Extramural Activity is a blog of murals, street art, and graffiti from the north of Ireland/Northern Ireland, particularly Belfast. There are occasional non-wall photographs, and occasionally images from other places.
This blog records the changes in muraling occurring circa 2012-2017, as well as graffiti expressing the topics of the day. The main camera is a Canon EOS 400D, typically with an 18-55mm lens, though sometimes with a 55-250mm. Also used is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a 24-70mm Sigma lens. For editing, we use Photoshop and DxO Viewpoint.
The blog started in a heartbeat and – to be honest – the name (“Extramural Activity”) was just what leapt to mind, once it was clear that the obvious names – “belfastmurals” and so on – were taken.
But on reflection, it’s not too bad a name. For one thing, it still has the word “mural” in it, which is helpful if you’re going to have a blog about murals. And it avoids having to name a place — ‘Belfast’, say — which might suggest that there aren’t murals in other places (though “Belfast” is in the tag-line). And even if you wanted a name that grouped all of those places together, what would that be? Murals of Northern Ireland? Murals of the North of Ireland? Of the Six Counties? Ulster Murals? Every such title sends the “right” message to some people and the “wrong” message to others. (If we became a site dedicated to republican murals, or to loyalist murals, we would triple our viewership overnight. If we were dedicated to street art, it would be even more. People love street art, perhaps moreso around here because it’s not sectarian — that’s the reason we include street art on the blog: because it gives people another vision of the role that public art can play.)
More importantly, however, “extramural activity” conveys the idea that murals are to some extent “outside”: there’s what happens within the walls, which is well-known and accounted for, and there’s what happens without the walls, which is less well-known and needs to be taken account of. It says: there are things happening out there that are little bit beyond your ken, some symbol you don’t recognize, some reference you’re not familiar with, some name you’ve never heard of. As we say in Belfast: if you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on.
And that’s more or less the origin of the blog: if you look at a mural, will you understand what you’re looking at? The goal of each post is to explain the contents of each image and provide some context.
The collection, as it grows, inspires other, deeper, questions: why are there murals? Why not a blank wall? Why paint in public? Who paints in public? Why aren’t murals signed and dated? Why didn’t murals go away, now that there is peace? (In fact, there are more murals now than ever before.) And many questions about how murals have changed over time: Why does stenciling wax and wane in popularity? Why are a lot of pieces now done on boards and nailed to the wall?Why were larks driven out by doves but have now come back? Where has Cú Chulainn gone of late? Was Bobby Sands always an icon? Why are the paramilitary volunteers now bare-faced in republican murals but still masked in loyalist murals?
For answers to a few of these questions, see What Is A Mural? and the Glossary. For the material that provides the source material for historical interpretation, see the main archives of mural images: Peter Moloney’s collection and Tony Crowley’s collection, both of which go back to the 1980s. All of the information from both of their collections and from Extramural Activity is (gradually) being gathered together on the map.