January 8, 2009
Richmond Center for Visual Arts, room 2008
John Carson joined Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh as Head of the School of Art in 2006. He was previously at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, where he was a principal lecturer in fine art and course director for the bachelor of fine arts program. He was also a lecturer in fine art and photography at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin and a visiting artist and lecturer at various schools and colleges in Britain, Ireland, Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Carson is an arts consultant for various organizations, including BBC-TV; Public Art Development Trust; Arts Council of England; London Arts; and others. He is an accomplished writer in the field of multimedia art, and his writing has appeared in various catalogues, magazines and books around the world. Carson is also a practicing multimedia artist. He received his bachelor of fine arts from the University of Ulster at Belfast in 1976 and his master's degree in fine arts at the California Institute of the Arts in 1983.
During Carson's final year at the College of Art and Design in Belfast, he worked on a number of projects that explored geographical and social aspects of the Belfast and Carrickfergus area, where he grew up. This project took Carson out of the art school building and into the streets, the countryside, and peoples' homes. In Friend Map (1975-77) Carson visited everyone in the area who was a friend or relation, photographed them in their homes and placed the photographs on a map in the appropriate location.
Reflecting on his Friend Map project of 1975-76, Carson realized that none of the people who participated in that work had been given any voice in the work. Consequently he decided to revisit the project some 30 years later and began a series of video interviews with the people from the Friend Map who he had managed to track down again. Carson has asked each of them a set of questions to prompt them to reflect on their lives over the last 30 years and to consider how the reality of their lives today compares to any aspirations they might have had in 1976-77. Carson also hoped to discover how political events in Northern Ireland might have influenced their lives.