(Brighton University and Belfast Exposed Gallery)
Paper Short Abstract:
An investigation into the contestation of meaning that photographs catalyse and the ways in which this contestation transects debates on ‘post-conflict’ and ‘post-Agreement’ in Northern Ireland.
Paper long abstract:
In considering photography produced post the Good Friday Agreement (1998) which established the legal framework for power sharing in Northern Ireland my curatorial research seeks to subvert the consociationalist logic of the 'peace process' and the related lexicons of nationalism and identity politics. The research, conceived as a talk series, exhibition of photographs and publication of transcripts foregrounds an active, generative and creative engagement with photography to question what forms of knowledge are catalysed through a collaborative enquiry and experience of photographs. The research dramatises Ariella Azoulay's proposition of the 'event of photography' through establishing a group of co-researchers across disciplines (literature, architecture, law, visual arts) practice areas (curators, writers, visual artists) and communities (loyalist, nationalist) to consider the work of six photographers John Duncan and Kai Olaf Hesse; Paul Seawright and Malcolm Craig Gilbert and; Mary McIntyre and David Farrell.
The research proposes the use of a photograph beyond the purely illustrative or observational by reclaiming the liminal space of a photograph, as a critical site which can throw into relief the sectarianism that prevents a sense of shared cultural contemporaneity, and as a critical space from which to negotiate and signal new forms of post Agreement identity in the act of defining a future Northern Irish society. It therefore displaces any assumption of a photograph's relation to the real to explore how a photograph's meaning is negotiated through personal, social and visual affiliation and how photographs can be understood as potent affective and discursive spaces of translation.
Photography as a research method