Anita Groener

The Past is a Foreign Country, Anita Groener

30 September 2018 - 6 January 2019
Limerick City Gallery of Art

The Past Is A Foreign Country, by Anita Groener, addresses one of the most pressing issues of our time–the refugee crises–and our response to it. What is it to be human today? Through drawings, large scale installations, film, and animations Anita Groener explores the tissue of trauma and loss rooted in this question. She makes work for what still needs language, experimenting with both figurative and abstract geography. The deliberately modest means of the work (twigs, paper, pins, twine and gouache) speak to the fragility of life and society that refugee crises expose. Her art asks questions about the ethics of witnessing atrocity and aesthetic response.


The Past Is A Foreign Country gives its title to a large installation in the Carnegie Gallery where twenty young birch trees, stripped of their leaves, their branches cut, unearthed and uprooted, are reconstructed and suspended from the ceiling, in a closed circuit grid. We can walk around it, look into it but we cannot enter this enclosure.


Anita Groener Anita Groener
 still from animation line drawings  

An attempt to translate terror’s destabilizing impact is echoed in Moments, a collaborative project with Syrian journalist Razan Ibraheem. Six animated line drawings, portraits of children traced and removed from their original context, play in a continued loop against a soundtrack of street noise, intermittently punctuated by voices from the actual video footage.


The exhibition incites an imaginative journey between here, the geographical, social, and cultural locations of the spectator and there, the site of the represented trauma. The work counters what the artist sees as an emerging collective alienation by encouraging the viewer to walk in the footsteps of a multitude of anonymous people, without a country and without a home. Focusing on specific current events, their archetypal and psychological resonances, the artist traces urgent connections between the experience of refugees driven from their homes by armed conflict and her own life and family.


A special performance by world renowned Syrian musician, Maya Youssef, will be held on Thursday 18 October 6pm.  Maya Youssef born in Damascus is hailed as “queen of the qanun”, the 78 stringed Middle Eastern plucked zither.  For Youssef the act of playing music is the opposite of death; it is a life and hope affirming act. For her, music is a healer and an antidote to what is happening not only in Syria, but in the whole world.  


This exhibition received an Arts Council Touring and Dissemination Award and will tour to The Dock, Carrick-on- Shannon, Uilinn, Skibbereen and The Lab, Dublin in 2019.


A new book to accompany this touring exhibition with contributions from Joseph R. Wolin, writer and curator based in New York City; Séan Kissane, curator Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Suzanne Lynch, Washington DC correspondent for The Irish Times; Razan Ibraheem, Syrian journalist based in Ireland and Peter Sirr, Irish poet, will be published in November 2018.


Anita Groener was born in The Netherlands and is based in Dublin, Ireland.

In 2005, she was elected a member of Aosdána, the prestigious official association of Ireland’s preeminent cultural producers. Until 2014 she was a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology where she also served as the Head of Fine Art from 2004 to 2006.  Her work has been exhibited at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam; the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Witteveen Visual Art Centre, Amsterdam; the Kilkenny Arts Festival, Kilkenny; Poggiali & Forconi Gallery, Florence; Rubicon Gallery, Dublin and Rubicon Projects, Brussels; Butler Gallery Kilkenny; Eugen Lendl Gallery, Graz; Art on Paper, New York City, with Gibbons & Nicholas; Art Miami, Miami, with Gibbons & Nicholas USA; Volta Basel, Switzerland with Gibbons & Nicholas; Point B | Williamsburg, New York City and DuPont Underground, Washington DC, USA.


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