Incarceration Altars

Artist: Bernie Masterson
Community Partner: Mountjoy Prison Campus, The Irish Prison Service and the City of Dublin Education & Training Board (CDETB)
Website/Social Media:  
Medium: Audio/visual installation
Commission Type: Open Call
Commissioner Name: Grangegorman Public Art Working Group, Grangegorman Development Agency
Per Cent for Art: Yes



Incarceration Altars (2017), video, film, catalogue was produced and mediated by Bernie Masterson in collaboration with residents from Mountjoy Prison Campus. The project was undertaken with the support of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and the City of Dublin Educational Training Board (CDETB).

Professionals associated with production include an essay by Professor Aislinn O’Donnell, Maynooth University School of Education; Eamon Sinnott and Partners for the catalogue design and print run; Kieran Moylan, Principal Officer, Care & Rehabilitation Directorate, (IPS); Stephen O Connor, Organiser of Prison Education (CDETB).

In 2017, five videos from Incarceration Altars were screened in Rathdown House, TU Dublin. During 2018, it was screened at LOOP Festival Barcelona, Spain, curated by Natalia Foguet Angela Garcia (Safia Art Contemporani Barcelona) at Damer House Gallery, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary (June), and at the Irish Prison Education Association Conference, Irish Prison Service College, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. In 2019 it was shown at the European Prison Education Association Conference, held in TU Dublin. Also in August 2019 Incarceration Altars #3 was screened in ‘Irish Short Reels Series’, Contemporary Irish Arts Center Los Angeles, curated by Screen America & Screen Ireland.

Primary stakeholders involved in the new Grangegorman Campus are the Health Service Executive, TU Dublin and the local community. The Mountjoy Prison Campus is a part of the local community, built just 25 years after the Richmond District Hospital (which became St. Brendan’s Hospital) in 1850; both institutions dealing with invisible communities. The Grangegorman community public arts initiative increases the visibility of this disenfranchised group within that community while fostering local civic engagement and inclusiveness. It embraces multiculturalism in the development of social change giving voice to new and different perspectives from demographic profiles to affect positive change and enhance community cohesion.

In doing so, Incarceration Altars substantiates the prison community as an integral part of the local community by providing equality of opportunity where difference is welcomed and participation is valued. It facilitates sharing our communal past and present experiences through the creative process, to promote respect, a sense of pride and achievement for all of the participants both within the said community and with their partnerships. The aim of Incarceration Altars is to recognize the importance of creativity as a tool for human development and self-encounter in the context of prison and to promote the development and personal autonomy of the prisoner as a person within the local community. It also provides a platform to make a comprehensive body of work that bridges the gap between previously ‘separate’ art traditions and digital media, tested against the ‘real world’ situation of contemporary practice. All photos are courtesy of the artist Bernie Masterson.



Read the press release for Incarceration Altars | view here

Incarceration Altars Project Catalogue | view here



  • Artist Bio

    Bernie Masterson comes from a painting background and has worked extensively with Educational Services to Prisons. Over the last few years her work has developed through a participatory art practice. It is interdisciplinary in nature, and sometimes collaborative.  Key components of her practice include research, photography, film, editing, and sound design.

    In this collaborative exploration with the men form the Mountjoy Prison Campus she investigates new perspectives and makes us question our assumptions, in relation to negative stereotypes. She seeks to find alternative points of view that raises questions and promotes critical dialogue, regarding the role of humanity, as individuals, and as communities. Her work evolves as a personal response to real-life stories and situations encountered.