The exhibition ’Dispersed Presence’ is a result of‘ Transforming Long Kesh/Maze’, a collaborative social sculpture by artists Martin Krenn and Aisling O’Beirn, exploring the future of the Maze/Long Kesh prison site beyond its current state of limbo. In thinking of the former prison as a dispersed presence the artists focus particularly on archaeologist Laura McAtackney’s concept of the ‘distributed self’ from her key text on the prison, ‘An Archaeology of the Troubles’, (McAtackney, 2014, 244-265). The former prison has both a physical presence and conceptual importance. Indecision about its future at government level says much about the political climate of a ‘post-conflict’ society. Given this, the artists are interested in how one can think beyond the site’s legacy and to its future.
Ongoing dialogue with McAtackney during the course of the research also provided invaluable contacts with many people who had 1st hand experience of the prison allowing the artists to develop their approach. The artists invited individuals and groups, with a first-hand experience of the prison, such as ex-prisoners, former visitors, ex-prison staff and community museums from across the political spectrum to partake in the project. They then worked with those that joined the project, to collaboratively photograph existing prison artefacts or to co-create unique small sculptural objects to reflect their personal experiences of this site. Techniques for creating the new objects include methods traditionally used in making prison art.
Three principal dialogical methods for working with diverse participants were devised specifically for this project: restaging (whilst occasionally repairing), reappropriation and retelling. The aim was to avoid negatively dwelling on the past or the reiteration of previously rehearsed and ideologically overdetermined narratives.
An artist book resulting from this project will be launched in 2018/2019. There is also a set of postcards produced from the project as a touring exhibition which has been shown as part of Peace and Beyond Fringe Arts and as Part of Féile an Phobail. These cards can be shown in various public venues such as libraries and community centres. For further info contact Aisling O’Beirn firstname.lastname@example.org
A TRACES Fanzine (no. 06 ) project has been produced dedicated to the project. Free copies will be available in the gallery.