The shadow of conflict: the spectre of violence in contemporary art practice
Segment one begins the research process by identifying, interrogating and articulating modulated notions of spectres, ghosts and phantoms found in selected philosophical and theoretical texts, and by analysing examples of where, how and why these notions and phenomena appear in the living world.
Segment two collates and records the methods of working and reflexive thinking in Case Notes that accompany image experiments/projects, Case Notes help to uncover the art-practice methodology that drives the whole project.
Segment three is a series of art-practice projects in the form of ‘image experiments/projects’ that enable a ‘testing’ of the research thesis, provide a second layer of analysis and form a platform for dissemination of the research.
The overall purpose of the process-as-segments is to provide an example of how theory, personalised writing and art-practice outcomes act as a form of reflexive research. The segments are not only dependent on each other because of their theme, namely, spectrality, but also because they interact as a methodological means of discourse. Each segment leads to, intellectually interacts with, and influences the other segments or disciplines. The different disciplines – art-practice and theory – provide tensions, clashes and caesuras to allow the research to do its job and for potential ‘new’ knowledge to formulate.
Current art-practice projects:
Sites of Death and Political Performativity:
The politics of mourning in the space of the dead of conflict and war
Text and imagery that explore the deaths and funerals of IRA, UDA, UVF, LVF, RUC, PSNI and British Army military and paramilitary personnel.
Beyond the Fire: Bread as a weapon of war
Text and imagery that explore the ‘immediate’ aftermath of the Syrian government’s strategic military bombing of bakeries, ‘breadlines’ and farmland in rebel-held areas.
Text and imagery that reflect the violence of war in Syria seen through a reading of Jean-François Lyotard’s Discourse, Figure and his use of the notion of reflection ‘that operates just as all forms of thinking do inasmuch as it remains a form of seeing – the only difference being that in reflection the seeing of thinking is redoubled and tries to come unto itself’ (Lyotard, 2011).
Text images and video exploring Jacques Derrida’s notion of Revenant as a returning spectre or ghost, based on found imagery from the conflict/war in Syria. This work also incorporates the music and imagery of the Palestinian/Syrian pianist Aeham Ahmad, who while living in Yarmouk risked his life by taking his piano into the streets and pulling it around manually mounted on a trolley to play music to the people still living in the city.
The Thing Arrives
Text and images that take Derrida’s notion of an Arrivant as a metaphor, that by arriving announces, first of all, a journey has taken place. The project returns the focus of the enquiry back to the artist’s body as a visual introspective examination and review of the research subject - spectrality. The title refers to the ‘quest’ to identify, to search for answers, and to comprehend what the ‘Thing’ is and why it exists. The title also announces the arrival of certain answers as a conclusion to a hypothesis, which can never exist.
Selected writing and presentations:
The nonplace in conflict – the imagery of identity in contested sites of memory (2012).
The finality of loneness – small worlds, quiet wars and the terra incognita (2013).
Coffin Bearers – sights of death and visions of political performativity: Derrida’s ‘Hostipitality’ and Tolerance in the images of Ireland’s Troubles (2014).
Do you believe in Ghosts?
Derrida’s notions of life after death in Ken McMullen’s film Ghost Dance (2015).
The Sublime Spectre of Violence?
Representations of death and the transformational realities of art (2016).
Bodies as Sites of Political Performance and Resistance: Contesting Britain’s Presence in Northern Ireland (2016).
CELLSwithinCELLS – short art-practice video (2015).
Aspects of Memory (2018), Bay Art Gallery Kent - an online collaborative project focusing on art and memory. www.bayartgallery.co.uk/