In her work, Ulrika Ferm is interested in archival structures, and the way history presents itself through the calculated preservation of records. She examines the representation of history and the role of materiality in both management and documentation. In her exhibition, It never rains, but it pours Ferm is focusing on films (from 1950 to 1976) from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Collection, and other stately funded cinematic productions which were initially created to sell Northern Ireland as a holiday destination, or as an investment location. A film crew documented the region via still and moving images, and the films captured various facets of Northern Ireland life—its society and history, people and places.
The exhibition displays both altered and unedited footage. Ferm has edited excerpts of the films which emphasise intrinsic repetition while simultaneously negating its rootedness within time and place. By editing similar material together, Ferm brings to the fore the distinctive agencies that play a significant role in archive-formation and the ensuing construction of a nation’s visual identity.
Elements within these films—poetic and poignant, mundane and humorous— expose the plasticity of themes once deemed immutable. Albeit seemingly random, these brief glimpses into the collection provide a representative take on motifs in the original films. Thus faking or creating a kind of statistic of a past time—where unwanted or unbeneficial events become conspicuous by means of their absence. Furthermore, a suggested mirroring unfolds when the omission or lack of documentaries or films about Troubles—the 30-year conflict of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland—are revealed. Ferm also addresses the issue of materiality by examining the digital archive and combining different mediums. In the past two decades, films have been digitised to allow better storage and easier viewing. For the exhibition, Ferm has created a 16mm film from the digitised footage, reversing the process by reattributing the film back to its original material.
The array of Ulrika Ferm’s works are displayed in both Hippolyte’s Photographic Gallery and the Hippolyte Studio and was originally of the British Film Institute’s Britain on Film celebration of archive film, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Screen Digital Film Archive. In 2017, the exhibition was first shown at PS2 gallery in Belfast and it was curated by Mirjami Schuppert.
Ulrika Ferm’s artistic practice emerges from in-depth research that tackles historical and socio-political topics. She mostly works in photography, installation, and collaborative activities with occasional elements of performance. Additionally, Ferm has broad curatorial and organisational work experience and is a founding member of the artist collective Platform, in Vaasa Finland—presenting performance art and producing site/situation-specific projects. In 2002, she won the Young Finnish artist of the year award and had since received notable grants, prizes, and nominations. Ulrika Ferm received her MA from PALLAS, University of Art and Design Helsinki (1998) and is a graduate from Hochschule der Kunste, Berlin (2001). She teaches Site and Situation Specific Art at the Academy of Fine Arts, the University of the Arts Helsinki where she has been a Professor since 2013.
The Academy of Fine Arts has kindly supported the exhibition.
It never rains, but it pours
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte & Hippolyte Studio
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16
image: archive photo, Tourist Board promotion material in a window display, 1964
NI Tourist Board © National Museums NI Collection Ulster Museum