Amanda Dunsmore: Becoming Christine in partnership with Christine Beynon 

Galway Arts Centre

May 18, 2017

Amanda Dunsmore: Becoming Christine in partnership with Christine Beynon 

May 27–July 9, 2017

Opening: May 26, 6pm, opened by Dr. Lydia Foy 
Artist talk & exhibition tour: May 27, 2pm

Galway Arts Centre
47 Dominick St Lwr 
Hours: Monday–Saturday 12–5pm

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Curated by Liz Burns.

Becoming Christine is an exhibition based on the lived experience of Christine Beynon. It is a continually developing body of work involving re-presented “selfies,” sound installation and video portraiture that will premiere at Galway Arts Centre. A new related publication, Becoming Christine, will also be officially launched at the opening of the exhibition. 

The “selfies” follow Christine Beynon’s journey and transition over the past 12 years—to becoming a woman.  These self portraits range in tone from the painful, to the playful, from the mundane to the contemplative to the joyful. The immersive sound installation & narrated artwork was a result of a collaborative partnership between the artist and Christine Beynon. Over the year Amanda recorded a series of conversation between herself and Christine—where Christine described her journey to becoming a woman. In 2017, Amanda and Christine have decided it is the right time to share that conversation.

The artist Amanda Dunsmore filmed a new video portrait of Christine to accompany the sound installation, photographs and publication. Video portraiture has been an artistic methodology developed by Dunsmore over 10 years as part of her ongoing Keeper project, which documents key moments in recent Northern Ireland history and its political figures. These intimate silent video portraits developed by Dunsmore are based on the artist’s interest in re-configuring the boundaries of portraiture. 

The dialogue continues through a 2018 showing of Becoming Christine at the RHA, Dublin, where Dunsmore further questions what constitutes portraiture by making a video portrait of Christine outside her home in rural Galway; a home she self-built for her family. In contrast to the well-known Irish political figures videoed by the artist to date (including Monica MacWilliams, John Hume, Senator David Norris, Martin McGuinness & Lord Alderdice), Christine Beynon is a member of the general public. Yet her ongoing and remarkable journey to full self-realisation and the bravery of this act, make her a true pioneer. As Christine herself has said “Every time I go outside my front door, it’s a political statement.”

The legacy of Becoming Christine in combining specific artistic elements which together create an exhibition based in portraiture, is not only reflective of an individual finding themselves but is also reflective of the enormous socio-political change that has taken place in Ireland & England over the past 60 years. 

As Finlay has written in the exhibitions accompaning publication, The long fight for gender recognition began in 1993 when Dr. Lydia Foy applied to the Registrar General to get a birth certificate which reflected her gender. When this request was refused, she began legal proceedings in 1997 (Farrell, 2012a). In December 2014, the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 was published. After the passage of the Bill through both the Dáil and Seanad in July 2015, President Michael D. Higgins signed it into law on the July 22, 2015 (TENI, 2015). At the time the time, Ireland was one of only four countries in the world that allowed gender recognition based on self- determination, along with Argentina, Demark, Malta, and Columbia (TENI, 2015). Dr. Foy, over 20 years after she first applied for it, finally received her birth certificate on the September 22, 2015, fittingly becoming the first person to do so under the new legislation. Since September 2015,157 people (in Ireland) have received Gender Recognition Certificates.

–Laura Finlay. Excerpt essay “Trans rights in the Republic of Ireland: an overview,” in Becoming Christine, 2017.