This work evolved as a personal response to real life stories heard during the course of my involvement within the Irish Prison Education Service as teacher / artist and over a long period of time.
Some of the prisoners were adult victims of abuse who provided testimonies of their experiences, documenting church and state collusion in the operation of these institutions. As a result in the year 2000 the Irish Government commissioned a study more commonly know as the Ryan Report, which took nine years to complete and drew on the testimonies from individuals and officials, from more that 250 church and state run institutions. The commission found that thousands of boys and girls had been terrorised for decades and that government inspectors had failed to stop the chronic practice and humiliations. It is therefore not surprising that some of these victims found it difficult to integrate with society as adults and that some ended up in prison.
Invocation presents the idea that in thinking of the ruined and scarred lives, there is an onus on us to take account, as individuals, as communities, and as a society. Masterson aims to capture and present some nucleus that allows us to re-visit, recollect and learn from the past. The outcomes of these works are fragile and unpredictable portraying a vulnerable human presence, in which we become both victim and viewer. A paradox is created. Invocation addresses the civic imagination in a critical way.
Shrine | 2014 | 40"
Full Duration: 3’ 30” - Format: Digital HD - Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - Sound: Stereo - Black and White
Shrine is a sound and video piece, that pays homage to depicted graffiti on church pews in places of detention and former industrial schools. Twelve graffiti images were selected and inverted to create a certain visual effect. At first the marks appear abstract, but soon letters, names and even dates and numbers can be deciphered. In some cases an X mark records the presence of time and place. The audio track accompanying the visual comprises of a variety of sound interpretations corresponding to the visual in an unsettling and disharmonious manner, creating a deliberate tension between audio and visual.
Smoke Drawings on White Hardboard
35.5 X 35.5 cm
These drawings are made out of smoke from candles in St. Kevin’s Church Glencree creating an ethereal transient quality to the images of fading and emerging shapes.
According to the historian and novelist John Cornwell’s book ‘The Dark Box’, the papacy made annual, one on one confession obligatory for the first time in the 13th Century for adults. During the 16th Century the church introduced the confessional box to prevent sexual solicitation of women. Then in 1910 Pope Pius X lower the age at which children made their first confession from their early teens to seven, while decreeing that the practice of confession be made more frequently instead of annually.
The first confessional grille was originally a listening device and has developed over the years in to a audio visual grille.
Remembrance | 2014 | 50"
Full Duration: 3’ 26” - Format: Digital HD - Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - Sound: Stereo
This is a film and sound piece about devastated lives while in the care of church and state institutions. It was shot on location in St. Kevin’s church Glencree, which is a former industrial school church. It was shot slightly out of focus in order to give a softer rounder form to the shapes, that are reminiscent of rows of school children in a classroom setting. An air of suspense and anticipation is created. The candles are systemically and randomly blown out, causing an individual and a collective reaction. The sound of a heart beating gradually builds and fades.
In a State of Grace Installation
'Bernie’s imagination has long been occupied with reconstructing what she has seen and heard. This body of work presents a coherent narrative, which moves us from a horror speaking to the dispossessed in all of us through a process of assimilation of these experiences and presents the possibility of transcendence. This work resonates with what M.D Higgins writes in the poem Memory. ‘To be removed from memory is to die twice,...’
Bernie’s work calls on everyone to speak out against all injustice in society both past and present, we need to remember and to be remembered. And on viewing this current body of work perhaps we can believe that - ‘The stuff of hope beckons.
Out of the darkness we step, and blink into the new light.’
Helen O’Donoghue Senior Curator of Engagement and Learning IMMA
Invocation | 2014 | 50”
Full Duration: 5’ 12” - Format: Digital HD - Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - Sound: No
This film piece tracks the journey of three burning candles in St. Kevin’s Church Glencree representing hope and despair. As the candles burn down, the middle one burns out, leaving the other two candles with a desperate struggle to stay alight. Invocation is a visual piece without a sound track and is meant to afford a time for reflection and meditation.
MESA publication online screening (26-03-2021)
Shrine Screening ‘Don’t Step On The Cracks’ curated by Amanda Jane Graham, the Solas Art Gallery, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim (18-11-2015)
Panel Discussion with an invited audience (19-11-2014)