aisling o'beirn
artist documentation site




history now 1999

work completed on residency in long kesh prison
organised by prison arts foundation

These plaster pieces are a selection of cast objects made in Long Kesh whilst on an artist in residency programme. Casts are taken from various locations around the complex, mainly from a wing of an empty block ( H8 ), the VTC and various outdoor thoroughfares.

In making these cast forms I was interested in finding a way to record the building architecturally. All the casts are of mundane but very specific architectural details. The aim of recording the jail complex was an attempt at recording moments of history.

I see buildings as being manifestations of history and their specific motifs and details as being witness of history. I was interested in the notion of how these apparently mundane formal objects have the potential to convey the weighted history that they aim to record. This jail bore witness to fundamental, benchmark events in recent Irish history and is still very much a central player in current negotiations. Its' inmates role in the current debate cannot be underestimated.

The device used to explore these notions involves simple matter of fact presentation. The selections of objects are laid out on the trestle tables and can be read and interpreted in a formal manner, as loose clusters of buildings, a collection of architectural forms. The presentation of these objects is utilitarian and matter of fact. My aim is to try to present them without presenting a specific editorial role but it becomes apparent that with laden objects such as these it is impossible to isolate them from their context and that the object is always very much bound in its' context.

This argument is interesting in the light of the fact that the jail underwent a name change in the 1980's, from Long Kesh to the Maze. This event was fairly contemporary to Seallifield changing to Windscale. These events serve to highlight the futility of trying to isolate something from its' context and past.

This body of work and the opportunity to work in the jail was made possible by the Prison Arts Foundation who promote arts in prisons. This opportunity allowed me to work alongside prisoners on their projects ( using the medium of plaster ) and to research and complete a piece of my own work.
Special thanks to Mike Maloney, Prison Arts Foundation, Pamela Hazel from Education and especially all the people who made their own work on this project and helped me gain an insight into some of the complexities of the jail.