A sculptural work by Shane Cullen
The Irish News
Language of diplomacy in visual art form
weekend visual arts
By Jenny Lee
The Golden Thread Gallery, located on an interface in north Belfast, continues its programme exploring aspects of Northern Ireland’s contemporary urban condition with The Agreement.
This vast new sculptural work by Dublin-based artist Shane Cullen is 67 metres in length and presents the 11,500 words of 1998’s Good Friday agreement carved into 56 panels.
Visually arresting, this concrete form documents the legalities of this historic document.
Delivered to every household, the text of the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement, became an important piece of Irish history after being approved in a cross-border referendum.
Cullen choose to signify this historic breakthrough by transforming the language of diplomacy into a visual work of art.
Cullen is best known for his monumental painting project Fragmens sur les Institutions Republicaines IV. This project transcribed the written comments of IRA prisoners smuggled from the Maze prison during the hunger strike of 1981. This involved translating the thoughts of dying men which were scribbled onto cigarette papers. Began in 1993 and completed in 1997 the work has since been purchased by the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
This Agreement commission is in complete contrast. While containing the origins of the text, Cullen’s re-presentation of the historical document has been achieved through digital and mechanical processes using state-of-the-art industrial techniques.
The Agreement was commissioned by Beconsfield Contemporary Art, London with financial support from public sectors in England and Ireland – north and south.
He isn’t the first artist in the world to undertake such a project. His practice can be paradoxically related both to the subversive activities of artists such as the Situationists and to the traditional form of commemorative works like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.
In addition to the exhibition a seminar program, co-ordinated by Professor Liam Kelly and supported by the University of Ulster, will be held at the historic Crumlin Road Courthouse.
The exhibition of this contemporary memorial will also be animated by a series of outreach activities including workshop and gallery tours.