Niamh McCann: someone decides, hawk or dove

8 Dec 2023-7 Apr 2024

The MAC Belfast
Belfast, Northern Ireland BT1 2NJ


'someone decides, hawk or dove' is a commissioned work by artist Niamh McCann as part of the programme for ART:2023, a Decade Of Centenaries supported by The Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

 The title of the exhibition 'someone decides, hawk or dove' is a line from the poem Hairline Crack in Belfast poet Ciaran Carson’s 1989 collection Belfast Confetti. Hairline Crack is also the title of a film central to this exhibition which comprises of three acts with two musical interludes. An eyeless dog guides us through three separate landscapes: one bucolic, one musicological and one socio-political, in an odyssey along the border region of Northern Ireland. Like a mythological seer, this eyeless dog perceives and interprets obscure truths, through philosophical musings on Man’s long hubristic dominion over beasts, places, people.

'someone decides, hawk or dove' seeks to subvert the assumed perspectives of social, political, and geographical landscapes. The work responds to the 1922 institutionalisation of the Northern and Southern borders of Ireland and the ongoing consequences and reverberations of this partition.

McCann mines deep seams of colonialist atrocities and historic legacies to speculate on what language, story, and imagery might be missing from accepted colonial narrative(s) or obstructed by its in-built global systems of naming, ownership, political power-play, and cultural displacement.

The exhibition will feature a sculpture/structure Turn Again developed by Niamh McCann in collaboration with architect Peter Carroll, bespoke seating by architect Peter Carroll, and a commissioned ensemble and specially composed music by Grammy-nominated artist Iarla Ó Lionáird (The Gloaming).

Concerned with acts of remembrance and reflection, this work draws from territory borders, architecture, street names, flags, and ceremonies to convolute history and to allow for elucidated slippages and the emergence of complex, non-linear narratives.

“Making is a form of challenging narrative,” states McCann, “and 'someone decides, hawk or dove' is a way of instinctively involving myself with subject, materials, and scale to a degree that risks and reinstates a reality more truthful to the fragmented, messy, and disjointed nature of life, than ‘fact.’”

Work from 'someone decides, hawk or dove' – or iterations of same – has been shown at the Rudolf-Scharpf-Galerie, Ludwigshafen, Germany (hosted by Wilhelm-Hack-Museum), at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, StableArts, Washington DC (hosted by Solas Nua), and at The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Meath, Ireland.

'someone decides, hawk or dove' is curated by Belinda Quirke, Director Solstice Arts Centre.