News - Ghost-haunted land:  Contemporary art and post-Troubles Northern Ireland – a new book

Declan Long is the author of a major new study ....


Declan Long - lecturer in the School of Visual Culture at NCAD and co-director of the MA Art in the Contemporary World - is the author of a major new study exploring the response of contemporary artists to circumstances in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement of 1998. Entitled Ghost-haunted land and published by Manchester University Press, Long’s book breaks new ground, offering original insights into the work of many artists including including Turner Prize winning artists Duncan Campbell and Susan Philipsz, the internationally acclaimed filmmaker and photographer Willie Doherty, and Aisling O’Beirn, one of the artists chosen for the first Northern Irish Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale.

Ghost-haunted land examines the purpose and role of art made in the aftermath of violence and trauma. As Long says, ‘Artists such as Willie Doherty or Aisling O’Beirn have formed, in very different ways, bodies of work that refuse easy summations of what this moment of aftermath means — and learning from them has meant continually being conscious of a need to make visible what otherwise might remain hidden as the anxious, hard-won peace is maintained.’ Contemporary art is a highly mobile and international phenomenon, and, recognising this fact, Long’s book reflects not only the deep and sincere engagement of artists with the recent past in Northern Ireland but also on the ways their art gathers publics whether ‘at home’ or in distant and sometimes spectacular settings like the Venice Biennale.

The matter of art’s relevance in places which have endured war and deep-rooted conflict extends far beyond Northern Ireland. It is also highly and, perhaps, too topical. Long’s new book will attract those interested not only in Northern Ireland: it will also be required reading for anyone with questions about the ethics and politics of archival art practices, or in the reception of art in divided societies. In fact, in the course of writing the book, Long participated in a symposium in ‘Translating In/Justice’ organised Dar al-Ma’mun artists’ and writers’ residency in Marrakech, Morocco where scholars, artists and writers from North Africa, the Middle East and various parts of Europe came together to reflect on the purposes of culture after conflict. Another key experience was a meeting in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia – another country haunted by ghosts of the recent past. ‘Here,’ he says, ‘I was able to learn more about the double-edged condition of conflict resolution: about the twin necessities of moving on, and of properly acknowledging and addressing the legacies of violence.’ And this, precisely, is what Long’s book does.

Launches are planned for Ghost-haunted land in Ireland and in the UK.