Shane Cullen, Fragmens sur les Institutions Républicaines IV, 1998.

March–April 2001

On loan from the collection of Irish Museum of Modern Art.

“In the monumental work Fragmens sur les Institutions Républicaines IV Cullen has represented texts… derived from the writings produced by Republican prisoners during the 1981 Hunger Strike. These texts, called ‘comms’, were secret messages written on cigarette-papers, wrapped in plastic film and carried in and out of the prisons concealed in bodily orifices…. Cullen has painstakingly hand-painted these texts in white Boldoni typeface against a green ground, in neat newspaper formations on a series of eight-foot high styrofoam panels….

The ‘comms’… were produced… by prisoners, in the process of starving themselves to death in pursuit of political status…. In order to establish the legitimacy of the republican military campaign and to challenge the policy of criminalisation adopted by the British Government, these prisoners, repeating a strategy with a long history in Irish politics and mythology, refused food until they died.

This work… is marked by the trace of a particular body, the body of the painter. It is further marked by absent bodies, bodies reduced, erased and superceded by text. It is marked by their words, the words of dead men negotiating the terms and conditions of their death…. ‘He is fully aware of exactly what this hunger strike means…’. Cullen enables a profound insight into the failure to know fully the meanings of any loss, of any death, and the conceit of believing we may know the meaning of our own death. This is not to forego the desire to know or the wish to control meaning. Cullen in layering the strategies of representation necessitates that the viewer consider the strategies of reading and of viewing in their own right.”

Liam Kelly ed, Shane Cullen, Fragmens sur les Institutions Républicaines IV, Orchard Gallery, 1997

Garlake, Margaret, ed. (2015). Beaconsfield. Chronic Epoch. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2015, pp. 92-93.