The Trial of Roger Casement

Published by Self Made Hero, 2016
In her debut graphic novel, Fionnuala Doran’s The Trial of Roger Casement examines the last 18 months in the life of (the former) Sir Roger Casement, who was hung for treason in 1916 after the failed Irish Easter Rising.

 Casement rose to prominence from a civil servant of the British Empire to expose the grotesque human rights abuses committed by the regime of King Leopold II of Belgium in the Congo Free State. His 1904 report to Parliament was the first expose published from within an institution of European colonial power to detail the brutality and horror that was being inflicted for profit in the aftermath of Europe’s Scramble for Africa. His first-hand reporting showed the hollowness and hypocrisy of European colonial expansion and capitalist exploitation, the legacy of which still resonates today.

Casement’s work with exploited people in the Congo and Peru radicalised him against imperialism, at home and abroad. He returned to Ireland to join the campaign for Home Rule and, when that became frustrated by political manoeuvering not dissimilar to contemporary British politics, he began to work on what would become the 1916 Easter Rising alongside other seminal figures of Irish and socialist history such as Countess Markievicz and James Connolly.

Among these Irish revolutionaries, Casement was also an outsider.

He did not believe in pressing ahead with the Easter Rising plans, knowing that the rebels were outnumbered and outgunned compared to the British army. He argued passionately against the loss of lives that action would cause. Casement was also a gay man who had multiple intimate and sexual relationships at a time of public revulsion against homosexuality. His trial for treason and hanging were a direct consequence of his sexual identity. A gay man was not seen as worthy of a military tribunal and execution by firing squad. While the bodies of the other 1916 Rising leaders were returned to their families, Casement’s was thrown into a lime pit outside Pentonville Prison.

The diaries he kept chronicling his sex-partners and gay cruising were circulated to his former friends and allies, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, who might otherwise have pleaded for clemency. His public outing caused him to be written out of both Irish and British history, and even today he is a problematic figure, refusing to fit into any pre-defined conceptions of masculinity and heroism often applied to early 20th Century narratives.

Casement’s life touches on issues still relevant today: European exploitation, the inner and outer lives of individuals, the right to demand a society for all, and the quixotic dream of freedom.

It combines fiction and non-fiction in parallel to how Casement recorded his own life in his journals; split between his ‘white’ diaries (intended for publication) and his private, intimate ‘black’ diaries. The Trial of Roger Casement does not simply replay the known facts (as much as they can be known) of his last years. The graphic novel explores our inability to truly know the inner life of another person (or oneself).

The comic form is apt for exploring the different layers of personhood. At one level, the inner life as perceived by others (such as a biographer); at another, the observable outer life; another, the inner life as perceived by oneself (in a diary); and another again- the actual, lived experience of one’s own life.

The book explores these dualities through what is drawn and how it is drawn. The same sentence can be said by the same (named) person, but when coming from a figure drawn in two different ways the effect of those words will be different.

The Trial of Roger Casement is as much about the failure of biography as it is a biography

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Roaming Exhibition 2019-2021 | Residency 2018

Through the 2018 Wom@rt residency in Angouleme France, Irish artist Fionnuala Doran created two new pieces of work which were displayed across Europe between 2019 and 2021.

The work is inspired by the life of the artist's great Grandmother, who tried to combine motherhood, manual labouring and writing; and by the public testimony of sexual assault survivors.

Alice Molloy was a playwright, poet and writer of short stories. 

She was also a mother of nine and a working­-class Catholic woman who lived in one of the most turbulent towns in Ireland during the War for Independence, the Irish Civil War and the establishment of the gerrymandered, sectarian statelet of Northern Ireland.

Her identity as a creator was and has been subsumed by her identity as a mother, a wife, a member of the non-­landed classes and a woman.

Alice was never able to move from her small town to the literary cities of Dublin or Belfast, unlike male writers like Patrick Kavanagh, who came from similar backgrounds.

Her work has not been archived or collected beyond a few fragments.

While making this work in Angouleme, an allegation of sexual assault was made against a nominee to the American Supreme Court.

Watching the treatment of Dr Christine Blassey Ford by the American Senate, streamed live online, served as a reminder that as a woman, no matter how accomplished, professionally respected and pleasing in manners she tries to be, her testimony will matter nothing against a man of greater socio­political power.

More than 60 years since my great grandmother died, a female professor of psychology can be told by male dominated political institutions that she does not truly know her own lived experience as well as they do.

"Why can't a woman be more like a man", Rex Harrison sang in My Fair Lady. No matter how a woman endeavours to operate in the masculine model of respectability set out for them, she still will not have the authority, respect or privilege of a man.

Video documentation - Wom@rts Comics and Illustrators Residency, 2018

About the Residency | Angouleme, Sept-Oct 2018 

The participating artists were:

  • Fionnuala Doran (Ireland/ LIT Limerick School of Art & Design)
  • Nanu González (Spain / Factoría Cultural Avilés)
  • Merieme Mesfioui (France / Grand Angouleme)
  • Raquel Lagartos (Spain / Factoría Cultural Avilés)
  • Xulia Vicente (Spain / Compostela Cultura)
  • Scotty Hervouet (France / Grand Angouleme)
  • Korina Hunjak (Croatia / Akademija primijenjenih umjetnosti Sveučilišta u Rijeci)
  • Samira Kentrić (Slovenia / UGM l Umetnostna galerija Maribor)
  • Akvile Magicdust (Lithuania / Vilniaus rotušė)
  • Maura McHugh (Ireland / LIT Limerick School of Art & Design).

WOMEN, (BE)COMING | UGM Maribor | 08 March - 13 April 2019

Curated by Breda Kolar Sluga

On 8th March, the International Women's Day, UGM premiered the first of two consecutive exhibitions emerging from the Wom@rts project's artistic residencies. The residencies were in the fields of printmaking, comics & illustration, and lens-based media. The artists responded to Simone de Beauvoir's groundbreaking work The Second Sex, published 70 years ago. The international exhibition of 32 artists from over 10 countries premieres in Maribor and will move to the project's partners galleries in Vilnius (Lithuania), Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Grand Angoulême (France), Rijeka (Croatia), and Limerick (Ireland). The second part of the exhibition opens on 26 April.

In their work, the artists relate to various media, cultural, and generational experiences; asking themselves about the "nature" of the woman, her social embeddedness, about their own history and their future steps.

With the exhibition, inaugurated by the Wom@rts project ambassador and philosopher Eva D. Bahovec we are joining in on the symposium »Beauvoir Between Philosophy, History and Writing the Self«, organized by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ljubljana, Festival City of Women and Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, Croatia.

The first part – on 8 March – presents the work of:

Ana Pečar (Slovenia), María Castellanos (Spain), Cristina Busto Alvarez (Spain), Marija Stonytė (Lithuania), Hanne Larsen (Norway), Stéphanie Cadoret (France);

Haya Blanco (Spain), Fernanda Álvarez Jimenez (Spain), Aoiffe Barret (Ireland), Neringa Žukauskaitė (Lithuania) and Audrey Potrat (France);

Samira Kentrić (Slovenia), Korina Hunjak (Croatia), Merieme Mesfioui (France), Nanu González (Spain), Fionnuala Doran (Ireland).

More about the artists can be found here.

Events accompanying the exhibition include:

Wom@rts is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

Amabie アマビエ Project

Online and at Pollen Studios, Belfast, 2020-21


Tilt at Windmills

CCA Derry~Londonderry
Curated by Mirjami Schuppert, Tilt [at Windmills] featured newly produced work by Jarkko Räsänen, with Fionnuala Doran, Paul Moore and Robin Price.

The works in the exhibition examine and responded to the UTV archive, which is currently digitised by Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive.

Featured Artists

Robin Price, Jarkko Räsänen, Fionnuala Doran, Paul Moore

Through the works in the exhibition, Jarkko Räsänen has embarked on his personal battle against perceived problems and injustices; he goes on an offence against surveillance apparatuses and their use of AI, and a blind trust and glorification of technology, fights for animal rights highlighting violent culture. He examines old footage with the help of technology, stepping away from the content- focused approach that historians mostly use when researching archives. Given the large amount of footage available in the UTV archive, the artist has developed different methods to analyse the material, giving the exhibition distinct directions and various starting points. However, Jarkko is sceptical of any technology, not only old methods, but the ubiquitous algorithms, artificial intelligence, etc. that are currently often considered as superior to any old technologies. His interest in the technologies of different decades makes him curious of the potential of outdated modes and models such as Teletext, its connection to the TV magazine, and its adaptation into the use for other purposes.

Material from the archive is crypted with algorithms the artist has created to be transmitted in cyber space for civilisations that are blind to realistic imagery. Algorithms are based on processes of slicing the image file into thin strips and reorganising them according to simple mathematical rules (and also with some slightly stranger mutations of that). The process takes the viewer on a metaphysical journey through the video files’ structures.

Ulster Television was the first commercial television operator on the island of Ireland and UTV archive contains footage from the late 1950s until recent years when it was acquired by ITV. In the film reels and tapes, the turbulent past of Northern Ireland is recorded, but also the happier memories that have become part of the shared past. TV once entered peoples’ homes and brought them the outside world, informing, entertaining and educating the viewers. Although the broadcasted material was mediated, motivated and at times biased, it provides a good glimpse into the mindsets and interests of the people consuming it. The collection also preserves the more mundane aspects of everyday life that may appear on the surface to be insignificant.

For Surveillance & Camouflage, Jarkko used all the footage from the NI Screen Archives that were categorised as “protest” material. The artist included all the original material without emphasising specific aspects of the content - they simply are a proof of what has been decided worth saving and cataloguing at a certain point of the digitisation process by the archivists.
The original footage has been driven through an AI that tries to recognise faces from the surroundings and detect different emotions. Additionally, the collage has been datamoshed, a technique that makes the scenes on video blend into each other in a dreamy way, often rendering “camouflages” over faces appearing on the original footage. The work intends to point out the arguably obvious fact that technology can be used to control, but also to break the rules (of realism).

Fionnuala Doran, Paul Moore and Robin Price are presenting new work using Teletext technology. Although it was an important source of information, and means of communication, in the pre-internet time, it is completely absent from the UTV archive. By inviting artists who grew up with the technology, and who have a strong local connection, the newly created fictive Teletext collection adapts historical references, and imagines a past that could have been captured by preserving Teletext. The limitations of the medium force the artists to communicate in a particular way, challenging them to find new ways of expressing their ideas and emphasising humour.

The project was commissioned by Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive. Northern Ireland Screen actively seeks to involve artists in engaging with their digital archive and thus seeking new meanings of the material they house in it. These commissions are widely displayed for different audiences, both in Northern Ireland and internationally. Many of the artists previously engaging with the archive have been local, and coming in from a very different cultural background and lived experience makes it possible for Jarkko Räsänen to view the material from a new point of view, create unnoticed connections and draw unexpected conclusions.

You can view the Digital Film Archive and the original materials used in the exhibition here, and the UTV collection here.

As part of the exhibition Jarkko Räsänen and Raquel Meyers delivered 'Hidden Signals', an online TeleText Workshop on Thursday 11 November 2021, 1 – 3pm. 

Tilt at Windmills ran from 05 October to 18 December 2021.

Archive link to the exhibition page:

Spence Brothers - A Celebration at the Strand

Twin brothers Roy and Noel Spence, hailing from Comber Co. Down, have been making films and inspiring film-makers for over fifty years. Their remarkable and sometimes eccentric films span many genres, from sci-fi and horror to folk-life documentaries shot between 1965 and 1986.

An exhibition of Spence Brothers inspired movie posters created by Fionnuala Doran, Rowel Friers, Stephen Hackett and Miguel Martin accompanied the 2021 Belfast Film Festival, running from 6 November 2021 to 13 November 2021.

Explore more of Roy and Noels’s work on Screen NI’s archive.

The Drumlin - Sketchbook