30 Nov 2023 - 21 Apr 2024

Self-Determination: A Global Perspective

Irish Museum of Modern Art


IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) presents a major international exhibition Self-Determination: A Global Perspective, one of the largest exhibitions in the Museum’s history, opening on Thursday 30 November 2023. Self-Determination is the culmination of a three-year research and commissioning project, in dialogue with museums and institutions worldwide, presenting over 110 artists. Focusing on new nation-states which emerged in the wake of the First World War, it explores the role of art and artists in relation to the expression of national identities, nation-building and statecraft. The exhibition is part of the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012–2023.

Bringing together a range of Irish and international works, both modern and contemporary, the exhibition illuminates the shared experiences of early 20th century new states. It includes key works from national and international collections – including the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU), who have sent major works from Kyiv to Dublin for the exhibition – as well as new commissions by artists invited to respond to the theme of self-determination.

The juxtaposition of historical and contemporary perspectives is a key element of the exhibition. IMMA has commissioned new works by Array Collective, Jasmina Cibic, Declan Clarke, Minna Henriksson and İz Öztat. The exhibition also presents co-commissions by Banu Çennetoğlu, and Larissa Sansour and Søren Lind. These commissions benefit from a century of hindsight, inviting audiences to navigate between the past and the present, fostering a deeper understanding of the long-term impacts of nation building.

Two major Ukrainian art institutions, the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU) and the Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinema of Ukraine, are lending more than 20 artworks to the exhibition. These works, which will have travelled from Kyiv to Dublin for this collaboration, reflect the bold creative expression of Ukrainian national identity after the First World War, and attest to the creative fruition of a distinct Ukrainian modernism. IMMA is honoured to work with partners in Kyiv to show these important artworks in Ireland, reflecting on the urgency of self-determination both historically and in the present day.

In addition, the exhibition will include a number of artworks by contemporary artists, reflecting on the preoccupations of the project. This will encompass works from the IMMA Collection as well as a number of key contemporary loans, including works by Ursula Burke, Dorothy Cross, Ieva Epnere, Dragana Jurišić, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Gülsün Karamustafa, Istvan Laszlo, Niamh McCann, Brian O’Doherty, Alan Phelan, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Sasha Sykes and Dilek Winchester.

Self-Determination: A Global Perspective is part of the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012–2023, which marks the 100-year anniversary of the foundation of the Irish State. In 1919, Arthur Griffith, writing from Gloucester Prison, urged his colleagues to ‘mobilise the poets’ to help make Ireland’s case for independence on the international stage. Griffith’s letter acknowledges the role of art and culture in developing international solidarities and justifying Ireland’s right, among other small nations, to ‘self-determine’. It also highlights the new possibilities for artists in the early twentieth century, an era of collapsing empires and seismic geopolitical shifts, to articulate and enact radical modern and democratic principles.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD welcomes the opening of the exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art: “This is a significant exhibition that is inspired by our own journey of self-determination in Ireland. It is most fitting that my Department is supporting the exhibition and associated IMMA programming under the Decade of Centenaries Programme. Putting the Irish story in the context of the wider historical international movement through the medium of diverse multi-national cultural imagination and expression is highly effective in helping audiences to gain a deeper grasp of history and the perspectives and interpretation of great artists from the period.”

Conceived by IMMA Director Annie FletcherSelf-Determination was developed by lead curator Seán Kissane, lead researcher Nathan O’Donnell and commissions curator Johanne Mullan, following a process of speculative enquiry and long-term consultation and exchange with researchers, artists and curators from around the world. It asks questions around how diverse countries understood the formation of the new state; how it was imagined; and how contemporary artists today reckon with the legacies of this period. At the same time it explores some of the common cultural strategies that emerged across many of the new nation-states including Finland (1917), Estonia (1918), Latvia (1918), Poland (1918), Ukraine (1917), Turkey (1923), and Egypt (1922), against the backdrop of the international movement towards self-determination, most famously articulated by Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Talks in 1919.

Each of the new states produced its own cultural complexities, with its own traditions, histories, and industries to be reimagined in line with the new imperatives of modernity. Self-Determination: A Global Perspective explores common strategies and methodologies developed by artists, cultural practitioners, and others invested in the formation of a new state in the first half of the twentieth century.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication, Art and Self-Determination: A Reader, edited by Lisa Moran (Curator: Engagement and Learning, IMMA) and Stephen O’Neill (IMMA/IRC Enterprise Postdoctoral Research Fellow).

Self-Determination: A Global Perspective is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2011–2023.  

Press release from Irish Museum of Modern Art

Image: İz Öztat. Rest. 2023. Installation view of Self-Determination: A Global Perspective at IMMA, Dublin, 2023. Photography by Ros Kavanagh. Image courtesy of the artist and IMMA