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The Great Reimagining: Public Art, Urban Space, and the Symbolic Landscapes of a 'New' Northern Ireland

Bree T. Hocking
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    The Great Reimagining
    Book Description:

    While sectarian violence has greatly diminished on the streets of Belfast and Derry, proxy battles over the right to define Northern Ireland's identity through its new symbolic landscapes continue. Offering a detailed ethnographic account of Northern Ireland's post-conflict visual transformation, this book examines the official effort to produce new civic images against a backdrop of ongoing political and social struggle. Interviews with politicians, policymakers, community leaders, cultural workers, and residents shed light on the deeply contested nature of seemingly harmonized urban landscapes in societies undergoing radical structural change. Here, the public art process serves as a vital means to understanding the wider politics of a transforming public sphere in an age of globalization and transnational connectivity.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-622-3
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction. Landscapes of Change in the Transitional City
    (pp. 1-21)

    On a bright, bitingly cold day in early December 2011, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson stood in front of a triptych of steel pillars, each one chiselled with a single word. Together they read, ‘Remembrance’, ‘respect’, ‘resolution’. As a small gathering of shivering officials waited for the unveiling to commence, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader gestured expansively at the humble brick terraced dwellings in the Lower Shankill Estate. ‘It doesn’t make the place a cold place for people from other sections of the community’, Robinson said of the artwork. ‘There’s no fear in walking down a street that...

  7. 1 A Place Apart? Sectarian Geographies, Shared Space and the Material Production of a ‘New’ Northern Ireland
    (pp. 22-42)

    On some level, public space in all societies is contested. In Northern Ireland, however, where the legitimacy of the state and an enduring legacy of a violent conflict bedevil inter- and intra- community relations, contestation over public space is particularly dramatic. After all, it was in public space, and in urban space specifically, where the preponderance of violence in Northern Ireland occurred. The sparking of the contemporary conflict, also known as the ‘Troubles’, in the late 1960s was linked to battles to gain access to and recognition for political identities and demands in public space (Bryan 2009; Nagle and Clancy...

  8. 2 From ‘Gunland’ to Globalization: The ‘Space of Flows’ Meets Place in a City ‘on the Rise’
    (pp. 43-67)

    On a wet day in mid-September 2011, a small group of suited Northern Irish officials hunkered under umbrellas in the middle of Belfast’s Broadway Roundabout on the M1/Westlink, the key southern gateway into Northern Ireland’s capital and a prominent unofficial interface separating Catholic and Protestant residential areas. The occasion was the unveiling of the monumentalRise(see Figure 2.1), a 37.5-metre-tall geodesic artwork meant to evoke a new chapter in the city’s history and hope for the future. While the rain bucketed down, the assembled bureaucrats waited for their photo-op and thrust of the shovel as a time capsule was...

  9. 3 Neutral Space is Shopping Space. Or is it? The Choreography of Consumption in Belfast City Centre
    (pp. 68-91)

    Walking home late one night along Royal Avenue in March 2010, I nearly stumbled upon a collection of poppy wreaths clustered around the trunk of a well-manicured tree just across the street from the glass-and-steel facade of the Castle Court shopping centre, an early symbol of Belfast’s anticipated rebirth when it opened in 1990. The wreaths, accompanied by hand-scrawled tributes, marked the spot of a PIRA bomb that had killed two Ulster Defence Regiment officers in 1988. This unofficial memorial had been left as part of an annual Orange Order march in honour of the dead officers (Belfast News Letter...

  10. 4 Beautiful Barriers: Contesting the Symbolic Reimaging of Community along a Belfast Peace Line
    (pp. 92-117)

    In the spring of 2009, three artworks funded by Northern Ireland’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) were launched along Belfast’s oldest and most imposing security barrier. Mounted on the Cupar Way peace wall in West Belfast, the art appeared on the Protestant side of the roughly eight-metre-high concrete, corrugated iron and weldmesh partition. This wall stretches for 650 metres and roughly separates the mid-Shankill neighbourhood from the Catholic Falls Road. The project was commissioned by the Greater Shankill Partnership (GSP), a local regeneration group that hoped to create an outdoor art gallery and provide a platform for ‘showcasing...

  11. 5 Transforming the Stone: Recasting Derry’s Diamond War Memorial for the Demands of a Shared Future
    (pp. 118-141)

    On the morning of Remembrance Sunday 2010, a thick white fog hung heavy over Londonderry. As my bus crossed the Craigavon Bridge en route to Derry’s Cityside, the faint sounds of an unseen marching band drifted across the River Foyle. A few minutes later, walking through the narrow shuttered streets, I passed well-dressed pedestrians carrying red poppy wreaths. Like me, they were headed to the Diamond War Memorial, the city’s official cenotaph honouring the dead from the First and Second World Wars. The monument sits in the heart of Londonderry’s historic walled city – on the site of the former town...

  12. 6 Art on the Frontlines: Civilizing Derry’s Ebrington Military Barracks for a ‘City of Culture’
    (pp. 142-168)

    In June 2011, just one year after Derry was named UK City of Culture 2013, members of the European Union and Northern Irish political establishment converged on the River Foyle to mark the opening of the Peace Bridge. As thousands of west bank spectators watched from behind metal barriers, hundreds of VIPs left an invitation-only luncheon in the Guildhall and made their way onto the bridge for dignitaries’ speeches and choral performances by schoolchildren expounding on themes of reconciliation, harmony and unity. Dubbed ‘a symbolic handshake’ between the river’s mostly Catholic Cityside on the west bank and the once-Protestant majority...

  13. Conclusion. The City as Civic Identikit? Twenty-first Century Public(s) on the Transnational Urban Stage Set
    (pp. 169-193)

    In May 2012, a herd of fibreglass cows descended on Belfast. Their entrance at an annual livestock and agricultural show that spring was delayed due to a procession of real-life Clydesdales. When the way cleared, a team of artists and public relations consultants swiftly set to work on the display. One cow was wrapped with pink, yellow and blue ribbon, the colours of the ‘NI 2012: Our Time, Our Place’ tourist campaign. Another featured a map of the world, linking ‘Derry-Londonderry’ in Northern Ireland to a network of eponymous, though un-hyphenated, towns around the world. News photographers soon arrived to...

  14. Appendix: Interview Profiles
    (pp. 194-194)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-224)
  16. Index
    (pp. 225-232)