Migration, Memory and Mimesis

Moira McIver (Photographer), Lynne Connolly (Photographer), Dr Mary White (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

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"Migration, Memory and Mimesis" was a group exhibition in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast (5th Sept- 28th Sept. 2018) bringing together the work of three artists and lecturers working in photographic practice, Lynne Connolly (University of Chester), Moira McIver (UU) and Dr. Mary White (University of Loughborough). The exhibition explored ideas and experiences of migration and conflict in post-colonial Ireland and used a range of traditional and contemporary photographic processes and methods.

The Linen Hall Library, Belfast is a significant venue for this exhibition as the Linen Hall library’s collection focusses on Irish history and local studies and includes historical books and documents recording Irish emigration.

Moira McIver’s artworks explore the experience of migration within generations of the artist’s family, travelling between Scotland and Ireland between the 1930s and the 1980s.

McIver’s artwork is exhibited in three sections, the first series, "Shoals Flowing" was originally exhibited as part of a group exhibition entitled; "Relocating History: 7 Irish Women Artists", originally shown at the Fenderesky Gallery at Queen’s and the Orchard Gallery in 1993. This series of works used family photographs, archival imagery, photography and text. The work focusses on the artist’s mother, Ellen’s experience of leaving Derry at the age of 17, migrating from Donegal to find work in Glasgow in 1945, with Gaelic as her first language. Three of the framed artworks in this series, use enlarged black and white family photographs captioned with texts in Gaelic and English and explore gaps in translation between languages, distance within memory and shifting interpretations of photography. Two framed works function as a diptych and use family photography, archival images and text, to create a poetic and emotional response to these cycles of migration.

One display cabinet, on a different level of the library, contains a series of black and white photographic prints developed from 35mm film negatives, which were photographed in the 1980’s, but printed and publicly shown for the first time in this exhibition. This series entitled "Resonate" reflects on the artist’s own migration between Scotland and Ireland as a young woman and her explorations of self-identity as Irish/Scottish female artist.

The final cabinet contains new artworks, including digitally scanned and manipulated images and documents. McIver identifies the elliptical shape as a repeated pattern in family photographs and official documents and uses digital manipulation to alter the images and highlight; the framed mount around the photograph, the official printed stamp allowing entry into another country, the lens of the eye in a medical report. The repeating shape of the ellipse suggests orbiting cycles of closeness and distance, reflecting the complex experience of migration, the need to retain one’s own sense of identity and the desire for integration.

In this exhibition, the artist reflects back across four generations of migration and shifting changes in photographic technologies over this period. The digital scanning process used in this last series, was important, as well as the duplication of visual information, digital scans record the quality of paper and surface and bring the process closer to the indexical qualities of analogue photography. While, digital manipulation of the document allows a certain freedom to imagine new possible interpretations of the family archive.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBelfast
PublisherLinen Hall Library
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Sept 2018
EventMigration, Memory, Mimesis - Linen Hall Library, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Sept 201828 Sept 2018


  • photographic history
  • archive
  • migration
  • digital scanning
  • analogue photography
  • memory
  • Irish language


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