland. Much of what passed for the less appealing and negative social consequences of the economic boom had been glossed over in the dewy haze of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years. However, as the fog is slowly lifting, what is being unveiled is an economic crisis in the form of an ongoing Recession, plummeting housing prices and repossessions, rapid unemployment and rising levels of emigration, the exposure of child sex abuse revelations and cover up by the Catholic Church and clergy in 2009/10 and an apparent resurgence in terrorist activity in Northern Ireland. Does this bring the fissures, contradictions and collisions in Irish cultural economic orthodoxy into sharper focus? Are the apparent rising levels of insecurity and disillusionment of the Irish public just another expression of an individualised society?