John Carson is an artist whose work has explored various media, contexts and strategies. He has presented live performances, made soundworks and CDs, broadcast work on television and radio, created installations, and both as a curator and artist, been involved in many types of ‘public art’ project.
He has exhibited drawings, photographs, prints and sculpture in such venues as The Ulster Museum in Belfast, The Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin, The ICA in London, CCA in Glasgow, IKON Gallery in Birmingham, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art in Australia, The Aine Art Museum in Tornio Finland, PS1 in New York, New Langton Arts in San Francisco and The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh.
He received his Bachelor of Fine Art Degree from The University of Ulster in Belfast in 1976 and his Master of Fine Arts Degree from California Institute of the Arts in 1983. From 1986 to 1991 he was Production Director of Artangel, a London-based organization which presented temporary art works in public locations. He has been a visiting lecturer at various schools and colleges in Ireland, UK, Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. He taught at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ireland and at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, England where he was Course Director of the BFA program from 1999 to 2006. Since August 2006 he has been Head of the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.
“Work I made from the late seventies to the late eighties referenced The Troubles in Northern Ireland directly and indirectly. Several works were exploring my Northern Irish background and identity.”
1976-77 – Friend Map, depicted a social network of friends and relatives around the greater Belfast area, mapping lines of friendship which crossed religious, political and geographic divisions.
1976-77- Circuit, was a photographically documented circumnavigation of the Belfast Lough area, showing signs of civil strife on the journey through Belfast.
1978 – I’d Walk From Cork To Larne To See The Forty Shades Of Green, was a 320 mile photographic walk based on a song by Johnny Cash. The resulting poster featured photographs of green things taken on the journey. The border was not defined but photographs taken in the North signaled signs of the troubles through graffiti and the presence of the British Army in the streets of Belfast, in the form of a squaddies boots.
1980 – Men Of Ireland / The Men In Me
1985-87 – Off Pat, a performance interplaying stories songs and slides. Some of the content was dealing with experiences of The Troubles in Northern Ireland during the sixties and seventies.
2009-2011 – Timelines, is a video installation and film tracing the lives of people in Northern Ireland who were in the Friend Map in 1976/77. Participants reflect on their lives from 1976 to 2006, including the effects of The Troubles.
“All of these works to some extent deal with a sense of Northern Irish identity, and inevitably reference the years of my life which were lived through The Troubles.”