In March and April of 2012 we were invited by FLAX Studios to undertake a research residency in Belfast. During our stay we developed a series of projects that explored the role and potential of tourism in the city through the way in which people relate to a variety of wall markings; Valued markings, unwanted markings and unnoticed markings. In doing so we created a series of DIY city-tours, that in turn resulted in a collection of holiday snaps, souvenirs, questions and encounters.
An inside-out documentary on the murals visited by tourists
In what is often referred to as ‘post-conflict’, ‘troubles’, ‘dark’ or ‘phoenix’ tourism, many of the paramilitary murals in Belfast have become major tourist attractions. If you browse the brochures and websites of the tour operators visiting these sites, you will find a large number of images of smiling tourists having their photo taken in front of a mural.
We decided to subvert this situation to reveal an alternative set of narrative, and started asking those living directly behind the murals if they would take a picture of us standing in front of the same wall, but from the inside as opposed to the outside – in the living room, kitchen or hallway.
We considered creating a sub-surface audio tour of inside-out murals, but felt uncomfortable with the voyeurism of placing the residents as subjects within the artwork, something that we had tried to avoid while taking the photographs. Although we found ourselves within the private space of a stranger, we became the displaced subject for each photo.