Paula Blair

Locative Memories: Site-specific Video Installations in Northern Irish Prisons

Year: 2010

Keywords: , , , ,


Queen's University of Belfast
(at time of presentation)

Personal profile:

Twitter: @peablair


Original Oral Presentation: Locative_Memories__Trinity_ (1)

Original Paper: Coming Soon

See also:


Blair. P., 2014. Old Borders, New Technologies: Reframing Film and Visual Culture in Contemporary Northern Ireland. Oxford: Peter Lang.



Northern Ireland is now generally regarded to be a post-conflict region since the official end to three decades of violence in 1998. However, given some of the stipulations of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement, including the early release of politically motivated prisoners from jail, society in Northern Ireland remains in a state of flux, uncertainty and disagreement.
This book presents four thematic studies revolving around the issues of imprisonment, surveillance, traumatic recall and myth-making in Northern Ireland. These studies examine the different ways in which artists and filmmakers are experimenting with film aesthetics and new media technologies to represent, re-present and invite engagement with the underlying anxieties that continue to trouble post-Agreement society. In doing so, the author argues for a reassessment of the critical analysis of film’s convergence with other forms of visual art. Ultimately, the volume assesses the usefulness of such an approach in examining how artists and filmmakers experiment with diverse forms that open up space for discussion of the hidden and marginalized concerns in Northern Ireland’s new, ‘shared’ society.
This book was the winner of the 2012 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in Film Studies


Anyone who has revisited a prominent location featured in his or her personal past would have experienced its reactive effect on memory. The paper explores this effect of place on memory particular to contentious (now decommissioned) prison sites in Northern Ireland. This study is part of a larger thesis examining themes of 'post-conflict' identity and territory in experimental Northern Irish moving image production to interrogate traditional notions of national cinema. Cahal McLaughlin's multi-channel Inside Stories: Memories from the Maze and Long Kesh Prison (2003/4) and Patsy Mullan's double-channel Their Stories (2009, Armagh Prison) comprise of recorded interviews with former inmates and staff taking place in and their respective former territories. These installations question collective memory processes of events involving individuals within shared contested spaces by literally and visually splitting up personal accounts. In some modes of exhibition , sound overlaps making subjects' voices vie for attention. The multi-screen projections within non-cinematic spaces refutes conventional documentary narrative by inviting/forcing the viewer to choose which image/subject/monologue they concentrate on rather than offer a single comprehensive edited piece. The addressed issues include the location of recording (revisited prisons), the exhibition space (urban gallery/prison as museum), and the various resultant effects on the spectator. Ultimately the paper advocates the moving image as a medium for and archive of site-reactive memories that contribute to 'post-conflict' dialogues.