‘Walls & Fences’: History Lesson Performance

Robert Brian Connolly (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formPerformance

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‘Walls & Fences’ – History Lesson Performance, The Troubles Section, Ulster Museum, Belfast, as part of ‘Duration’ Performance Art Event organised by Bbeyond, the 2nd. part of ‘Inter-Being’ Project. 12.3.2016. This durational performance work was a site-specific artwork. It was devised and created for the ‘Troubles Section’ of the Ulster Museum in Belfast. The performance lasted the full day during opening times of the Museum.To start the performance, I unspooled a roll of toilet paper, while working my way through the ‘Troubles Section’. I slowly moved through the interpretive space, reading texts and looking at the photographic images and videos. I was moved to tears when I remembered specific incidents or recalled personal experiences. Once the toilet roll was fully unspooled, I started to unroll a second one, but on this occasion, I moved through the display in the opposite direction, rereading the history. Again, this second roll was fully unspooled and the two white lines of toilet paper were left on the floor as evidence of my journey.I then took a pair of glasses from my pocket which had their lenses removed, so they were just an empty frame. I pushed the two remaining cardboard tubes into the spaces where the lenses once were. In this way the glasses were transformed into a kind of binoculars, but with a very limited field of vision. I then wore these binocular/glasses and approached a table and chair in one corner of the Troubles Section. I sat at the table and removed items from a bag under the table. These items included: a Concrete Block, Sellotape, Tin-foil, Scissors, a Framed Print of ‘The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog’ by Casper David Freidrich, a sereis of double sided prints depicting walls and fences from all over the World. These prints were sourced on the internet and included images of: The Belfast Peace Line, The Walls between Israel and Palestine, The Mexican/US Border, various UN Peace Lines, other national borders, security fences, industrial fences, urban walls, garden fences, etc.I then cast the concrete block using tinfoil and repeated this cast several times, so as the tin-foil spilled off the table.After that I started to work with the double-sided images. I cut the images down so as there was no white paper visible, only the images. I started to construct as series of cells… or enclosed spaces with these double-sided images. Each wall, or fence image, became one wall of a small cell. Some cells had three walls, some four. All the while I was wearing the transformed glasses with their limited perspective or field of view. My narrow vision meant that I had to concentrate hard on what I was doing and I could not see much of my surroundings. The audience came and went throughout the day, some spoke to me, some ignored me, I think, and others sat watching for a while, but I focused on the task in hand and spoke to no one. Over time the cell structure grew and eventually spilled off the table. I worked on this structure for the rest of the day, until the Museum closed.(This Performance was part of a durational Performance Event within the Ulster Museum. Other participating artists: Alastair MacLennan, Sandra Johnston, Dominic Thorpe, Linda Montano & Dorothea Seror.)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 12 Mar 2016


  • Durational Performance
  • Site-Specific Performance
  • Brian Connolly
  • Brian Connolly Artist
  • Bbeyond
  • the Troubles in Northern Ireland
  • The Troubles Section of the Ulster Museum
  • Walls & Fences
  • Belfast Peace Line
  • The Mexican - US Border
  • Borders
  • Security Fences
  • isolation
  • national isolation
  • enclosures
  • exclusion zones
  • barriers to free movement


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