Textualising the Body in Recent Irish Art

Liam Kelly

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    In Ireland, there is a particular relationship between words and image that is, in many ways, endemic to the culture. Witness, for example, the British government's former banning of direct interviews with Sinn Fein representatives, so that we got a curious form of image and dubbing. And, of course, there is the word, the text and the Bible in Protestant fundamentalism, where truth is revealed in the word. By extension, there is a suspicion of the visual, a suspicion that it may be 'wayword' and related to fancifulness. There are also the literary structural models of writers like Joyce, O'Brien and Beckett. But what most of the artists considered in this paper share is the use of words as ways of rinsing up what is invested in the psychic landscape of memory. The body evolved as a significant theme especially in the 1980’s and 90’s in Ireland with the backdrop of political violence in the North of Ireland and the discourse on women’s ownership of their bodies in the Republic of Ireland. There was also the global threat of and discourse on Aids. The concentrated experience of seeing mutilated bodies and the attendant body-related descriptions reported almost daily on TV during the political troubles may have contributed generally to so much local art practice in N. Ireland focusing on the body. As such, it has connected with the wider condition of what might be described as the universally violated body as the new and lingering anatomy. This paper analysed the work of a number of Irish artists who deployed the body in different ways to engage with issues related to personal trauma, loss, dislocation and the emaciated body as in the Maze prison hunger strike. It will explore how some artists used and interrogated language both orally and textually as a working strategy for engagement within a post colonial context such as N.Ireland.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
    PublisherUnknown Publisher
    Number of pages0
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2011
    EventCAIS Conference - Montreal, Canada
    Duration: 1 Jan 2011 → …


    ConferenceCAIS Conference
    Period1/01/11 → …


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