Part of Now & Next
‘The Riot Act’ by Aideen Doran, commissioned as part of Now & Next 2020, is broadcast now on BBC Arts.‘The Riot Act’ is available online at BBC Arts here.
‘The Riot Act’ is an experimental narrative piece, that brings together diverse historical accounts, parliamentary records and oral history to consider the unreliability and bias of the voice of history.
‘The Riot Act’ began with a chance encounter at a gravestone in one of the oldest cemeteries in Lurgan, a small town in Northern Ireland where Doran grew up. Doran connects a series of historical events taking place in the area: a 17th century massacre, a Victorian-era trial and a rent and rates strike in the 1970s. The trial pertains to the murder of a young boy, John Furfey, by a Captain Redmond in 1879, after an incident in the town. Doran’s materials – the coroner’s report, the Parliamentary account and the boy’s gravestone – each vary in register, detail and bias. The legality of the boy’s killing, in all cases, rests on whether Redmond did or did not read the Riot Act to the crowd before firing.
Conversations (imagined and actual) with Doran’s mother score an experimental narrative piece that tells these stories, developing on the connections and common themes between them. They raise questions about the stability of historical knowledge, the unreliability of memory and testimony, and the ways in which the truth of a story can be both contingent and multiple. As with today, the boundaries and complexities between forms of civil disobedience and violent resistance are contested. These stories together open up a space for a thoughtful and nuanced discussion of issues that seem strikingly contemporary, albeit viewed through the lens of modern history.
Image description: A figure in a neon pink wooly hat and black coat with a large colour obscuring their face, stands in a graveyard in low daylight holding out an audio recorder.
Aideen Doran (b. 1984, Lurgan, Northern Ireland) is an artist living in Glasgow. Doran works across moving image, sound, installation and writing and often focuses on moments of transformation of trauma. Through a process of intuitive and considered collaging, she combines material and thematic sources to create new narratives that revisit historical moments, analyse the contemporary world and look speculatively to the future.
A transcript of ‘The Riot Act’ is available to view here.
Now & Next was a talent development scheme in partnership with Creative Scotland and BBC Scotland that ran from 2019 to 2022.