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‘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.
Aideen Doran (she/her, born 1984 in Northern Ireland) lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. Doran’s practice is situated in moving image, sound and working with archives. She studied at the University of Ulster in Belfast and Glasgow School of Art and completed a practice-based PhD with Northumbria University in 2016. Recent exhibitions include Meet Me at the Threshold, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (2022), Undertow at Freelands Foundation, London (2021) and Songs for Work at Glasgow Project Room (2021). Her work has been supported by Lux Scotland, BBC Arts, The British Council, Creative Scotland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
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.