Restaging the Object: A Participatory Exploration of Long Kesh/Maze Prison

Martin Krenn, Aisling O'Beirn

Research output: Book/ReportBook

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Transforming Long Kesh/Maze’ is a collaborative social sculpture exploring former prison beyond its current state of limbo. This all-male prison closed since 2000, was the primary facility for the imprisonment of paramilitaries involved in the recent conflict in Northern Ireland (Beresford,1994) Despite closure it maintains a physical presence and conceptual importance. Its inaccessibility poses research challenges, voicing political contradictions inherent in the conflict. Government indecision about its future exposes the political climate of this ‘post-conflict’ society. Given the traumatic events still within living memory, gaining trust was vital but integral through contacting potential participants supported and in dialogue with archaeologist Laura McAtackney. This delicate and sometimes difficult process informed the development of our participatory research methods. To pose and hone our research question, during participant engagement, we organised the international conference Transforming Maze/LongKesh (March 2017) with a diverse audience from across the political spectrum included ex-prisoners, local community workers, international artists, architects and academics. The conference acted as a springboard, situating the prison in an international, cross-disciplinary context. It secured participants with the first-hand experience of the prison, including ex-prisoners, the former prison staff, a former independent Board of Visitors member and notably the 50+ (age)Group, who are women who remain in touch having met whilst visiting incarcerated friends and family. They provided uniquely female perspectives. Over a further2 years working with these participants, using material artefacts, dialogical photography and prison art-making process we unearthed lesser-known accounts, experiences and perceptions of prison life and legacy, whilst avoiding negatively reiterating previously rehearsed, ideologically over determined narratives. Disseminated across international publications, exhibitions and conferences supported by Horizon 2020 funding (2016- 2019), this multicomponent output is most extensively evidenced in Restaging the Object: A Participatory Exploration of Long Kesh/Maze Prison, publishing the research, chronicling the process and documenting the exhibition Dispersed Presence.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherK. Verlag
Number of pages226
ISBN (Print)9783981863567
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Jun 2019


  • Long Kesh
  • Contentious Cultural Heritage


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