Limits of the State
Limits of the State is a commissioned work by IMMA Ireland for the major IMMA exhibition Self-Determination: A Global Perspective, in 2023-2024. The work delves into the role of women in the early republic, drawing parallels between the experiences of women in Ireland and Finland during the establishment of independent nation-states. The emancipatory beginnings, where women actively participated in the struggle for a better future, are juxtaposed with the subsequent reversion to patriarchal norms post-independence when women were forced back into the private sphere. Motherhood was politicised by restricting self-determination over reproduction and fertility.
In a two-fold project Henriksson examines the prevalent race discourse intertwined with the concept of the nation, centred on male ideals, and at ways in which women’s cause was betrayed during the early years of the republic. Many women did not stay silent in the face of their increasing oppression. Leftist women’s groups were among those who remained active and vocal after the establishment of the Irish Free State, finding inventive clandestine ways to protest and demonstrate in the increasingly oppressive interwar period. But can we recognise similar protest in artworks of the times? Beatrice Elvery (Lady Glanavy, 1883-1970) is said to have painted, or at least planned a painting, titled ‘Motherhood/Birth Control’, depicting two women burying a baby by the light of a kitchen lamp.
The project has formalised in two separate approaches, one of which is text-based wall drawing, and the other an audio piece, Motherhood / Birth Control, which is a speculation over an artwork that has possibly existed.
Here you can listen the audio piece, Motherhood / Birth Control
Download here copy of the wall drawing Limits of the State
Interviewees for the audio piece featured:
Dr Mary McAuliffe is a historian and Director of the Gender Studies Programme at UCD
Dr. Joseph McBrinn is Reader in Art and Design History, Belfast School of Art, Ulster University
Dr. Angela Griffith, Assistant Professor, History Of Art, Trinity College Dublin
Dr. Róisín Kennedy is Lecturer/Assistant Professor, the School of Art History and Cultural Policy at UCD