Digital Arts Studios Belfast, Northern Ireland

Justine McDonnell

Artist Intro

Justine McDonnell, artist (b. 1992, Dublin, Ireland) lives in Belfast and is based at Flax Art Studios. She completed an MFA at the University of Ulster Belfast, 2017. Since her first solo exhibition at Artbox, Dublin, 2015, McDonnell has participated in numerous curated group exhibitions. Her most recent solo exhibition was in the Golden Thread Gallery, Project Space, 2018.

McDonnell was selected forThe 2017 MAC Curatorial Directions Programme, Belfast. She is a recipient of the Flax Arts Studios Graduate Residency Award 2017 and theBritish Council, Steward Fellowship Award at the Venice Biennale.

Within her practice McDonnell is interested in how we mediate experience, physically and conceptually through language in a narrative form. With reference to the role of the viewer as co-author she has continued to experiment with: how the use of autobiographical notations impact on the viewers’ mediation with an artwork; how the construction of a narrative response rather than a reading of an artwork is dependent on the site of encounter, staging and the creation of prompts; how the co-author derives a narrative response in relation to space and place; how artworks resonate beyond the ‘white cube’, the gallery space; how in turn the artwork has the capacity to rupture and rework an experience of a pre-existing framework; and how artworks function within an intertextual matrix of references effected by materiality and physicality.

Practising primarily in video, live performance, text and audio installation, McDonnell acknowledges the role of the viewer as a co-author and the voice as having a primary agency in a dialectical exchange. Through her studio practice, experimentation and public out-put, she has explored how an artwork can direct the viewer’s construction of new narratives in relation to the use of: autobiography; narration; repetition; and fragmentation.

In particular, McDonnell has focused on how sound and the physicality of the voice shapes an emotional response to space and place. The female voice is employed in disciplined and formal structures to challenge and rupture the male framework of gendered language. Within her practice the voice is not simply a medium for communication, it has political currency in its materiality, it enables exchange and has use beyond communication. The voice forms an integral subject within her practice; it is at once narrative, material and ideology.

Underpinning her work is an engagement with forms of textual response. Elements of scripting and staging have been used to explore how forms of autobiographical notations can be employed to subvert the viewers’ conventional mediation of narrative items, encouraging audiences into critical positions towards existing power relations. Within scripted narratives McDonnell has embedded reference to the staging of the viewers encounter with the artwork whilst simultaneously revealing aspects of the artworks editing and formatting. In simulating established forms of mediation and presentation, she will engage with deconstructing the accepted narrative structure of audio-visual and performative representation, combining the implied authenticity of autobiographical representation with the imagined of fictional narratives.

design & development