THE BELFAST MAZE Photographs by Donovan Wylie Film by Amanda Dunsmore
15 February - 23 July 2006
For 24 years, the Maze Prison played a unique role in the Northern Ireland conflict, ultimately coming to symbolize that period in the country’s history.
Built in 1976 to hold terrorists and political prisoners, the Maze is an extreme example of rational design. It was laid out on a gigantic scale for the systematic isolation of detainees and maximum security. This did not prevent the prison from witnessing numerous scenes of violence, hunger strikes and mass break-outs in which several detainees and warders died.
The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement resulted in the prison’s closure in 2000. The question marks that have since hung over the future of the site attest to Northern Ireland’s difficulties in coming to terms with its recent past.
In 2002, Magnum photographer Donovan Wylie, himself Irish, obtained the exclusive right to take pictures of the entire prison complex, without limits or supervision. His 68 photographs document the repetitive nature of the architecture and its disorienting effect. They speak of the psychological impact of incarceration in this labyrinthine prison.
The film Billy’s Museum, by English artist Amanda Dunsmore, tells the story of day-to-day life within the prison. Her view of the objects confiscated over the years gives a human dimension to imprisonment and the detainees’ world, in which internal fighting contrasts with the need to escape.