The Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect | Alison Lowr

The culmination of two years of research, The Bystander Effect  is an exhibition which examines the role that we, as a society, had in allowing an ‘architecture of containment’ to develop in Northern Ireland. Here, ‘architecture of containment’ describes the physical infrastructure and systems used to incarcerate women and children in eighteenth and nineteenth century Ireland, including industrial schools, Children’s ‘homes’, Mother and Baby Institutions and Magdalene Laundries.

Within these religious and state run institutions, women and children were hidden in plain sight, ostracized and ‘othered’ by society. The ‘shame’ that the unmarried mother brought to her family (and the complicit) wider community meant that after delivering her baby in secret, the mother was frequently coerced into signing her baby to be adopted or placed into a children’s home.

Attempting to exhume this recent past and its subsequent intergenerational trauma, Alison Lowry examines the recently published report ‘Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland’. In The Bystander Effect a sculptural piece of found objects questions whether survivors of these institutions will ever get the justice they deserve, whilst suspended sculptural objects, video and sound explore the ongoing suffering of the birth mothers.

The focal point of the exhibition is an interactive installation of glass and ceramic objects and a documented performance. This installation engages with the research of Forensic Archeologist, Toni Maguire, who spent four years working in the Bog Meadows in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast, and conservatively estimates that 36,000 babies and children are buried there in unmarked graves. According to church records the burials took place between the 1930s and 1990s. Interred in the Bog Meadows are stillborn babies, who were considered unsuitable for burial in consecrated ground, and children from various children’s homes in Belfast, at least some of whom would have been transferred from Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland. In response, Lowry staged a peaceful protest at the gates of Milltown Cemetery creating the performance They all had names.

About the artist: 

Alison Lowry is a glass artist living and working from her studio, ‘Schoolhouse Glass’ in Saintfield, Northern Ireland.

In 2009, Lowry graduated from the University of Ulster with a degree in Art and Design. She has won numerous awards including first place in the category, ‘Glass Art’ at the Royal Dublin Show in 2015 and 2009, the Silver medal at the Royal Ulster Arts Club’s Annual Exhibition in 2010, the Warm Glass Prize in 2010, 2011 and 2017. Lowry exhibits both locally and internationally and her work is held in several public collections; the National Museum of Ireland recently acquired the exhibition currently on display at Collins Barracks in Dublin: (A)dressing our hidden truths and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland made a fifth purchase for their collection.

Solo exhibitions include: (A)Dressing Our Hidden Truths, National Museum of Ireland, 2019; The New Wallace Collection, RSpace Lisburn, 2018; (A) Dress, Millennium Court, Portadown, 2017; To Contain: An exploration of the vessel, Framewerk, Belfast, 2016.


This event listing is compiled for informational purposes only and is correct at time of publication. Event listings may be subject to change by the organisers and readers are advised to contact the organisers directly for the most up to date information. DCCI cannot be held responsible for any alterations to the existing schedule.


05 August to 09 September 2021


Golden Thread Gallery, Great Patrick Street, Belfast


free admission to Gallery

Further Information

Alison Lowry
028 9033 0920
[email protected]
@GoldenThreadGallery goldenthread_gallery