Cover Design: Alice McKee Catalogue Design: DEADFLATMATTDesign
Locus of Control
who controls and regulates public space 13 - 22 January 2009 Golden Thread Gallery 84-94 Great Patrick Street | Belfast BT1 2LU | Northern Ireland Who controls and regulates public space. How can public space be openly negotiated and how can a participatory vision be realized through political, social and cultural strategies. Black Mountain Christoff Gillen Christoff Gillen exhibits documentation of his final installation on the north west face of the Black Mountain, Belfast. In October and November 2008 Gillen’s progressive installation on the Black Mountain of letters and symbols culminated in the phrase ‘Imagine a City of =’. Code Red Acitore Z Artezione In an ongoing series of urban game interventions entitled Code Red the terrain* is determined in relation to the public realm, hybrid spaces, fictional narratives and contemporary photographic archives. In the gallery, Artezione exhibits digital traces of the projects collaborative approach and ‘state of search’ aesthetic. The commissioned text Locus of Control by Eddie Molloy and Cohesion in Contested Spaces by Pauline Hadaway broadly contextualizes Artezione & Gillen’s project work within the political, social and cultural geographies of Belfast. Locus of Control forms part of the practice led research and development of Artezione’s & Gillen’s project work on the Master of Art in Public Programme, Post Graduate Art & Design Belfast, University of Ulster. The catalogue has been supported by Cultural Events and Development, University of Ulster. * Partnership Project: Mapping the City - Project Area One I Partner Organisation: Belfast Exposed Photography
LOCUS OF CONTROL Eddie Molloy Prelude As Belfast continues to traverse the seemingly inexorable road toward ’normality’, ’stability,‘peace’ the past dies. Or, more accurately, it becomes delocated. Delocation does not destroy the past but rather shifts it, sanitises it, builds over it. Is this the true meaning of ‘progress’: setting adrift the present from our shameful past constructed from a conflict that had become shockingly banal? If so, then what we (Belfast) are experiencing now is something not delocated from the past but a process that has never stopped. Did not Henry Joy (that ubiquitous figure on the Belfast scene) proclaim unswerving faith in that illustrious idea? What other grand notions could have filled the mind of that great bourgeois Edward Harland as he presided over Belfast’s industrial heyday while the Socialists and Papishts were beaten on the docks and burnt from their homes? Progress! Aye, a noble idea. Sure was it not progress too that inspired the young British technocrats high on LeCorbusier during the heady days of mass housing when the working class were no longer to be feared but something to be controlled, catalogued and collated in accordance with their ‘naturally’ conceived divisions. And now, it can perhaps be said, Progressus Vicit: the ancient divisions have been overcome in an orgy of vulgar consumerism. United not by the common name of ‘Irishman’ but rather by the sub-nomen ‘consumer’. The End of History. A future defined by the objects of intended acquisition or intangible ‘lifestyle indicators’ such as ‘gym membership’, ‘time shares’ or the accumulation of ‘air miles’. Past is become invisible: - I used to live here. - You used to live under the motorway? You must have been very poor mummy. How can anything intrude into such a timeless zone? A politics without history lacks all but the bluster of an interminable, mindless discourse. It ceases to exist in all but the minds of its supposed practitioners. It is here that art appears once again on the fringes of society’s hetero-mediated self-representation. A society that believes itself to have vanquished history or at least that it is now strong enough to confine history’s existence to certain places and moments where it can be suitably ignored and forced once again into the liminality of invisibility. The articulation of the inaudible, the visualisation of the invisible, the materialisation of a collective memory subsumed by a mountain of neon-encrusted guilt, facing the present with all the force of the future…
I. Ideology, Physicality & Development
“We transform ourselves through transforming our world (as Marx insisted).” – D. Harvey (Spaces of Capital) To locate ‘control’ it is necessary to peer beyond the glass and concrete facades of the modern city and look to the configurations that arise in the swirling mist of a forgotten and often distorted history. For not only do we transform ourselves through the forging of our environment but we can be forged through the transformation of that environment. Although this is clear, the role ideology (overt and implicit) plays in this process is not. A town so dominated by and bound up with the history of Unionism cannot then in its physical and structural elements be immune from that stated ideology. Nor is Unionism itself a free-floating self-contained body of dogma that stands aloof from any external influence, but rather it itself operates as the articulation of a certain self-justificatory Weltanschauung of a section of the Belfast bourgeoisie. Dependent on the contingent circumstances, it regards itself on the one hand as the guarantor of civil and religious liberty in this British dominion1 and, on the other, as the guarantor of the ethno-religious hegemony of Protestants ensured through an exclusionary all-class alliance2. The primacy of ‘control’ in this ideological configuration is clear: first, the control of the majority of the working class through a religiocultural identification with the State itself and, second, the maintenance of an economic environment conducive to high rates of exploitation (due to the depression of wages created by the existence of a Catholic underclass which served as a reserve pool of labour3). The space of the city then becomes a constant battleground of transgression and manipulation leading to an inevitable carve-up as zones are marked not only by social status but by allegiance. This process (begun at the very beginning of Belfast as an industrialised city) continued right up to the present day as ‘peace lines’ continued to be erected in recent years in the name of social stability. The increased levels of ghettoisation that took place in the late 1960s and 1970s were indicative not only of heightened dissatisfaction with the status quo by all sections of the working class but it crucially signified the failure of Unionism to contain the tensions implicit in the foundation of Northern Ireland. The corporatist ideology that informed its functioning could no longer exclude the growing and increasingly educated Catholic population whose very articulation of itself signified a radically altered public. The ‘subjectification’ of this section of the population gave rise to a properly political situation in which the previously un(ac)counted stepped into the breach of what has been called the “empty universal”4 in which a certain section of the people invoke the mantle of ‘the people’, thereby displacing the supposed legitimacy of the existing order. Rancière characterises the politicisation of the situation (i.e. the challenging of the status quo by an internal albeit excluded portion of the population) thus: “it is through the existence of this part of those who have no part, of this nothing that is all, that the community exists as a political community.”5
EXCURSUS I Sailortown The history of Sailortown in the Belfast docklands reflects these trends clearly. For it was here that a section of Belfast’s maritime working class experienced the industrialisation, pogroms, hardship and eventual delocation that informed the history of Belfast’s working class population. The forcible exit from the east of the city where industry was strongest; depression and unemployment; solidarity and community; finally, forced dispersion around the city. The destruction of Sailortown in the 1960s illustrated the adaptation of official state ideology to the conditions of modernity in which the values of community and solidarity were subordinated to those of individualism and consumption. The exchange of Sailortown for the M3 was a powerful metaphor for the values that were coming to dominate the perception of space in the city. As Guy Debord noted in 1959: “The breaking up of the dialectic of the human milieu in favor of automobiles (the projected freeways in Paris will entail the demolition of thousands of houses and apartments although the housing crisis is continually worsening) masks its irrationality under pseudopractical justifications. But it is practically necessary only in the context of a specific social set-up. Those who believe that the particulars of the problem are permanent want in fact to believe in the permanence of the present society.” 6 In this way, necessity becomes implicit in the official discourse as no other option seems possible. The importance of the task at hand overrides all other considerations because history and the impermanence of the particular circumstances that exist at any one time appear as fictions whose use is long past7. This is how Sailortown could be destroyed without consultation and even with the trust of the inhabitants.
II. Culture, Hegemony & Resistance
“In losing their ignorance, the bourgeoisie have become impenitently malign.” – T.W. Adorno (Minima Moralia) However, the ghettoisation of Belfast was by this stage firmly entrenched. The geographic structures implying power relations old or new began to serve a radically altered purpose as zones that emerged as accidents of history started to develop a community possessing subjective agency. This process too was developed and reflected on a physical basis through the visual self-representation of communities that were becoming more and more solidified through political actions and allegiance. The painting of murals was central to this process of self-creation and self-representation. Indeed, the existence of such displays transformed the very nature of the place that was inhabited: “it is the public space in which the [mural as] artefact is sited that is changed.” 8
So, the existence of murals as the physical expression of the community also allows the community to transform itself. This does not imply however that what had developed were homogenous communal blocs acting in authoritarian unity, rather (as Harvey points out )9 there exists a dialectical relationship between community formation and the institutionalisation of that community. This process is also replicated at the level of the physical, i.e. in the fluctuating persistence of the mural through time: “Although the painting of a mural may appear to constitute the finished artefact, it actually may be just the beginning of a complex social life, which may well continue long after the original painting itself has been over-painted or destroyed.”10 The life of the mural as it is reinvigorated by the community provides a potent reminder of the possibility of that community fading away or losing relevance to those who construct it. Its physical nature betrays an underlying fragility that is exposed to shifts in values and the supposed imperatives of economics. EXCURSUS II Barracks “To dedicate a new school is not the same as to convert a military fortress into a school. We intend to continue converting even the small barracks into schools, because every town no matter how small, had military barracks.” 11 Throughout Belfast the British military presence looms large in the form of (dis-)used barracks. In Andersonstown, the barracks was closed in 2005 but its status is still contested by the local community who have repeatedly demanded (through community groups, political representatives and popular mobilisation) that the ground on which it stood be handed over to the community as a whole. However in recent years the Minister for Social Development has twice attempted to allow the space to be acquired privately, most conspicuously by the Carvill Group.12 The continued resistance to the Andersonstown Barracks site remaining outside the control of the community reflects the process of forming and maintaining a community mentioned above. The creation of such a subjectified public demonstrates the impetus to maintain a physical community of resistance that demands to recreate itself and its environment on its own terms. The physical nature of this process becomes clearer due to the rapidly changing landscape in Belfast. That a community can articulate (and recreate) itself on such a basis also points to the fragility of the processes that give rise to spatial conflicts like this one. For through such a struggle, the reality of the changing shape of Belfast becomes apparent and the fictions that inform its seemingly timeless centre exposed.
III Middle Class Ascendancy, or the Dominance of a Fiction “… the ‘middle class’ is, in it’s very ‘real’ existence, the embodied lie, the denial of antagonism… [it] presents itself as the neutral common ground of Society.” – S. Zizek (The Absent Centre of Political Ontology)
The ‘common ground of Society’ in Belfast is, according to conventional wisdom, anything but ‘neutral’. Contestation and transgression are the watchwords of present-day Belfast as consumerism attempts to bring everybody into its indiscriminate embrace. The emergence of Belfast as a focus for production and consumption can be directly traced through the development of the ‘peace process.’ Richard Haas (The US Government’s representative in Belfast), in an address to certain businessmen in 2002, highlighted the high increase in production stemming from the ‘peace process’: • Foreign investment has created 31,000 new jobs since 1998. • Northern Ireland’s manufacturing output has risen by 25% in the past few years. • Exports have doubled in the past ten years. Crucially, he also highlighted the role the bourgeoisie play in structuring (both economically and physically) the ‘new Belfast’: “…we have seen time and again that business leaders constitute some of the strongest voices urging Northern Ireland’s politicians to do the right thing. “Business men and women focus year in and year out on the bottom line; in doing so, they probably best understand what can be gained – and lost – from any given situation. Economic progress is measured in profit margins, productivity, returns on investment, and other tangible indices. This progress manifests itself in the wider community through higher incomes for families, home and car sales, more theaters, shops and restaurants in thriving neighborhoods. In both these realms – that of the economy and that of the community – we have seen direct benefits from the peace and stability created by the Good Friday Agreement.” 13 Peace and stability, then, form the basis from which a successful consumption-driven society is established. The language used in Haas’ statement is clearly illustrative of the nature the “right thing”, as he calls it. For the “right thing” in this context is clearly the ending of widespread, non-state violence14 so that an arena might be created that would allow a correctly consumerist model to arise.15 What then emerges from the economic development that corroborates, justifies and defends the ‘peace process’ is an arena that in fact disguises the relations in society that sustain it. Thus the realty of antagonism is automatically expelled from the city centre as public sphere. The intrusion of the political is prohibited by the instrumentalisation of the public sphere for the purpose of a consumption that effectively de-publicises the public. Displays that on a superficial level may seem to have some political import (such as the anti-war demonstrations that have occurred occasionally over the past number of years) are met with placid support at best or more often with total disinterest by people who are after all in the centre of Belfast to consume. Thus what may seem to be political becomes in fact a mask with to disguise the absence of the political. And it is this very absence that defines the public, defines it in the sense that it negates it. In this way the city centre (as a seemingly ‘public’ realm) acts as a veil that is regularly perforated to allow the points of contention that exist is society to have a fleeting presence in so much as they are impermanent and do not effect the smooth operation of the primary function of that space.
It is at this point that the exclusion of the political from the (state-sanctioned) public becomes paramount and at which the supposedly apolitical demonstrates its inherent nature as police.16 EXCURSUS III. New Protest in Belfast (RIR/No Bush) When the Royal Irish Regiment paraded through the streets of Belfast on 2nd November 2008, this notion of the police as arbiters of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ (le partage du sensible) in Rancière’s schema becomes apparent. For in calling the demonstration, the British Ministry of Defence clearly saw such a parade as apolitical and so suitable for the public realm. The intrusion of the political (in the sense of an aggrieved and historically located subject) into the public sphere was thus prohibited and confined to the limits of the city centre through the rulings of state agencies enforced by the PSNI. This process of the expulsion and persistent intrusion of the political is mirrored in Gillen’s work on the Black Mountain. Rather than being forced out of the consumer-driven public sphere, Gillen’s work enunciates into the public sphere from afar, thus replicating and subverting the forcible removal of the political from the public. The re-located (and so re-created) public becomes the people of Belfast willing to engage with a visualised text that articulates the absent public without becoming lost of the privatised public of the centre. In this sense the de-publicisation of the centre becomes the vehicle for the re-location of the (political) public. The ever-nascent public then repeatedly attempts to overcome its destruction by insisting on being heard on its own terms.
IV. Space, Conflict & Art, or Towards the Future In spite of attempt at social engagement and even intervention the repercussions of such places remain inherently limited. On a theoretical level, as an attempt to ‘intervene’ in contemporary society the site of the gallery is limited by its essentially enclosed nature. As a privileged locus of societal critique it remains firmly ensconced within a fundamentally bourgeois schema which has a negatory influence on its ability to transform the world outside the gallery itself. However the attempt at direct engagement with society remains the focus of many contemporary art galleries in Belfast.17 The tension implicit in this engagement (to be willing but limited in capacity) gives rise to situation in which the gallery potentially becomes a frustrated voice comforted by its own impotence. This potential is the manifestation of a bourgeois complacency borne by years of unprecedented economic growth in Belfast coupled with a relatively stable constitutional arrangement. In such an environment the danger arises that social intervention becomes ‘safe’ in a way that it was not before due to inadequate state protection from the armed working class. However the pitfalls of such an approach are obvious: the creation of a passive public and the recreation of space in the image of the bourgeoisie. But such cultural colonisation is by no means necessary. Art is not powerless in the face of social change. But it is necessary to appreciate the dichotomous nature of art in that it has the potential both to subvert and to endorse simultaneously. The presence of the artwork in the gallery cannot after all negate itself in its entirety.
The breakdown of what is allowed to be seen is clearly inside the artists’ domain. To breach the visual and auditory barriers erected in a society that frees itself from the past by enslaving itself to the present is both a political and aesthetic necessity. This struggle demands the (re)creation of space in which to articulate and transform the present in its sensible aspects. For such space to remain inside the gallery would represent a failure not only of art but of the artists themselves. It would be a betrayal of the reality that allows art to exist not simply as a collection of reified pieces delocated from the society that gave birth to them but as something that constitutes the living experience of individuals and communities creating themselves. As is apparent from this essay, the creation of space entails a necessary conflict: transformation and creation imply destruction. The lines are clear: Whose public? Whose space? Whose future? “Northern Ireland is the one part of the United Kingdom which has a written constitution - the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. This Act specifically prohibits the Northern Ireland Parliament from making any laws which endow one religion or discriminate against another. Any such Act could be challenged in the courts and ruled to be inoperative. A similar prohibition applies to executive acts. In effect, the Government is not entitled to do what Parliament is not authorised to permit it to do. If there were such illegal actions by the Government, any person has the right and the opportunity to challenge them before the Courts.” Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). (1968) Northern Ireland Fact and Falsehood: A frank look at the present and the past, (n.d.,1968?). Belfast: Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). http://cain.ulst. ac.uk/issues/discrimination/quotes.htm 2 As Craig insisted: “All I boast is that we are a Protestant Parliament and Protestant State.” Quoted in Bardon, Jonathan. (1992) A History of Ulster. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press. Pages 538-539. 3 E.g. According to Boyd (The Rise of the Irish Trade Unions) immediately after the founding of the state of Northern Ireland (a period marked by particularly fervent ant-Catholic feelings) Belfast shipbuilding and engineering workers (during a general assault on wages) suffered wage cuts of up to 22/ per week. 4 S. Žižek The Ticklish Subject (2000) 5 J. Rancière Disagreement (1999) p. 10 6 G. Debord, Situationist Theses on Traffic see: http://libcom.org/library/internationale-situationiste-3-article-2 7 H. Marcuse (One Dimensional Man) points out the danger of such technical rationality when he writes, “If the linguistic behaviour blocks conceptual development, if it militates against abstraction and mediation, if it surrenders to the immediate facts, it repels recognition of the factors behind the facts, and thus repels recognition of the facts, and of their historical content.” (p.97). 8 N. Jarman Painting Landscapes: the place of murals in the symbolic construction of urban spaces http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/bibdbs/murals/jarman.htm 9 D. Harvey p.192 10 N. Jarman loc. cit. 11 Fidel Castro (1961) http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/castro/db/1961/19610128.html 12 See http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ni/?id=2008-11-10.8.13 for details. 13 See http://www.state.gov/s/p/rem/15318.htm 14 It is interesting to note in this context that later in his statement (ibid.), Haas sees the “normalisation” of the British military presence as a prerequisite for “moving the peace process forward.” 15 See J. Baudrillard The System of Objects (Verso) 16 See J. Rancère Ten Theses on Politics (2001) VII and VIII 1
This is especially true of venues such as Belfast Exposed which explicitly state that it “aims to support the development and presentation of socially engaged forms of
contemporary photographic practice.” (http://www.belfastexposed.org/about/policy.php)
Cohesion in contested spaces Pauline Hadaway ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, ‘ wrote WB Yeats in 1921, the year of Irish partition. Can Belfast prove him wrong? Belfast City Partnership Board (BCPB), led by Belfast City Council and the Department of the Environment, is a coalition of joint public and private sector interests. Much of its urban strategy is inspired by some of the ‘shared visioning’ models of urban planning, employed in racially divided US cities such as Detroit and Baltimore during the 1990s. Its strategic plan, Belfast 2025, sets out a vision for the city based on principles of community, citizenship and sustainability; where the ‘problems of the past are channelled positively’ to discover and create solutions. While many of Belfast’s problems are typical of cities in industrial decline across the developed world, its fundamental problem exists in the absence of integrated living between its catholic and protestant communities. An enduring feature of Belfast since partition, when 60 per cent of the population lived in segregated housing, the proportion of core city inhabitants living in segregated streets flattened out in the late 1970s to its current level of just under 80 per cent. Post ceasefire, as sporadic incidents of sectarian violence continue to spiral, these figures may at best stabilise.However, in the short to medium term they seem unlikely to fall. The 1970s corrugated iron, barbed wire barricades and stark metal cages - objects of violent hostility for years - have metamorphosed into gentrified brick and landscaped environments; the physical barriers between communities, known as ‘peace lines’ have now become permanent - even commonplace - features within most working-class areas. Nowadays, though, nobody seems to question them. The conflict management of the old Northern Ireland Office seems to have become transmogrified into an Urban Task Force policy of social inclusion. Channelling the troubles of a separated past and present towards the discovery of a ‘new Belfast which will belong to all its people’ is an ambitious project. The BCPB - whose members include local Sinn Fein, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) councillors - is the first to acknowledge that not all residents of the new ‘rainbow city ‘may choose an ‘integrated lifestyle’. ‘It is better to live together than to live alone, ‘ states the BCPB, as yet another peace wall goes up across the north of the city. The beleaguered residents of Ardoyne and Glenbryn may be reassured to know that ‘genuine choice of residence will be respected’, and that the BCPB even recognises ‘positive aspects to segregation, such as safety, a close bond with fellow residents and sufficient people to support local schools and cultural activity’. Leaving aside its tendency to retreat into pious relativism and some of its more fanciful notions, such as uniting the city through redirecting its historic ‘energy and culture of tribalism’ towards a passion for competitive sports, can the BCPB’s laudable aspiration
a passion for competitive sports, can the BCPB’s laudable aspiration towards a common civic identity ever be achieved? In stark contrast with the experience of Belfast’s residential areas, the peace process has effected a remarkable improvement in the fortunes of the city centre - which is increasingly perceived as belonging to both communities, coming together to share the benefits of new global models of consumerism. Shopping, eating and drinking remain some of Belfast’s most enduring cross-community activities. The relaxation in security has led to a renewed consumer confidence and a boom in leisure, retail and commercial building in the city centre. The redevelopment of the centre has, in turn, been a factor in building a shared sense of civic pride, security and enjoyment among people whose attitudes, shaped by separated experience, may well be mutually antagonistic. So, as the city centre recovers and reinvents itself as a neutral space, will it find itself marooned within a divided city, or can it generate a sense of citizenship outward to its divided populations? The bands of underdeveloped space at the fringes of the city centre provide some interesting clues. Less obviously stated than the residential peace lines, these interfaces are the gateways where Belfast’s divided communities converge or, more properly, collide with the commercial neutrality of the centre. As a consequence of a massive programme of inner-city, publicsector building during the ‘70s and ‘80s, segregated housing estates, such as Donegal Pass, Sandy Row, the Markets and Divis, exist in close proximity to the centre. During these troubleddecades the ragged fringes of these areas became ruined, dangerous spaces, locked behind gates and checkpoints or overlooked by police barracks of fortress dimensions. Many still project a threatening, desolate atmosphere: part of the city but not yet fully integrated, symbolic of Belfast’s unhappy history of economic and social collapse. Developments under way within these fringe-areas may indicate future patterns for the integration of the wider city. Along the fringes of the inner east side, development has followed familiar UK models of post-industrial urban regeneration. The Odyssey Centre, like the Newcastle Arena on Tyneside, uses reclaimed waterfront land to provide leisure activities. Selfconsciously presenting itself as a neutral venue for ‘non-aligned’ activities such as ice hockey, cinema and science parks, the Odyssey is perceived as a regional, rather than a local, resource. Residents from the protestant heartlands of Lower Newtonards Road often cite poor pedestrian access and ticket prices as obstacles to using the facility; but perhaps they also feel a sense of estrangement and loss at being displaced from the industrial terrains they once dominated and which previously defined their relationship to the city.
North Belfast, the original economic and industrial centre of the city, is again being redeveloped as a cultural quarter, along the lines of familiar urban regeneration models, by reclaiming Victorian commercial premises and harnessing local creativity to improve the area. Given that the citizens of the north inhabit a patchwork of segregated areas, where city gateways become seasonal flashpoints, it is hoped that the provision of low-rent workspaces for community arts organisations may encourage people into the city to share creative activities in a safe environment. However, it is on the, as yet undeveloped, western fringes of the city where new social, economic and political relationships may prove to be more powerful indicators of change than the self-conscious layouts of urban planners to the north and east. Areas such as Castle Street and King Street, linking the Falls Road to the centre, remain underdeveloped and ruinous spaces, reflecting the onceuneasy political relationship between nationalists and the state. North Belfast, the original economic and industrial centre of the city, is again being redeveloped as a cultural quarter, along the lines of familiar urban regeneration models, by reclaiming Victorian commercial premises and harnessing local creativity to improve the area. Given that the citizens of the north inhabit a patchwork of segregated areas, where city gateways become seasonal flashpoints, it is hoped that the provision of low-rent workspaces for community arts organisations may encourage people into the city to share creative activities in a safe environment. However, it is on the, as yet undeveloped, western fringes of the city where new social, economic and political relationships may prove to be more powerful indicators of change than the self-conscious layouts of urban planners to the north and east. Areas such as Castle Street and King Street, linking the Falls Road to the centre, remain underdeveloped and ruinous spaces, reflecting the onceuneasy political relationship between nationalists and the state. A major part of Sinn Fein’s strategy has been to claim the city for its own nationalist constituency, under the slogan: ‘It’s our city too.’ Sinn Fein councillors currently hold more seats than any other single party on the city council’s planning committee, (although they are not dominant on the environment committee) and the newly confident nationalist middle class has injected a sense of economic vitality into the west end. There is a sense of inward movement to the centre from the Falls and a new sense of accommodation to a previously excluded community, where even ‘republican’ black taxis are to be integrated into the new transport ‘gateway’ situated at the back of Castlecourt shopping centre. As property values continue to rise, the growing political fortunes of the nationalist community look set to drive forward a limited commercial redevelopment within the western fringe. The opening up of the city to nationalist west Belfast contrasts with the experience of loyalist communities - such as Sandy Row and Donegal Pass - at the southern fringes, who find themselves shut out from new office, leisure and residential developments.
In Belfast, social mobility is confined within strict parameters of national identity, as the politics of control have always determined the character and contours of the city. Given these real and historic constraints, urban planners seeking to integrate the two communities within city streets and spaces are taking on the role of mediators, operating in a complex and seemingly intractable set of circumstances. For all the talk about encouraging social mix, the process thus far has not been so much about changing hearts and minds, as seeking to contain them. Cohesion in Contested Spaces was published in the Architectsâ€™ Journal in September 2001, the first of a series of articles looking at impacts of urban regeneration policy on post conflict Belfast. The latest, published in the winter edition of Urban Design, revisits Belfastâ€™s contested spaces to question the reality behind the recent re-branding of the city.
Project One Black Mountain Christoff Gillen While I do not term my work as that of an activist artist, it does lend itself to activism 1 . “What matters is that people of conscience are using their imaginations inthe interest of social justice”.2 My main aim had been to create a piece of artwork on the mountain, which was either temporal or permanent. I feel that I have achieved this through an organic process. At the beginning I was not sure how it would unfold or how I could use the mountain to provoke a dialogue. Imagine a City of = in itself consisted of temporal actions by the placing of letters and removing them, the reactions and responses during this time were an invaluable part of the process. The action will continue through a planting project designed to incorporate community project groups and I believe that the impact of Imagine a City of = will be a central core to the future actions planned. Thus creating a permanent artwork on the mountain. Twenty five years ago I used to frequent the mountain during the summer months and there I found empty bullet cases left behind by the British Army, who used the mountain as a firing range. I collected the bullet cases and felt they were symbolic of what was happening in Belfast and indeed Northern Ireland. British occupation seemed to even consume the Black mountain. Around the same time frame I trained on the mountain as a fell runner this was my escape from the reality of what was happening to my town and my own personal difficulties. It gave me a sense of freedom that I had never experienced before. For almost a year now I have ascended and descended the Black Mountain regularly so that I have experienced the mountain in all four seasons. When one is faced with only the natural elements one has to face ones own demons. It certainly was a contemplative time of self reflection and self analysis. Throughout I constantly questioned not only the process but myself and what this tumultuous project meant for my own self development. It became apparent to me after the first phase of the project that no longer was I leading the process but the process in itself had taken on a life of its own. The organic process that I wished for actually became a reality, in actual fact it had taken more than I could have possibly imagined at the outset. Viz a viz global issues emerged in the second phase of the project. I regard the project as an ongoing success. My dream of the mountain has become my reality. “The role of utopias is not to be reached. It is to stimulate us to try harder. To be able to dream is already a dream come true”3. Although my work on the whole is not that of an activist I have made a few performances/installations which have been purely political in nature. Nina Felshine, But is it Art? The Spirit of Art Activism. Dore Ashton, Back page, Bay Press Inc. 1995. Augusto Boal, Theatre of the oppressed, Pluto Press, London, 2000
Contributors Edward Molloy Eddie Molloy is a graduate in Politics and Philosophy from the University of Glasgow where he became interested in the relationship between the conceptual and practical aspects of aesthetics and political intervention. He is currently living in Belfast and intends to pursue postgraduate study in the field of Postcolonialism in 2009. Pauline Hadaway Pauline Hadaway has worked in arts management since 1990 and is currently Director of Belfast Exposed Photography. Founded in 1983, Belfast Exposed Photography is a gallery of contemporary photography, archive and community photography resource, with a focus on commissioning and publication of new work. Pauline is a also freelance writer, with plays performed in Newcastle upon Tyne, Belfast and London, and articles published in Circa, Spiked, The Visual Arts Newsletter, Architects’ Journal, Fourthwrite and Printed Project. Christoff Gillen The central concerns Christoff Gillen addresses in his performance/installation artwork are to adumbrate personal, political, religious and social conditions, which challenge stereotypes existing both in a micro and macrocosmic environment. Gillen feels that performance art allows a freedom of experimentation with the audience which may take the form of direct or indirect contact; at times it is used in his work as a vehicle to enhance dialogue and/or social commentary on subject matters which relate to Northern Ireland’s contemporary cultural politics. Gillen currently practises in Belfast. Acitore Z Artezione Acitore Z Artezione is a New Zealand born, visual arts practitioner currently based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. As creative director of State of Search, Artezione is currently developing and appropriating multi player pervasive gaming as a strategy in the context of a ‘culture of resistance’. Theories and practices examining spatial and temporal interstices, hybrid realities, immersive environments, public authoring and narrative fictions are catalyzing agents. The ‘constructed situation’ guides the parameters of play and technology acts as both language and tool.