Materialities of History

11 – 26 August 2017

PS², Belfast

Solo exhibition by Ulrika Ferm

Featuring films by Northern Ireland Screen Digital Film Archive

The exhibition is part of the BFI’s Britain on Film celebration of archive film, in partnership with Northern Ireland Screen Digital Film Archive and it is shown at PS² gallery in Belfast. The gallery has recently moved to new premises that used to house the biggest Northern Irish Fishing tackle shop J Braddell & Sons Ltd.

The Materialities of History project approaches the Northern Irish film heritage from a Finnish point of view. The artist Ulrika Ferm, originally from a small coastal town in Finland, was invited to respond to the Coast and Sea themed films at the Northern Ireland Screen Digital Film archive. In her research Ferm mainly focused on the Northern Ireland Tourist Board collection, which created films that aimed to sell Northern Ireland as a holiday destination. Members of staff documented the region through stills and moving images, the films they created capturing various facets of life in Northern Ireland, its society and history, people and places.

Ferm’s practice is interested in archival structures and the way history presents itself through visual material found in archives. The exhibition displays both edited and unedited footage from the Tourist Board collection and some other stately funded film productions such as UTV’s Richer and Rarer (1960).

Contrasting the narrative storytelling intended to sell Northern Ireland, either as a tourist destination, or a place for investment, the artist has edited excerpts that emphasise the intrinsic repetition and negating its rootedness in place and time. By editing similar material together, Ferm brings to the fore the different agencies that play significant role in the formation of the archive and, also, the image that is created of a nation.

In these idiosyncratically edited films the poetic and poignant, but also mundane and humorous elements come apparent exposing the themes that once were deemed important. Albeit seemingly random, these brief glimpses into the collection provide a representative take especially on the coastal and “material” motifs in the original films. Thus faking or creating a kind of statistic of the time past, where unwanted or unbeneficial events become conspicuous by their absence.

The exhibition particularly questions the representation of history and the role of materiality in this process. In the installation combining different mediums, Ferm addresses these issues by examining the digital archive. 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.

Link to the exhibition website:

Selected footage can be viewed on Northern Ireland Screen Digital Film Archive website:


Credit: Conor Quinn