Belfast, Northern Ireland
Martin Krenn, Aisling O’Beirn, Laura McAtackney
Prison Arts Foundation (PAF)
Transforming Long Kesh/Maze Prison
The former Category A prison, known variously as Long Kesh, H Blocks and Maze, is located just outside Belfast and has for a long time been a contested territory. It famously housed political prisoners during the period of recent conflict in Northern Ireland (operational form early 1971 – 2000). All that remains are one H Block and the former prison hospital and despite different reuse project have been explored, the site is currently disused and – for this reason – contested.
The research developed by this Creative Co-Production aims at reinvigorating the debate to reactivate the site, and defining strategies to transform place of memory in a place of hope and aspiration, by acknowledging its historical importance and its future possibilities as a locus for change.
This dialogical art project artistically investigates the material culture of the Maze/Long Kesh site based on collaboration and dialogue. The artists Aisling O’Beirn and Martin Krenn work with participants such as ex-prisoners, ex-prison employees and ex-visitors from Maze/Long Kesh prison to produce an art project, which opens up multiple new perspectives from key individuals who have had direct contact with the site. The artists conduct a series of workshops in which the participants’ experience of the physical reality of the prison is central. The participants will be invited to create objects related to their personal experience and memory of the site using various materials and techniques that would have been used by prisoners making objects whilst in jail. Examples of techniques could include, string art, images on handkerchiefs, objects made from lollypop sticks etc. The aim is to give insights into aspects of the prison that could easily be overlooked such as everyday life experiences in the prison, how prison furniture was used and the function/malfunction of prison architecture. A traveling exhibition displayed in various public locations as well as a publication will show these objects together with copies/images of real artefacts from the jail. These exhibits will reveal physical traces of the material culture of Maze/Long Kesh.