Placing murals in Belfast: community, negotiation and change

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


Public art is a battleground of myriad complexity in Belfast and discourses of ‘community’ are often at its core. Street murals, in particular, are negotiators of cultural divergence (Massey and Rose 2003), producing mobile city space (Cresswell 2006, Lefebvre 1996). The notion of ‘community’ has been critiqued by scholars such as Iris Marion Young, who contended that community is based on a ‘desire for social wholeness and identification that underlies racism and ethnic chauvinism…and political sectarianism’ (1990: 300) and that this notion of community ‘devalues and denies difference in the form of temporal and spatial distancing’ (Young 1990: 302). Community is place-specific and often embraces and celebrates historical connections whilst resisting (new) spatial connections. In this way it can appear immobile and immobilising. This chapter is centred around research on street murals in Belfast that explored how mobility is mediated through visual experiences of urban space (De Certeau 1984; Simmel 1971) with discourses of ‘community’ emerging as a key theme. It looks at the way in which community materializes through murals and whether parochialism in street art in fact perpetuates city tensions and spatial division. Drawing from the ‘mobilities turn’ in social science and more specifically from Rose’s (2001) conceptualization of three sites of visualization: the production of images, the image itself and the audiencing of the image, the paper grapples with the negotiation of public art in Belfast in the context of community, state measures to control the city’s visual streetscapes and a city edging towards ‘normality’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Everyday Practice of Public Art: Art, Space, and Social Inclusion
EditorsC. Cartiere, M. Zebracki
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781138829213
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2015


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