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Old Borders, New Technologies

Reframing Film and Visual Culture in Contemporary Northern Ireland

Paula Blair

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.
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The convergence of film and visual art practices in contemporary Northern Ireland reflects its complex network of contested spaces: its visual culture is being radically re-shaped in the wake of the Troubles and is increasingly open to globally employed artistic influences and methods. These factors challenge the expressive and social capability of traditional filmic practices to engage with the complexities of a post-conflict society such as imprisonment, testimony, social control, changing landscapes, memory and trauma.

Filmmakers using more traditional modes of storytelling tend to gloss over the deeper psychological concerns emerging in society in favour of narrative and dramatic formulas. This book presents an expanded perception of moving image production in order to consult work showing in alternative spaces of reception using experimental approaches that endeavour to engage more effectively with the social complexities of the Northern Irish context. The research hybridizes the language of (Irish) film theory with those of ‘new media’, ‘expanded cinema’ and ‘digital arts’– categories of converging art forms that are becoming increasingly institutionalized – and explores questions such as the following: how successful are these film and visual artworks in subverting the ideology of mass media representations of the conflict? Do such works effectively disrupt canon formation within the context of contemporary Northern Irish film and visual art? Does a broader context for Northern Irish film and visual culture allow for greater inclusion of women artists?

In addressing such questions, the project is structured around four conflict-related themes of imprisonment,...

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