Thursday 15 March 2018


Graffiti in Strabane, 2018

I’ve started listening to the Blindboy podcast, a fascinating weekly programme by popular Limerick comedian/musician from The Rubberbandits that tackles issues such as mental health, Irish culture, Marxism and philosophy. The podcast is fantastic, and I recommend everyone subscribe and listen.

One of the more recent episodes was a live recording from Duncairn Arts Centre in Belfast, where Blindboy interviewed Donzo, an award-winning tour guide from DC Walking Tours. Donzo takes people around the historically significant parts of Belfast that had been affected by the troubles. In this episode, they discussed many aspects of the civil conflict in Belfast, but what interested me, in particular, was a segment about how modern day post-troubles children were getting involved with continuing the violence and contributing to the perpetual feedback loop of sectarianism in Northern Ireland.

Now, this is a subject I am trying to tackle, explore and contextualise with my own practice.

In the discussion, Donzo and Blindboy offered one example each: The first was about how during a particularly politically heated time of year, groups of children from rival Catholic and Protestant communities attempted to meet up for a large-scale pre-organised fight. When the police approached one child before the riot, they discovered that both groups were in communication via text message, and were currently conversing to find a better location for the fight to occur, away from the police.

The second story was from Blindboy's southern Irish perspective. When he was a child, his own experiences of the troubles in the North were simply via the news. Blindboy’s childhood concept of masculinity was that to be a ‘hard lad’ you had to smoke hash and support the IRA. This concept physically materialised not through organised altercations as above, but through graffiti of Bob Marley with accompanying IRA glorification writing.

What is specifically interesting from each of these anecdotes is the idea that the children were using the historic sectarianism as merely a backdrop to manifest an example of hypermasculinity. It could be argued that this is exasperated somewhat by growing up in a post-trauma community, but what is of more importance is whether or not the sectarianism vein extends past its beginnings as simple childish behaviour to more sinister and deeply understood bigotry later in life. Again, the perpetual feedback loop.

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard popularised the idea of Simulation, that events understood via the TV screen or newspaper are merely copies of the original even. I am interested in how children who have only lived in what might be considered peacetime (post-Good Friday Agreement) can still be influenced and subverted by old events through inter-generational stories. I understood such stories as unfaithful copies; perversions of reality and sometimes very dangerously sectarian.

There is undoubtedly something of a crossover between children, ultraviolence in video gaming and ultra-violence in real life. I am making my own simulations using such stories as foundation and subject matter. The results seem to dovetail very well and perhaps too easily. More to follow.

You can find a link to the specific podcast episode here.