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.
The Rothko’s of Belfast
“We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth”
There are many different murals in Belfast, the least famous of which we referred to as ‘The Rothko’s of Belfast’.
The Rothko’s of Belfast are the result of layers and layers of paint that have been used to cover over graffiti, or unwanted murals, in certain areas of Belfast. Looked at in a new context, or from a different perspective, they become poetic commentaries of the past and present. They reminded us of the later work by the artist Mark Rothko – the variations and blocks of colour and tone, and the potential for metaphysical or symbolic narratives.
Many of the Rothko murals are found in areas currently undergoing a period of ‘regeneration’ and resonate with this process. To our eyes they became an attraction, beautiful in their attempt to cover-up, erase, move on, and in their failure to achieve this. The Rothko’s of Belfast try to hide the visible traces of history, and in doing so only draw attention to this process. However much the paint is mixed, it will never match the colour, or age, of the wall.
During our stay in Belfast we mapped and documented these markings, while asking passing pedestrians to take photos of us standing in front of our self-proclaimed attractions. This process led to the creation of five postcards that will be placed alongside existing postcards found in the tourist information office, souvenirs that currently memorialise the more famous paramilitary murals of Belfast. This juxtaposition redefines or questions the perceived value of these sites, while encouraging people to look more closely and analytically at the built environment.