Momentous Times at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry-Londonderry

By Sarah Jackson | 02 September 2013

Exhibition Preview: Momentous Times, Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry-Londonderry, until November 2 2013

Anja Kirschner and David Panos, Ultimate Substance (2012), HD video still.
Anja Kirschner and David Panos, Ultimate Substance (2012), HD video still.© Anja Kirschner, David Panos and Hollybush Gardens
For thousands of Irish people, the beginning of the 20th century was a grim time. Many workers lived in slums with terrible conditions and worked painfully long hours for little pay. It seems no wonder that trade unionists and socialists like Jim Larkin soon began campaigning for better worker’s rights.

This culminated in the 1913 Dublin Lockout, a major industrial dispute between approximately 300 employers and 20,000 workers. The dispute lasted almost a year and has been described as the most severe and significant industrial dispute in Irish history.

To mark the centenary of the Dublin Lockout, the Centre for Contemporary Art in Londonderry will examine the conditions of labour and the role of representation in shaping work and worker’s rights at three points in time: 1913, 2013 and 2113.

Momentous Times takes its title from James Larkin’s call to arms in 1914: “Comrades, we live in momentous times”. Through an exhibition, screenings, public forums and a publication, CCA will explore the past, present and the future of labour.

Ten artists, some of whom have never exhibited in Northern Ireland before, have contributed new and recent artworks to the exhibition. Public forums will be held on September 7 and November 2 to allow members of the public to contribute to the debates still surrounding workers and their rights. A handful of free screenings and talks will also feature.

The historical roots of forces central to modern capitalism, such as private ownership, are traced to provide a longer view of history, in contrast to imagined futures that serve as both a warning and beacon of hope.

The plight of workers today, including those who perished in the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh on April 24, will also be investigated.

Tying together these individual elements and linking up with other art initiatives responding to the centenary is Working Times, a newspaper edited by Aileen Burns, Johan Lundh and Helen Carey. Free copies are available online and at other venues in Dublin and Limerick.  

Derry is coming to the end of its time as the inaugural UK City of Culture, making it a fitting venue for discussions about labour and art. Although seemingly at odds with each other, the use of culture as a regenerative force in post-industrial areas creates an interesting focal point; one that will no doubt be debated at length during Momentous Times’ run.

  • Open Tuesday-Saturday 12pm-6pm. Admission free. Read Working Times online here.

More pictures:

Anja Kirschner and David Panos, Ultimate Substance (2012), HD video still.
Anja Kirschner and David Panos, Ultimate Substance (2012), HD video still.© Anja Kirschner, David Panos and Hollybush Gardens
Hito Steyerl, Red Alert (2007). Tryptich, three video loops shown on three 30’ cinema computer screen.
Hito Steyerl, Red Alert (2007). Tryptich, three video loops shown on three 30’ cinema computer screen.© Hito Steyerl
Olivia Plender, Rise Early, Be Industrious (2012), Words & Laws, installation.
Olivia Plender, Rise Early, Be Industrious (2012), Words & Laws, installation.© Olivia Plender
Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.

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