School of Fine Art
Dr. Fiona Whelan is a Dublin based artist, writer and lecturer at NCAD. Teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level, Fiona is committed to the professional development of practitioners with collaborative and socially engaged practices. From 2013-19 she was joint coordinator of the MA Socially Engaged Art and Further Education in the School of Education, and since 2019, coordinates the ‘Dublin 8 Neighbourhood Residency’ as part of Studio + in the School of Fine Art. Fiona’s art practice is committed to exploring, exposing and reconfiguring power relations through durational engagements with people and place. Since 2004 she has worked closely with Rialto Youth Project on a series of durational projects exploring lived experiences of systemic inequalities with young people and adults, co-producing multiple public works in which power relations are exposed and interrogated. These include What Does He Need? audio piece and public poster project (with Brokentalkers, The LAB, 2021), Stevie (2020), Natural History of Hope (with Brokentalkers, Project Arts Centre, 2016), Policing Dialogues (The LAB, 2010) and The Day in Question (IMMA, 2009). Fiona’s writing focuses on the complex relationality, labour and ethical challenges of collaborative arts practice, and is featured in multiple journals and publications. Books include Freedom? (co-written with Kevin Ryan as ‘Two Fuse’, Cork University Press, 2018) and a critical memoir TEN: Territory, Encounter & Negotiation (2014). In 2019, Fiona received her PhD from TU Dublin for her thesis Reconfiguring Systemic Power Relations: A Collaborative Practice-Based Exploration of Inequality with Young People and Adults in Dublin.
What Does He Need?
What Does He Need? (2018+) is an ongoing project by artist/writer Fiona Whelan, theatre company Brokentalkers and Rialto Youth Project, exploring how men and boys are shaped by and influence the world they live in. Operating at the intersection of collaborative arts practice, performance, qualitative research and youth work, the project combines short-term and longitudinal modes of engagement, connecting with adults, young people and children as participants and publics. This includes a one day immersive workshop aimed at adults, and a programme for children and young people, both of which involve groups coming together to create a boy and guide him through his life, exploring his experiences and needs as he interacts with the world around him. The project has also manifested in multiple public artworks including an animation Stevie (2020), the What Does He Need? audio piece and public poster project (2021). What Does He Need? aims to create significant public dialogue about the current state of masculinity.
Natural History of Hope
Natural History of Hope (2012-16) was a four-year inter-generational project between Rialto Youth Project and artist Fiona Whelan, exploring contemporary equality issues for women and girls living and working in Rialto. This longitudinal enquiry drew on the strong relationships between the organisation and generations of females living locally as well as the collaborative methodologies developed over time between artist and organisation. The project had a number of public manifestations including a series of Listening events and the development of a temporary school for women, climaxing in a major performance Natural History of Hope in Project Arts Centre 2016 (in collaboration with Brokentalkers). While the previous project (Policing Dialogues, 2007-11) engaged with visible forms of power ie: policing, the Natural History of Hope project focused on approaches to exposing and responding to invisible and intangible forms of power such as gendered identity and class positions.
‘What’s the Story?’ Collective led a four-year project (2007-11) exploring power and policing in Dublin. Born from existing relationships developed during an initial residency by Fiona Whelan in the Rialto Youth Project, the collective was established to push the boundaries of collaboration between young people, youth workers and the artist. Their durational practice became focused on an intense exploration of power, both in their collaborative relationships and their individual lived experiences. Central to the process was a collection of personal anonymous stories, which formed the bedrock of all work. Over time, the gathered stories moved from private to public in a series of events staged in community spaces and contemporary art venues. This included two participatory reading events including The Day in Question (IMMA, 2009), two films and a mobile cinema which travelled nationally and internationally, culminating in a major exhibition and residency Policing Dialogues (The LAB, 2010) which brought together young people, youth workers, educators, academics and members of An Garda Síochána in an active exploratory space committed to exploring and testing power relationships.
National Youth Council of Ireland Artist in Youth Work Residency for What Does He Need? (with Rialto Youth Project)
Arts Council Projects Award for Participation for What Does He Need?, (with Rialto Youth Project and Brokentalkers)
National Youth Council of Ireland Artist in Youth Work Residency scheme with Rialto Youth Project (for What Does He Need?)
Arts Council/Create Artist in the Community Scheme for What Does He Need? project (with Rialto Youth Project and Brokentalkers)
Arts Council Arts Participation Bursary for Natural History of Hope project (with Rialto Youth Project and Brokentalkers)
Irish Museum of Modern Art – invited residency
Two phase residency in Studio 468 (with Rialto Youth Project and Brokentalkers)
Artist in Residence in Rialto Youth Project, Dublin 8
Recent published material
‘Maintaining a critical approach to collaborative art and youth work practice in neoliberal times’, book chapter co-written with Jim Lawlor, in Arts, Culture and Community Development, Policy Press, Bristol (Forthcoming)
‘What Does He Need? – Reflections on a cross-sectorial and transdisciplinary project unfolding in public’, Art & the Public Sphere, Intellect, Volume 9, Numbers 1-2, 1 December 2020, pp. 85-96(12) Available at: https://doi.org/10.1386/aps_00034_1
Reconfiguring Systemic Power Relations: A Collaborative Practice-Based Exploration of Inequality with Young People and Adults in Dublin, PhD thesis, TU Dublin. Available at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/appadoc/95/
‘A Dublin-Based MA in Flux’, book chapter in Uncertain Patterns. Teaching and Learning Socially Engaged Art, by HEAD, Geneva.
Freedom?, part of the series ‘Sireact - Longings for another Ireland’, publication co-written with Kevin Ryan under the collective title ‘Two Fuse’, Cork University Press.
‘Through the Lens of Power: An Arts-Based Exploration of Power Relations with Young People in Dublin’, journal article in International Journal of Art and Design Education, 37(4), November.
‘The Listening Workshop’, Sample lesson plan in Art as Social Action – An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art, by Gregory Sholette, Chloe Bass and Social Practice Queens.
TransActions #2 – Field and Academy: Knowledge and Counter Knowledge in Socially Engaged Art (Co editor with Dr. Ailbhe Murphy, Create and Helen Carey, Fire Station Artists’ Studios). Published jointly by NCAD, Create and Fire Station Artists’ Studios. See: transactionspublication.com
Reflections on FSAS 2016 Summer School, published in Fire Station Artists’ Studios Publication, 2017.
Embracing Complexity, The Visual Arts Newssheet, Sep-Oct ‘16
‘Beating the Bounds of Socially-Engaged Art? A Transdisciplinary Dialogue on a Collaborative Art Project with Youth in Dublin, Ireland’, Fiona Whelan & Kevin Ryan, Issue 4, Field Journal, Spring 2016. http://field-journal.com
TransActions #1 – Dublin/Chicago (Co editor with Glenn Loughran, NCAD and Jim Duignan, Stockyard Institute). Published jointly by NCAD+UCD and Stockyard Institute Chicago. See: tranactionspublication.com
TEN: Territory, Encounter & Negotiation, a critical memoir by a socially engaged artist, Self published book, available from fionawhelan.com
Conferences/Talks - Selected Presentations
‘Arts as DNA’, panel member during ‘A Homebaked kinda day’ moderated by Jeanne van Heeswijk, online, 27 Feb ’21. Watch at: https://homebaked.org.uk/nowhere/media_publications/a_homebaked_kinda_day_arts_as_dna/
‘Care as a Radical Act’ panel member at Create Networking Day, online, 9 Dec ’20. Watch at: https://www.create-ireland.ie/publication/care-as-a-radical-act-networking-day-2020-subtitled/
‘The Textual Trace – Writing and Socially Engaged Practice’, Fiona Whelan and Gretchen Coombs in conversation hosted by Create. Watch at: https://www.create-ireland.ie/publication/the-textual-trace-writing-and-socially-engaged-practice-fiona-whelan-and-gretchen-coombs-in-conversation/
‘“Rip the Script”: Performing/Witnessing Natural History of Hope’ (with Kevin Ryan as Two Fuse) at The Sexual Politics of Freedom, The Irish Centre for Human Rights, School of Law – NUIG, 17 Sep. ’20
‘Reconfiguring Systemic Power Relations Through Collective Acts Of Voice And Listening’, conference paper at 5th International Irish Narrative Inquiry Conference, Trinity College, 3 May 2019.
‘Practice and Pedagogy – The question of Artists’ Formation’ panel member at Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme: Practice and Power event, The LAB, Dublin 22 June.
‘Can Young People Influence the Future of Garda Training?’, presentation at Irish Council of Civil Liberties’ event Rights-Based Policing, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dublin.
‘Power and (im)possibility? Socially-engaged art and Cynic practice’ (Fiona Whelan & Kevin Ryan under collective title ‘Two Fuse’), presentation at CAPPE, University of Brighton, 29 May.
'Through the lens of power – an arts based exploration of power relations with young people in Dublin’ at iJADE conference, NCAD Dublin, Fri 17 Nov 2017.
‘Power and Freedom in the Enterprise Society: “catch up, keep up, get ahead…”’ (with Kevin Ryan NUIG under the collective title ‘Two Fuse’) at The Power of Narrative – RC 36 Interim Conference, University of Pavia, Italy, May 30-31 2017
‘Policing Dialogues’ keynote address at New Foundations in Youth Justice event, DIT Grangegorman, 29th June ‘17
‘Power Three Ways: A Place-Based Methodology’ at Mapping Spectral Traces VIII: The Place of the Wound, Dept of Geography, Maynooth University, 19 October
‘A Fair Land Discussion: Social Change through Creative Practice’, 20 August, Irish Museum of Modern Art.
‘A Durational, Practice-Based Model of Identifying Learning’ at Creative Research Practices and Alternative Sites of Learning, UCD College of Social Science, 3 May
‘Policing Dialogues; a creative exploration of neighbourhood relations of power’ at The Geographical Turn, hosted by NUIM Geography Dept.
‘Renegotiating power relationships – Who speaks and who listens?’ at Signal Summer University, Run by CIFAS, Brussels
‘Speaking truth to power and the politics of listening’ at ‘A Field in the Making’, The Second Irish Narrative Inquiry Conference, Maynooth University, March 2015
‘Territory, Encounter & Negotiation’ a critical discussion organised on the occasion of the launch of TEN, with Para-Institution, the Community Knowledge Initiative NUIG and GMIT with Megan Johnson, Megs Morley, Deirdre O’Mahony at CCAM
‘Who is listening?’ at ‘Performing Power’ seminar, Dublin Castle.
Dublin 8 Neighbourhood Residency
The Dublin 8 Neighbourhood Residency is a programme of NCAD Fine Art Studio+, which sees students immersed off campus in the Dublin 8 area, working with local partners to engage in community-based collaborative art processes. Current partners include the Robert Emmet Community Development Project, The Bridge Project and Rialto Youth Project. While engaging with local community groups, students are supported by a teaching programme led by Fiona Whelan and NCAD staff with additional input from a series of visiting artists’ presentations and workshops, devised in collaboration with Create – the national development agency for collaborative arts.
Rialto Youth Project
Since 2004, Fiona has worked in collaboration with Rialto Youth Project where together the artist and organisation have collaborated on a series of durational projects exploring equality issues related to class, gender and policing including the Policing Dialogues project (2007-11), Natural History of Hope (2012-2016) and What Does He Need? (with Brokentalkers, 2018+)
Since 2016, Fiona has been engaging in a transdisciplinary collaboration with performance company Brokentalkers. Since 2018, this collaboration has been centred on the What Does He Need? project (with Rialto Youth Project). See:
At once an ethos and a method of inquiry, Two Fuse is a collaborative platform that brings Kevin Ryan (who works in the discipline of sociology) and Fiona Whelan (who works in the field of socially-engaged/collaborative art) together through a commitment to thinking across the boundaries of disciplinary enclosures. Two Fuse is also a way of acknowledging the collaborative nature of inquiry – that the pursuit of knowledge and understanding entails both direct and indirect encounters and exchanges.
TransActions publication series is an international partnership between Stockyard Institute Chicago and National College of Art & Design Dublin, Ireland, and is led by Fiona Whelan (NCAD) and Jim Duignan (SI). Issue #1 took Dublin and Chicago as two contemporary urban sites for exploration and explored the physical, geographic and social fabric of the two cities. Subsequent issues are developed independently by NCAD or Stockyard Institute and involve further collaborations with diverse organisations, institutions and individuals. Issue #2 ‘Field and Academy: Knowledge and counter knowledge in socially engaged art’ (2017) is a collaboration between NCAD, Fire Station Artists’ Studios and Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts. Drawing threads from the meta to the micro level of knowledge production, issue #2 poses questions for the field of socially-engaged art and education practice in 2017.