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STORY | Iconic new street art installation unveiled at Ulster Museum in Belfast

6 Sep 2021

A major new street art installation from the Making the Future project has been revealed on the exterior of the Ulster Museum in Belfast, inspired by the contributions of programme participants.

Counterpart is a powerful new contribution to the city’s street art collection and depicts aspects of society, life and culture in Northern Ireland, brought to life on an unavoidable scale to entice viewers to reflect on Northern Ireland's shared future.

The artwork is an output of the Making the Future programme, which is led by Nerve Centre in partnership with National Museums NI, PRONI and the Linen Hall Library, and supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

#Counterpart

Throughout the summer, members of the public had the opportunity to work alongside Caslin to explore the world of street art and examine how political division is represented in contemporary works.

The final Counterpart piece represents the culmination of these discussions and depicts some of the perspectives shared by participants around their heritage, culture and identity in Northern Ireland

Commenting on the final piece, street artist and activist, Joe Caslin, said: “Working with Nerve Centre, Ulster Museum and the Counterpart project participants was a truly worthwhile and eye-opening experience.

"All of my work begins with research so having the opportunity to share my world and understanding of art with others, who in turn shared their experiences with me, was particularly meaningful. The values of the project appeal to my values as the goal here is to create debate and conversation.

“It is important that social issues are not pushed to the periphery, but as my works are biodegradable, they are only accessible for a limited time, so having the support of recognised landmarks to amplify them is really important.

"Ulster Museum is a particularly fitting location to this project – not only is it a treasure house to stories of the past and the present, but as a building it blends traditional and contemporary design elements too, all appealing to the theme of the piece as we question what life in Northern Ireland might be in the future.”

Many Counterpart project participants, including Barra Doherty, whose likeness features in the artwork, had the opportunity to contribute their own ideas, artistic skills and talent to the mural.

Barra said: “It feels like I’m part of something bigger. I got to meet new people through the workshops and have discussions with people from different walks of life which was such a great experience. The sessions were an extremely collaborative experience between us and Joe.

"He took our ideas on board as inspiration and what we have now is such a significant piece of work and I am excited to see it evoke different thoughts in people’s minds as they look up while walking past.”

Niall Kerr, Project Manager of the Making the Future Programme at the Nerve Centre said: “Making the Future is about giving the public opportunities to engage with our past, learn how it has shaped our present and consider a new vision for the future. Engaging with Joe and street art has proved really successful as it appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds, in a way that encouraged people to share their own stories, feelings and opinions.

 “It is these voices that inspired the finished piece we see today. Joe and the participants have contributed something really positive to the city. Counterpart focuses on the diverse identities and experiences within Northern Ireland and will encourage the types of conversation and debate required to bring about positive change.”

Like all of Caslin’s pieces, the materials used to create the Counterpart mural are biodegradable and will wash away with rainfall so viewing early is advised.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI said: “I would like to congratulate Joe and all the participants on the Counterpart programme. It is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece of work that we are proud to share on our iconic building for people to enjoy and reflect on.

"Ulster Museum is a progressive space and this project offers an exciting medium for us to encourage debate, consider diverse perspectives and promote respect as we collectively look to the future in this centenary year.”

Access to Ulster Museum’s grounds to visit is free. Access to indoor exhibitions is free but online booking at nmni.com is advised.