Sunday, 15 September 2013

Seminar series, lecture 1: Graffiti recording in the west wing of Kilmainham Gaol. "Reading" the revolutionary period?

Tonight kick started this year’s seminar series. We welcomed as our guest, Dr. Laura McAtackney of the UCD School of Social Justice. Her lecture tonight was based on her work in the West Wing of Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol titled the ‘Kilmainham Graffiti Project’. The aim of her work was to systematically record and interpret the graffiti inside the West Wing of the prison.

Dr. McAtackney noted in her lecture that graffiti studies tend to borrow heavily from sociology but do not overtly engage with the materiality surrounding it. The views of graffiti, especially in a prison environment, its artist, tend to assume illegal or illicit activity.  

Her work focused on the activities of the women prisoners within the Gaol and the mark that they left (although, some graffiti were not definable by gender). Women during the revolutionary period were often written out of the historical narrative with the exception of Constance Markievicz. Women however, had a much more important role and impact during these times. Dr. McAtackney also acknowledged the post functional life of Kilmainham especially that of the East Wing and the restoration that went with it at the hands of the Restoration Society.

Her work progressed slowly due to numerous periods of white washing and that there could be no physical interaction with the graffiti. She used photography to capture the graffiti and experimented with different light levels to enhance incisions and surface drawing that may not have been visible in normal conditions.

She interpreted and compared her discoveries with numerous other external sources such as memoirs, letters, autographs, etc, to fully understand the history of the walls.
Dr. McAtackney’s lecture was quite captivating and she fully engaged with her audience and ended with a slide show of some her favourite pieces. Both the Department and Society look forward to the eventually publication of her work.

By Cian Corrigan

Our next seminar will take place on Thursday, September 26th and will address Early Mediaeval dress. Check the complete programme here.

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