2018 marked the twentieth anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which kick-started the current peace process in Northern Ireland. Twenty years in the wake of this history and amidst the heated discussions about Brexit threatening to reinforce the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, artists Martin Krenn and Aisling O’Beirn and their collaborators explore untold and lesser-known narratives about the recent conflict in Northern Ireland through an artistic engagement with the legacies of the former high security prison Long Kesh/Maze. The artists initiated a collaborative social sculpture by working with a broad range of people who were affected by the prison in different ways. These interlocutors include republican and loyalist ex-prisoners, ex-prison staff, and former visitors, each of whom provides new insights into the human experience of a high-security prison.
The fully illustrated volume shows photographs of prison art, smuggled prison artifacts as well as prison issue objects. Many of the featured artifacts and objects have not been seen before as they are in private hands. Each image in the publication is accompanied by a testimony from their maker or custodian. These photographs also document previously unseen, newly made, objects crafted by the 50+ Group, a group of women who regularly visited Long Kesh prisoners and were themselves active in republican politics. The archaeologist Laura McAtackney and art theorist Suzana Milevska contribute texts contextualizing this photo project in the fields of contemporary art and archaeology.
While the focus of Restaging the Object: A Participatory Exploration of Long Kesh/Maze Prison is on a legacy issue relating to the conflict in the North of Ireland the book is of particular interest to anyone concerned with questions addressing contentious cultural heritage, as the project reveals how creative methods can be found to work with affected communities to address difficult topics, sites, and materials. The publication is unique in that it brings together a range of disciplines such as contemporary dialogical art, photography, art theory, archaeology, anthropology and cultural heritage studies to address this difficult issue on a human level.