Dr Niall Rea curated The Irish Student Exhibition in Prague Quadrennial 2023, with student groups from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland taking part – IRELAND / BEYOND THE BARRICADES:A RARE STORY OF A UNIQUE ISLAND

After 30 years of brutal conflict, a peace process has led to 25 years of stability and prosperity for the whole island of Ireland.

A cultural renaissance has taken place across, through and sometimes in opposition to the border between the two states. Co-productions and theatrical experiments by artists from both sides of the border have become commonplace. Indeed, the border itself – at once tangible and problematic, but also liminal, imaginary and steeped in history – has often been used as the subject of these productions. Although this idea was developed some months ago, we understand the resonances with the conflict in Ukraine and as such I am sure the students will be affected by what is happening there and will perform and design within that context.

We are proposing a barricade of colour, play and cultural engagement where the students will reform and perform with the design over the course of the exhibition. A modular playset of angled steel connectors and coloured lengths of wood will be used by the students. We envisage different groups coming for a few days and overlapping with other groups. They will dismantle and rebuild the barricade every other day for their performative intervention and collaboration. We will try to have groups from different parts of the island working together. Each group will be brought together for a series of workshops across the island in the months leading up to the PQ. We hope that the process of working together beforehand, and then exhibiting and performing in Prague, will enrich the students’ lives and further foster cultural relationships across the border.

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