Restaging the Object: A Participatory Exploration of Long Kesh/Maze Prison

Martin Krenn, Aisling O'Beirn

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Transforming Long Kesh/Maze’ is a collaborative social sculpture exploring former prison beyond its current state of limbo. This all-male prison closed since 2000, was the primary facility for the imprisonment of paramilitaries involved in the recent conflict in Northern Ireland (Beresford,1994) Despite closure it maintains a physical presence and conceptual importance. Its inaccessibility poses research challenges, voicing political contradictions inherent in the conflict. Government indecision about its future exposes the political climate of this ‘post-conflict’ society. Given the traumatic events still within living memory, gaining trust was vital but integral through contacting potential participants supported and in dialogue with archaeologist Laura McAtackney. This delicate and sometimes difficult process informed the development of our participatory research methods. To pose and hone our research question, during participant engagement, we organised the international conference Transforming Maze/LongKesh (March 2017) with a diverse audience from across the political spectrum included ex-prisoners, local community workers, international artists, architects and academics. The conference acted as a springboard, situating the prison in an international, cross-disciplinary context. It secured participants with the first-hand experience of the prison, including ex-prisoners, the former prison staff, a former independent Board of Visitors member and notably the 50+ (age)Group, who are women who remain in touch having met whilst visiting incarcerated friends and family. They provided uniquely female perspectives. Over a further2 years working with these participants, using material artefacts, dialogical photography and prison art-making process we unearthed lesser-known accounts, experiences and perceptions of prison life and legacy, whilst avoiding negatively reiterating previously rehearsed, ideologically over determined narratives. Disseminated across international publications, exhibitions and conferences supported by Horizon 2020 funding (2016- 2019), this multicomponent output is most extensively evidenced in Restaging the Object: A Participatory Exploration of Long Kesh/Maze Prison, publishing the research, chronicling the process and documenting the exhibition Dispersed Presence.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherK. Verlag
Number of pages226
ISBN (Print)9783981863567
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Aisling O’Beirn, born 1968, is an artist based in Belfast and an Associate Lecturer in Sculpture at Ulster University. Her work is interdisciplinary and explores the relationship between politics and place, uncovering the tensions between disparate forms of official and unofficial information. She examines space and place as physical structures and political entities by making and animating forms relating to observed and theoretical structures being studied by contemporary astronomers and physicists. Her work also questions how people process and understand both scientific and political developments. Her work takes various forms, including sculpture, installation, animations and site-specific projects depending on the context. Dialogue is key to her practice, which has been facilitated by Armagh Observatory, Dunsink Observatory and The Centre for Astronomy NUIG, Galway. O’Beirn has exhibited nationally and internationally. She was included in Northern Ireland’s first participation in the 51st Venice Biennale and was shortlisted for the MAC International prize in 2018. Her work manifests variously as sculpture, installation, animation and site-specific projects.

Martin Krenn, born 1970, is an artist, artistic researcher and curator who teaches at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. He works with various types of media, especially text, photography, and video. Most of his work in public space takes the form of social sculpture. His key area of interest lies in the strained relationships between art and society. By consistently expanding the field of art, he tries to initiate discussions about sociopolitical topics and challenge conventional thinking. His work has been shown at numerous international exhibitions and festivals. Krenn holds an M.A. (Mag. art.) from the University of Applied Arts Vienna. In 2011, Krenn received the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Scholarship at the University of Ulster in Belfast (UK) for his PhD research in the Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment and was awarded a PhD by Ulster University in 2016. In 2017, Krenn was awarded the Venia Docendi in “Art and Communication Practices” at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.


  • Long Kesh
  • Contentious Cultural Heritage


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