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Fiona Whelan

Reconfiguring Systemic Power Relations: A Collaborative Practice-Based Exploration of Inequality with Young People and Adults in Dublin

Fiona Whelan

My longstanding collaborative practice with Rialto Youth Project presents a dialogical approach to engaging young people and adults over time in a creative, critical examination of power relations at a personal, community and societal level. This PhD by prior publication presents five manifestations from a decade of collaboration (2006-16). The accompanying thesis outlines two forms of relational power that are experienced in the private and public processes that underpinned the practice: a form of relational power that articulates inequalities between those who exercise power and those who are subject to power, and another whereby power is co-produced through collaboration. Specific features that contribute to the emergence of this relational power include an approach to gathering anonymous stories, which are collectivised into poly-vocal public manifestations, where the two forms of relational power converge in public. These public moments are examined as experiences of speaking truth to power, where acts of speaking and listening coexist in public.



Fiona Whelan is a Dublin based artist and lecturer at NCAD. Her art practice is committed to exploring, exposing and reconfiguring power relations through durational engagements with people and place. Since 2004, Fiona has  worked in collaboration with Rialto Youth Project on long-term projects exploring equality issues related to class, gender and policing, co-producing multiple public works including Natural History of Hope (with Brokentalkers, Project Arts Centre, 2016), Policing Dialogues (The LAB, 2010) and The Day in Question (IMMA, 2009), much of which is documented in her critical memoir TEN: Territory, Encounter & Negotiation (2014).  In 2016, in collaboration with Kevin Ryan, Fiona established the collaborative writing platform Two Fuse, committed to writing across disciplinary enclosures, the pair co-writing Freedom? (Cork University Press, 2018) and Beating the Bounds of Socially Engaged Art (Field Journal, 2016). As an educator, Fiona is committed to the professional development of artists with participatory and collaborative practices, working as joint programme coordinator/lecturer on the MA Socially Engaged Art + Further Education at NCAD, In 2015, she co-developed the TransActions publication series – dialogues in transdisciplinary practice, as a collaboration between NCAD and Stockyard Institute in Chicago.