Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Here Comes the Summer: Mural under construction in East Belfast

You don’t have to know much about Northern Ireland to know that we have murals … lots of murals … I’ve written before about how they act as social barometers, with changing themes and emphases reflecting wider concerns within varies communities. While even a basic Google image search will return plenty of images of Northern Ireland’s murals, I recently noticed that there are relatively few images out there of murals during construction. It’s easy to see why so few such images exist – it’s a relatively short process (a matter of days) in relation to the amount of time they’re visible for (frequently several years). There’s also the issue that – especially for the more sectarian examples - many artists may be reluctant to be filmed or photographed.

In June of last year, in the run up to the Euro 2016 soccer competition in France, a gable wall at the junction of Carnforth Street and the Albertbridge Road in East Belfast was chosen to receive a tribute to the Northern Ireland soccer team. I passed by there every morning on my way to work and in the evening on my way back home. For the want of anything better than creating a personal record, I took a couple of photos every day and watched the piece come together. I’d rather forgotten about them until recently, when I was having a bit of a clear-out and trying to make some space on a hard drive. I present them now for what they are. The mural is not high art – but, then again, no one ever claimed it was. In every sense, it is a piece of contemporary folk art. Perhaps naive and unsophisticated in composition and technique, but it still conveys passion for the team at having secured a place in a major competition. While they never made it out of their Group, losing to Poland, Germany, and Wales (though they did beat Ukraine 2-0 … sorry Sergey!), the mural is more about the joy and support of the fans. In any event, recording this piece of ephemera is – to me at least – an act of urban anthropology and historical collecting. Putting these images in the public sphere gained a somewhat greater urgency in recent times as – over the last week or so – the buildings further along the street from here are being demolished. For now at least, the two buildings closest to the camera are under no threat, but it does underline the fragility and ephemerality of this form of decoration and cultural comment.

June 4th

June 6th (Morning)

June 6th (Evening)

June 7th

June 8th

June 9th 

June 13th - complete


As it turns out, the unfinished mural – complete with blurred-out artist – was caught by the Google Street View camera. Judging by the degree of completeness, the image appears to have been captured on June 6th.

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