Response 

Exhibition of original prints inspired by the Schwemberger Archive on display now in Unit 4, Bloomfield Shopping Centre, Bangor.

A catalogue containing 30 photographs taken by Shwemberger is available for purchase at £5.00 incl p&p. Please pay using the button below and include your postal address. 

The prints in this exhibition are for sale and exist as editioned works. If you are interested in any of the prints please contact the SPW office to ascertain the price and if more from the edition are available. 02891460595

RESPONSE background

During October 2005 I travelled to Peoria, Arizona to tour an exhibition of work by artists and
craftspeople from Ards in Northern Ireland. A strong cultural connection had been forged
between those two areas by way of an active and lively Sister City exchange programme.
On an earlier visit I had been fortunate to be introduced to Rob Taylor, Chair of
Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance at Arizona State University by Andre Licardi the then
Director of Arts Education for the City of Peoria. We met again to discuss possible artist in
residence programmes. Rob mentioned his work on archiving a collection of photographs
taken at the turn of the last century by a Franciscan missionary. He showed me several
examples and I was immediately fascinated by the history they revealed.

The images inspired me to consider the way in which cultures become transformed through
external influences or forced necessity and impelled me to create new artworks which tried
to capture this conflict between old and new. My hope as Director of Seacourt Print
Workshop (SPW) was that our artist/members would be similarly inspired to create new prints in
response to the images contained in this exhibition. SPW is a printmaking resource for
professional artists, which seeks to promote the art of printmaking through exhibitions, public
classes and targeted outreach. The new prints created will accompany the photographic
exhibition at future host venues, revealing how static records of past lives can speak to us
today through the shared experience of our common humanity. The opportunity for this
response lies directly with Rob Taylor whose leadership, negotiation skills and archival
diligence has secured this important collection for academic study, public access and
artistic interpretation.

My interpretation is of a profound social record of cultural imposition and limited assimilation,
the limitation being set by the dominant culture of course. Anyone growing up in a colonial
setting can identify with the incongruous combination of European attire worn alongside
indigenous artifacts such as jewellery and ceramics. The image of three women standing in
New Mexico, carrying water contained in traditionally decorated ceramic pots, wearing
tartan shawls has significance in Northern Ireland over a century later. Tartan is increasingly
used as a cultural signifier to identify descendants of the Ulster-Scots who ‘invaded/settled’
Ireland in the 1600’s and, by the same gesture, distance themselves from the indigenous Irish
who were ‘subdued/civilised’ by those historical events.

One image in particular captures this underlying theme for me. In ‘St. Michaels Indian School classroom’ (above right) we see a group of pupils photographed from behind, their identities obscured as they face the civilising blackboard of a European education. Abraham Lincoln stares mutely from the wall. The scene reminded me of an exchange between ‘hedge’ school-master, Hugh, and one of his pupils in Brian Friel’s play ‘Translations’ which dealt poignantly with the conflict that arises during the imposition of one culture on another.

Hugh: Barbarus hic ego sum quia non intelligor ulli—James?
Jimmy: Ovid… ‘I am a barbarian in this place because I am not understood by anyone’
.
Robert Peters
Director
Seacourt Print Workshop
2007

Courtesy of Arizona State University and St. Michaels Mission and
the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Order of Friars Minor