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New Hibernia Review 6.4 (2002) 151-154
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The Camera Does Not Lie:
Revisiting Bloody Sunday (1972, 2002)
Maureen E. Mulvihill
Trisha Ziff, the distinguished independent curator of Hidden Truths: Bloody Sunday 1972, has achieved something important for Irish history. 1 Her compelling exhibition on the tragic events of January 30, 1972, in the nationalist Bogside section of Derry City, Northern Ireland, lays bare the essential facts of these horrific fifteen minutes, and it does something even more valuable: it supplies evidentiary documents and forensic material to the legal specialists and witnesses at the new Saville Inquiry as they now sort out the truths of that day from a dense accretion of lies, rumor, and the muddled memories of thirty years ago.
Hidden Truths was organized by the Centro de la Imagen and originated by Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica, California, in collaboration with the Bloody Sunday Trust in Derry and Irish Ethos, a group of Irish activists in Los Angeles. The New York City show was expertly installed by Brian Wallis and Kristen Lubben. The curator of this Irish show is not at all Irish, but English. Trisha Ziff (Guggenheim Fellow, 1998), now resident in Mexico City, is completing her doctorate on the Irish in Mexico in the 1840s. In addition to Hidden Truths, she has curated such other international shows as Distant Relations: Irish Mexican and Chicano Art, and she presently is at work on two upcoming exhibitions: Salon, an exhibition of artists working with human hair; and 250th of a Second: The Image that Killed Me, on Aberto Korda's famous portrait of Ché Guevera. In the 1980s, Ziff lived for five years in Derry, where she founded Derry CameraWork and helped assemble the book Still War: Photographs from the North of Ireland (2000), with photographers Mike Abrahams and Laurie Sparham. Her sympathetic connection to the ongoing "Troubles" was audible to a capacity audience last February, at the Bloody Sunday Panel hosted by Ireland House, New York Unversity, when she reverently named the fourteen victims of Bloody Sunday. [End Page 151]
And we shall remember all of these: Patrick Doherty, Gerald Donaghy, Jackie Duddy, Hugh Gilmore, John Johnston, Michael Kelly, Michael McDaid, Kevin McElhinney, Bernard McGuigan, Gerald McKinney, William McKinney, William Nash, John Young, Jim Wray.
The oldest victim was fifty-nine years of age, the youngest but seventeen. (Five victims, in fact, were seventeen.) The show's handsome and profusely illustrated exhibition catalogue, edited by Trisha Ziff, is essential reading for the variety of opinions and accounts it offers. Here are the collected voices of scholars, photographers, peace activists, family members, witnesses, and journalists.
Equally remarkable is the unusual character of Hidden Truths' funding. This ambitious project was not funded by government or corporate monies, but rather by Irish people in the United States, particularly San Francisco, where Elaine Brotherton worked with Ziff on the project for five years. Without Brotherton's involvement, Hidden Truths would have ended its tour much sooner. "Yes, we had the occasional check and handout, now and again," Ziff explained,
but this was very much a grass-roots, community project; and that lent an enviable measure of artistic freedom to all that we did, from writing caption copy for the exhibits to planning the show's catalogue. Most of the materials and support emanated from the community. This exhibit reflects the politics and point of view of the families—surely the British point of view had been heard loudly enough these thirty years. This show reflects the voices of the victims. It's my homage to their loss. But it's their appeal for truth and justice. 2
Hidden Truths is an articulate show, eloquently articulate. Indeed, its impact is so forceful and authentic that it borders on the macabre. Stepping into this large, minimalist exhibition space on West 43rd Street in New York City, with its high ceilings and stark white walls, the viewer is enveloped in a whole new sensory zone. "Every atrocity must have its images," wrote Ziff, "otherwise, the world does not respond. Atrocities...