Ghost-haunted land

Contemporary art and post-Troubles Northern Ireland

A vital issue in discussing distinctive group shows has been to explore how 'Northern Irish art' has emerged in dialogue with international art during the post-Troubles period. This book concentrates on the social and political developments pertinent to a study of post-Troubles art. It makes an effort to weave together fundamental background details on the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement with questions regarding the political and theoretical framing of this process of negotiation. Diverse local outcomes of the Agreement are nonetheless acknowledged: from ongoing political problems caused by the ambiguities and inconsistencies of the accord, to material manifestations of 'peace' in the built environment. The book presents thoughts on how 'Northern Irish art' of the post-Troubles era might be critically approached and appraised in light of broader contemporary conditions. It takes the 2005 exhibition of art from Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale as the departure point for an extended examination of how the representation of 'local' concerns is shaped in relation to wider cultural and economic forces. Much of the book concentrates more directly on the manifold forms of 'ghost-hunting' undertaken by artists during the post-Troubles period. Several significant works by Willie Doherty are singled out for close-reading: photographic series and film narratives that are powerfully undecidable and uncanny in their oblique, unnerving evocations of the landscapes of Belfast and Derry. The book also discusses the haunted spaces of Doherty's practice by reflecting on artists' approaches to time and history.

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‘Ghost-Haunted Land is a foundational work of art criticism that will stand alongside Colin Graham's study of photography and the North as a first point of reference for anyone interested in the Troubles and their cultural legacies.'
Nicholas Allen
Irish Times, December 2017

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