KEEPER is an archive and exhibition series comprising artworks and gathered material relating to the lived experience of Northern Ireland. KEEPER artworks are continue to be created and each exhibition is unique to the time, to the legacy and to the context.
The exhibitions are created from found objects, digital and film colour cinematography, black and white 35mm film photography, 35mm colour slide, digital audio site recordings, and interviews. Initially these artworks were generated from the original Long Kesh compounds (1971) and the cellular HM Prison Maze (1976 – 2000). KEEPER as an art project is continually evolving and each manifestation is unique to the geo-socio and political context. The archive has expanded over twenty-five years and no longer contains elements exclusive to these two sites of incarceration.
Research Drawing 01 a conceptual collage mapping the research and influence on the KEEPERarchive/art project. This framed wall piece documents lines of artistic inquiry, mapping individuals and social-historical influences in the creation of artworks from the Keeper archive art project.
Further artworks include: Consuming Politics (1998 / 1997), Hands (1999), Bomb (2004), Billy's Museum (2004/re-mastered 2017), AGREEMENT (2004-2023), The Maze Hunger Strikers 1981 - Billy Hull (English & German Languages links below) (2007) and The Soldier and The Queen, (2005/re-mastered, 2017). The Peace People 'A Vision of the Future Rooted in the Past', narrated Ciaran McKeown (link below) and Mairead Corrigan Maguire's portrait (2017) from Dunsmore's unique filmed portraits of representations of the Nobel Peace Laureate’s of Northern Ireland.
The Peace People began in 1976 as a protest movement against the on-going violence in Northern Ireland. Its three founders were: Mairead Corrigan, (now Mairead Corrigan Maguire), Betty Williams (who died on the March 17th 2020, aged 76 ) and Ciaran McKeown (who died on September 1st 2019, also aged 76). Over 100,000 people were involved in the initial movement and two of the founders, Mairead and Betty, received the Nobel Peace Prize for that year.Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown founded The Peace People, a cross-community grassroots movement dedicated to ending the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. The Peace People’s effective campaign for nonviolence saw the rate of violence in Northern Ireland during this period, as measured by number of fatalities, fall by 70%, and acted as a powerful catalyst for cross-community dialogue throughout the following decades. From 1977 on, much of the movement's work was below the media surface, in areas such as prisoner welfare, assisting people swept up in the conflict to leave paramilitary organisations, and holding confidential meetings with active combatants to encourage moves towards ceasefires.
The Soldier and The Queen, 2005/re-mastered, 2017, 3-channel video with narrated audio and book, 3-screen 4:3 video installation. The spoken text and words depicted on three monitors are sourced from Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, a book the artist found abandoned on the floor in a pile of books inside the education hut. Hand written notes in different handwriting form another recounted story. In The Soldier and The Queen this marginalia is narrative and non-linear, spoken by two Northern Irish men and the text is visually presented using video.
Containers (working title) is an artwork in development, based on alcohol made over period 1978-1980 by Loyalist and Republican internees from the original Long Kesh / Maze prison compounds, Northern Ireland. To save them from destuction, the containers having been gifted to the artist who has created a photographic series and is conducting investigations into the history and chemical composition of the alcohol.
The Maze Hunger Strikers 1981 - Billy Hull. 2007
'It was only when they began to deteriorate that the doctor became concerned about them. That he informed the governor. And the governor where upon informed us as security that we would have to look at it and see how it would have to handled....The hunger strikers well when they where at their end, well it was quite gruesome. Because these chaps had all deteriorated so much they where, just a shell of a human being lying on the bed And their smell you could smell them....The thing that took me most was to see a plate of food come in - I like my food - and to see a big plate of cabbage, bacon, potatoes, gravy, big bowl of custard, bit of pudding on the top, fresh cream. That was set in front of them every day, and they could 't, they didn't the will power was there. They didn't would 't touch it. And that used to take me to the cleaners, yeah know. Where did they get the will power from to stand, or sit, or lie, and look at this. And the smell! The small rooms in the hospital, were so small and very little ventilation. The smell of the food was there all the time. It was on your clothes. You could smell it all the time ....' Billy Hull, 2007.