Commemoration Programme

SHADOWING THE ARCHIVES: Artist-in-Residence, National Archives, 2021-2023

John Beattie

In 2021, following an open call for proposals, the National Archives appointed John Beattie as its Artist-in-Residence under the Decade of Centenaries Programme. Through the creation of new and original artwork, the Artist-in-Residence programme is designed to support the exploration of new perspectives on archival material relating to the 1921-1923 period.


Coach House Gallery, Dublin Castle

15 September – 8 October 2023

Open daily: 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm

Admission free.

Late night opening until 9pm on Culture Night, 22 September 2023

Over two years, from behind the lens, John Beattie has observed the National Archives and the work of its staff preserving and making accessible the records of the State. He has become familiar with the daily working practices of its archivists, shadowing them through the physical spaces of the National Archives. Beattie was particularly interested in the National Archives’ approach to conserving and preparing historical records for public display, and how new insights into key episodes from Irish history were amplified through the innovative presentation of original records in exhibitions, books and public events.

In Shadowing the Archives, Beattie presents a series of ‘assemblages’ which include photographs and archive material relating to significant historical episodes from 1921 and 1922. The archive box, with its unique reference code, is a practical storage device for the work of the National Archives, but it is also a signifier, a ‘container’ of multiple histories, and in the exhibition, the unfolded, open-plan archive box becomes both a framing device and a formal reminder of the archival processes that underpin the construction of history.

The assemblages also feature a selection of still images of the performance of Aikido. Aikido is a martial art and self-defence system that uses techniques to turn an attacker’s strength and momentum against him/herself. Aikido translates from Japanese as a ‘way of harmonizing energy’. Through his research process, and in particular his documentation of the making of The Treaty, 1921: Records from the Archives exhibition, Beattie became interested in questions of conflict resolution; processes of negotiation, the ‘choreography’ of peace talks, and how, in the context of war, the terms of peace can even begin to be imagined.

For the exhibition, Beattie has also created an ambitious new black and white, double-video projection installation where he combines footage of archival and exhibition-making processes, with staged and choreographed scenes filmed in collaboration with the Irish Aikido Federation in the National Archives. The Aikido sequences feature slow-motion action scenes in which conflict, and its resolution, are depicted in visceral detail.

The exhibition in the Coach House Gallery is supported by the Office of Public Works.


Re-Performing State Memory – Work in Progress  

John Beattie

9 June – 23 September 2022

Beattie presented work-in-progress in the form of two installations in the National Archives on Bishop Street. The work was experimental, and aimed to provide insight into Beattie’s creative process and to explore alternative approaches to presenting archival records.

In 2021 Beattie documented the installation of the National Archives’ exhibition The Treaty, 1921: Records from the Archives. A ‘behind-the-scenes’ view of the making of the Treaty exhibition was presented as a 3-screen video installation in the National Archives’ foyer. In addition, Beattie constructed an experimental work outside the National Archives’ Reading Room, which combined traditional display methods with new imaging technologies to explore new ways of presenting fragile archival records.

View our promo film for the exhibition here.

Re-Performing State Memory – A talk by John Beattie, Artist-in-Residence in the National Archives

Presented in February 2022,  you can view a recording of the talk here.

John Beattie

John Beattie is a visual artist, originally from Co. Donegal, and currently based in Dublin. He has exhibited widely nationally and internationally, and has received Project and Bursary Awards from the Arts Council.

In 2023, he presented Reconstructing Mondrian (2013-2020) at the Hugh Lane Gallery, based on Piet Mondrian’s original Paris studio from 1921-1936, in collaboration with The Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, and the Foundation Reconstruction of Mondrian’s Studio, The Netherlands.

Still and moving-image productions include: PERFORMING NGI.988 (2016), produced for the 1916 State commemorations in collaboration with the National Gallery of Ireland, the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art, and The LAB Gallery, Dublin; and An Artist, The Studio, and all the rest… (2006-2012), a two part cinematic moving-image production, exhibited at The Royal Hibernian Academy.

Beattie has been awarded a number of residencies to date, including the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, 2020; the apexart Fellowship, New York, 2015; IMMA, Dublin, 2011; Temple Bar Gallery & Studio, Dublin, 2010; the RHA, Dublin, 2010; and Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin, 2006- 2009.

For further information about John Beattie and his work: