Miriam de Búrca

You Measured Our Heads

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Year 2021
Medium Ink on watercolour paper
Dimensions 23 x 30.2 cm

About the work

An ornate Victorian border frames cursive script, the over-the-top floral text takes a moment to decipher. At first glance it appears harmlessly decorative. It mimics a particular kind of ‘cultivated aesthetic’, often used to distract from the grotesque ‘means’ behind Imperialism’s splendid ‘end’. You Measured Our Heads is a direct and unambiguous exclamation, marking a moment of reckoning for both victims and the beneficiaries of colonialism.

About the artist:

Born 1972 Munich, Miriam de Búrca lives and works in Galway. Graduated from BA Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art (1996); MFA at University of Ulster, Belfast (2000); and PhD, University of Ulster (2010).

De Burca's earlier work engaged with her personal experience of the persisting divisions in Belfast. She experimented with film, video and installation and her drawings would document weeds (‘Native Aliens’) that sprung up from the ashes of bonfires and sites of dereliction following periods of conflict. With Brexit in mind, she has been documenting plant life that grows directly on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, identifying them by their co-ordinates rather than botanical nomenclature. Recent work focuses on burial sites in Ireland called cillíní, which were used to bury unbaptised babies (until as recently as the 1980s) and many others considered ‘unsuitable’ for consecrated ground. De Búrca examines these phenomena through a post-colonial (post-patriarchal?) lens, mimicking imperialist methods that she feels at once attracted to and repelled by.

Her works are held in public and private collections including Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Mead Gallery, University of Warwick, Coventry; National University of Ireland, Galway; and Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork.

Selected exhibitions include Moving Spaces, Glucksman Gallery, Cork (2019); Radical Drawing, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry (2019); Fragile Earth: Seeds, Weeds, Plastic Crust, MIMA, Middlesbrough (2019); Protest and Remembrance, Cristea Roberts Gallery, London (2019); Getting Used to the Dark, National University of Ireland, Galway (2018); Vanishing Futures, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast (2015); Drawn to the Real, Cristea Roberts Gallery, London (2014); Landscapes on Film, Irish Film Institute, Dublin (2011); my home is his castle, (solo exhibition) Catalyst Arts, Belfast (2011); Pencil to the Plough, Cross Gallery, Dublin (2011); Spatial Relations, Centrum/ Waffelfisch, Berlin (2010); Holding Together, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2010); Elected Perspective, Galeria Arsenale, Białystok (2010); AWingBigCell, audio-visual installation, Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York (2008); Don’t Play My Game Again Ever, Gimpel Fils, London (2008); Passengers 2, screening and talk, In Situ, Warsaw (2008); Northern Bound, Vidéographe, Montreal (2007); and Lighthouse, Old Truman Brewery, London (2007).

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