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Exhibition addressing issues of violence against women at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

An exhibition of works focusing on the issues underlying violence against women opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Friday 28 November. Once Is Too Much is the result of a two-year community initiative by women and friends of the Family Resource Centre, St Michael’s Estate, Inchicore, in collaboration with the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition will be officially opened by Ms Mary O’Rourke, TD, Minister for Public Enterprise, on Thursday 27 November at 6.00pm.

Once Is Too Much comprises ten works all inspired by issues of violence against women. They range from a large sculptural centrepiece to video installations and wall hangings. Beauty & the Beast, made in collaboration with Scottish-born artist Rhona Henderson, is a typically powerful piece, which provoked hours of rigorous and challenging discussion within the group. Centred on a large mirrored dining table in the shape of a bomb, it recreates the “tension surrounding meal time as mother and children await the inevitable explosion”. The video installation Open Season, made with Joe Lee, combines audio interviews and images of Dublin streetscapes to explore the pattern of violence in women’s lives.

Since 1990 the Family Resource Centre have been working with Women’s Aid on a community development model to address issues of violence against women. For much of this time they have also been engaged, with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, in an exploration of the use of culture and the arts as awareness-raising mechanisms. In 1995 the group worked for two weeks with the Canadian artist Rochelle Rubinstein Kaplan, who shares their interest in these issues, during her residency at the Museum as part of its Artists’ Work Programme. A large artwork comprising fabric prints and hand-made books illustrating family violence was created under the generic title Once Is Too Much.

Since then a series of artworks have been developed with a number of artists – Rhona Henderson, Joe Lee and Ailbhe Murphy. A further piece was created with Kaplan on her second visit to the Artists’ Work Programme in 1996. At the core of the entire process has been the self-development and collective awareness of the women involved in relation to the issue of violence.

Rita Fagan, Project Co-ordinator Family Resource Centre describes the making of the exhibition as a “hard process because our subject, violence against women, is painful to deal with. During the period of making our work 30 women have been violently killed in Irish society, 19 in their homes. In some cases children witnessed the violence. We don’t believe art can change the fundamental issue of violence against women and children. However, we do believe it can contribute to debates and discussions which raise awareness about the issue and to the changing of attitudes which could lead to the key issues of prevention, provision, protection and protest.”

Helen O’Donoghue, Senior Curator: Education and Community Programmes at the Irish Museum of Modern Art sees the exhibition as throwing ”a
public light on the plight of too many in contemporary Irish society. The issue is raw, the reality is bleak, but the artworks can act as a metaphor for the lived experience. The exhibition aims to act as a catalyst through which the collective energy of the artists and the 17 women may engage a wider public, to address the issue of violence and join in the statement that Once Is Too Much, invoking action and inciting change.”

A two-day seminar, based on an analysis of the issues underlying violence against women and an exploration of possible responses will be held at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Thursday 27 and Friday 28 November. The seminar, organised by the Family Resource Centre, is already booked out. Consideration is being given to running a second seminar early in 1998.

Once Is Too Much continues until 27 February 1998.