Shane Alcobia-Murphy
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‘What do I say when they wheel out their dead?’
The representation of violence in Northern Irish art

This chapter examines how the activity of creating art in a time of violence brings about an anxiety regarding the artist's role. It also examines how artistic silence and narrative breakdown in texts by Northern Irish writers and visual artists often result from an unwillingness to respond to atrocity due to the need to remain 'expertly civil tongued'. In his visual artworks Willie Doherty responds to the performative and narrative dimensions of Northern Irish punishment killings by creating texts which are complexly self-reflexive and engage the viewer's own understanding of the Northern Irish conflict. Originally entitled 'Silence', the text presents the reader with an image that on first reading could signify the death of art. The overall effect is restorative: bearing witness to and opposing a regime that resulted in the death of so many musicians, the text embodies the surviving efficacy of art.

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