Haunted Spaces in Post-Agreement Northern Ireland

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Abstract

The article examines the representation of spectrality in post-conflict cities such as Belfast and Derry. Focusing specifically on the haunted spaces depicted in works by Willie Doherty, it looks at the formal techniques used by the artist to mark and represent that which is deemed unrepresentable: the traumatic afterlife of conflict. While theorists have long argued that trauma itself defies representation, it is recognised that artworks can mimic its forms and symptoms to allow readers and viewers to bear witness to its disabling nature. While the works depict the haunting (or spectral return) of trauma, they do not do this in order to overcome it; rather, as Derrida has argued, one must ‘learn to live with ghosts’, and one must ‘exorcise not in order to chase away the ghosts’ but to ‘grant them the right’ to a ‘hospitable memory’. Through governmental prescriptive forgetting, historiographical omission and the active erasure of the traces of conflict, certain events and memories have been made ‘invisible’; the artworks under discussion seek to counteract this tendency.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAxon: Creative Explorations
Issue numberC3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018

Keywords

  • Belfast Agreement
  • Willie Doherty
  • Northern Ireland
  • Trauma

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