Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Monday, 3 June 2013

H-Block Prison Protest, Newry - Paul Graham

Paul Graham, H-Block Prison Protest, Newry, 1985, printed 1993-4, photograph, colour, on paper, 680 x 880 mm, Tate.

A photograph from Graham's 'Troubled Land' series, in which he documented subtle intrusions into the Northern Ireland landscape that provide evidence of the Troubles.  The graffiti on the path here is not readable, and seems innocuous enough.  That it in fact refers to the Maze Prison creates a gap of perception between the seeming banality of the scene and the politically charged reality encoded into the environment - a language of signs readily understood by its inhabitants but barely visible to the outsider.
   (I realise I'm verging on the tedium of the average gallery explanatory plaque here, but I don't feel like being funny about Northern Ireland, and there are some things it is impossible to say anything useful about without having immersed yourself in the subject first.  So better to just grimly explain how the image works and move on.)

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