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My earliest connection with Berlin are two souvenir shot glasses that were a gift from my cousin Sean.  Sean was my eldest cousin who lived in America, who decided to go travelling in Europe one summer, Europe, then as now, having a different meaning and weight to someone brought up in the States than to me. Especially me as someone who probably was barely ten at the time. 

I remember him as charming and full of plamás, and a bit of chancer, so it was little surprise in retrospect that he brought back a piece of the Berlin wall. I’m not sure if it had even been taken down at the time, and I remember having difficulty understanding the significance of this smallish, innocuous looking piece of grey concrete. I don’t remember that much about it except that it was smallish (maybe the size of a ten year old palm) and was lighter than I expected something so important to be. 

I was born in 1981 and for me the falling of the Berlin Wall is a memory but it feels like fiction. It belongs to a time of the Live Aid concert, mullet haircuts, a certain cut of leather jacket, and not being allowed to watch Home and Away (‘too much sex in it’). I can feel all these memories even though I was not even four when the Live Aid concert happened. They are impossible memories, recorded on the grainy analogue of VHS, and played on a video player our household did not possess until the mid nineties. 

Sean died in the Twin Towers on September 11th 2001. I felt his loss and remembered him in Berlin.  

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Last night I saw the film This is England.

I’d heard good things and generally was not disappointed – was a very well directed, superbly-acted skinhead flick, to be reductive about it. Given my interest in nostalgia and collective memory, particularly in constructed memories and the collision of the pop with the political, I was interested in how the texture of Thatcher’s England would be portrayed. It was actually fairly intoxicating – Rubik’s Cubes, Buckaroo, clock radios and 80s fashion-fashion-fashion was interspersed with the Falklands war and miner’s protests. It was kind of gorgeous.

The kind of nostalgia used in the film portrays the issues (nationalism/ racism and its associated nasties) as entities discrete in time, that can be reflected on from the same comfortable distance as Doc Martens, Culture Club eyeliner and clunky analogue technology. Skinny jeans have made a comeback in recent years, so maybe this is an unfair assessment. Does ideology get recycled with fashion or is it an empty recuperation?

The throwing of the flag into the sea was an implausible closing gesture… it did strike me though that most of the significant action in the film took place within the timespan of one little boy’s haircut, which seemed accidentally, significantly poignant.

Film website

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A show at the Whitney I’m sorry I’m missing. More here

Image: Richard Serra, Television Delivers People, 1973

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A previous post dealt with the Sligo Silver Rush – now the propsecting focus has shifted to Co. Mayo.

A company’s plan for a “small scale” gold mine in Co Mayo is running into determined opposition from groups who fear the project would damage the landscape and environment. The controversy echoes the row which embroiled mining companies Glencar and Andaman Resources when they tried to exploit gold resources at Creggaunbaun, near Louisburgh, and Croagh Patrick in the early 1990s.

“Mayo’s Gold Limited”, a subsidiary of Aurum Explorations, is seeking the go-ahead for what the company describes as a “tourist gold mine” at Creggaunbaun which would primarily be involved in the manufacture of jewellery. Mining would be carried out in an environmentally sensitive process similar to “keyhole surgery” the company promises, and Croagh Patrick would be out of bounds for the venture.

However, concern was expressed at the weekend that Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan had declared his intention to grant prospecting licences to the company in respect of 135 designated townlands. Mayo County Councillor Margaret Adams says there are a lot of unanswered questions about the company’s plans. Representatives should be invited to a meeting to explain their exact proposals, she said. Westport Tourism has also discussed the company’s proposals and says all its members are strongly opposed to them.

Paddy Hopkins, chairman of the Mayo Environmental Group, says the proposal will meet the same level of determined opposition as the plans by Glencar and Andaman to mine gold at Cregganbaun and Croagh Patrick did on the last occasion. “We are trying to get as many groups and individuals as possible to write to Minister Ryan opposing the granting of the prospecting licences.”

In a document sent to local landowners in the Creggaunbaun area, Mayo’s Gold Limited says it is offering “a completely new approach” to any potential extraction of local gold resources.

Company spokesman Tom O’Gorman said it is thought sufficient gold resources can be established to provide a sustainable development which would provide long-term employment and a unique tourism attraction in the area for 20 or more years.

From Tom Shiel at The Irish Times & Friends of the Irish Environment

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Richard Florida was the keynote speaker at a Creative City Regions conference in October, hosted by the Dublin Region Authority and the Dublin Employment Pact. (Info on the conference here)

Florida‘s presentation didn’t say anything he hasn’t said before, but the North American, evangelical-influenced delivery was extremely impressive. He is at points very persuasive in his thesis of what the ‘Creative Economy’ is and what it needs. He paraphrased the conference chair in his diagnosis of the ‘Knowledge Economy’ (old hat terminology now) as being “the last gasp of the industrial age”.

However, while the conference was eager to attach Florida’s prestige to the proceedings, the presentations that followed him (in his absence, having jetted off to another conference) showed a notable difference in their opinions/ agendas. The talk was all about the Knowledge Economy, not the Creative Economy: even the DRA website fudged the issue by describing the conference as addressing ‘the creative knowledge economy’.

Florida himself is part of a broader trend in culture where economics is becoming ‘pop’: described as a public intellectual (and he has earned a PhD so I don’t wish to imply he is in any way underqualified), his manner of delivery draws on that of the motivational speaker, informed by the legacy of North American television and evangelicism.  

In Ireland, Eddie Hobbs and David McWilliams have become similarly vocal pundits in the national media, particularly McWilliams, whose economic background has seeped into a large scale social trendforescasting. He is particularly fond of coining neologisms (Breakfast Roll Man, Decklanders, the Pope’s Children, etc – see his books and TV programmes, The Pope’s Children and The Generation Game). From this perspective, the field of economics is undeniably more enmeshed in mainstream popular culture than it has previously been.  

Richard Florida visited Ireland in October 2007.

See www.creativeclass.com and www.creativeclass.typepad.com

A full report on the conference will be published in the Visual Artist’s Newsheet, January 2008 

Image held here

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Key to Artwork Diagram: 

  1. Concept (raw commercial intervention)
  2. Initial Transaction (unanticipated relations)
  3. Economic Filter (seven models of transaction)
  4. First Advancement of Transaction (Cork alternative auction)
  5. Bipolar Field of Constraint (Liberal Capitalist – Socialist)
  6. Second Advancement of Transaction (Belfast alternative auction)
  7. Transformation of Capital (exchanges of goods – further relations)
  8. Investment of Transformed Capital (constrained models of social transformation)
  9. Analysis / Assessment 

The National Sculpture Factory commissioned Art / not art to create a project in tandem with the NSF seminar Do You Speak Art? (or where are you coming from?) exploring the relationship between art and globalisation. In response, Art / not art purchased and auctioned (three times) an exceptional sculpture by Thai artist Pornpraeseart Yamakazi, entitled ‘Want to Be Rich?’ (see below). As part of the seminar on 3 Nov, Art / not art presented the sculpture for auction.  A bid of €500 was accepted for consideration in the ongoing art-transaction. 

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Now Art / not art have purchased ANOTHER exceptional piece of contemporary art, a painting by Thai artist Mit Ja-In. You are invited to join in deciding its fate.

Using contemporary means of communication, cosmopolitan connections, transnational standards of artistic accreditation, modern money transfer systems and freight networks we have purchased and imported from the other side of the world a sculpture by an artist previously unknown to us, all in a matter of weeks.

The nature of this intervention, however, has yet to be decided. It all depends on what Art/ not art do next.

See www.nationalsculpturefactory.com

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The friendly attitude of continental diplomats and businessmen to the emerging Irish Free State, in the form of investment and expert labour, arguably led to the successful founding of the sugar industry in the 1920s. Reubenshafen or Port de Bettavres was the name for the ‘beet port’ behind the sugar factory in Carlow, its name depending on the origin of the speaker (Germany or Belgium).

Reubenshafen Quarter is the only name in the proposed Greencore development on the sugar factory site that refers to sugar, even obliquely, or the site’s previous use. The potential Reubenshafen Quarter is linked to an obscure and little-known history, appropriated by Greencore in order to claim a new corporate identity.

(images courtesy Greencore & First Impressions Ltd). See also issue 3 of The Fold – ‘The Disappeared’, a Workroom Elsewhere project curated by Alison Pilkington and Cora Cummins. Below image: Rabbi Zaiman Alony, a senior member of the Jewish community in Ireland, supervising the packaging of sugar in 1976 in the Carlow factory. For more about internationalism and the Irish sugar industry, see the ‘extras’ section here.

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I’ve been reading up quite a lot lately on pop economics, and am particularly interested in the emotional and irrational side of it, as well as the visual culture it generates. Somewhere along the line I came across this charming-sounding idea, the ‘personal hedgehog concept’ – see graphic. (full blog post is here, apparently is a thought authored by one Jim Collins in a book titled Good to Great)

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In addition to Dingle’s impressive ‘wall of democracy’ (a forum for all the newspaper clippings about the name change, plebicite etc, full story here) I noticed this sign in the local Spar. This kind of unstaged, sponataneous talking really impresses me.

It also seems to make many potential artworks seem redundant.

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The day after the public art seminar, I am still feeling a little exhausted. And a bit dirty. I’ve been a bit promiscuous in my talking at these things, I’m going to have to go quiet for a little while soon.

Lots of questions asked, few answered as is to be expected. The discourse on this topic pings between words such as ‘temporary’, ‘community’, ‘intervention’, ‘engaged’, ‘collaborative’, ‘public’, ‘participatory’, all in different contexts and in for different consituencies. While this can make the conversation difficult to locate I think the for-better-or-worse fluidity of the terminology does clearly illustrate that the actual form of artists’ practice is changing significantly.

In a public art context, this raises a number of issues, particularly in relation to what Ed termed the ‘proxies’ – the institutions, organisations and authorities that commission work and delegate funding. Given the analogy I mentioned in the previous post – the community as the new social ‘site’ for ill-considered ‘plop art’ to replace the blank public square/ roundabout/ roadside – what are the responsibilties of maintenance and upkeep?

Traditionally these were problems for this kind of permanent public sculpture: it would often not be written into contracts who would be responsible for tasks such as cleaning and repairs, what could be understood as the maintenance of the work. Personally it seems pretty clearcut unfair to expect the artist to keep looking after the work once they are no longer being paid to do so, but anyway, that’s getting off the point slightly.

Art practices based on intervention, participation etc [insert term of choice here] are often questioned and challenged in relation to their longevity or sustained commitment to their place. How could an artist be resourced to continue this support after the event, and should they be? Surely there is a commitment necessary on the behalf of the proxy to ‘maintain’ (sustain?) the artwork once it has been exectuted by the artist?

There is a danger that temporary public work can be appropriated, assimilated and recuperated by institutions and proxies for their own benefit. Temporary public art can represent a very celebratory, shiny happy feelgood kind of practice, that is ultimately pretty easy to clean up if anything goes awry – or so it can be made to appear. The noticeable absence in these discussions is to do with the quality of the artwork that is ultimately made. I know it’s a bit of a dirty word but everyone is thinking it anyway. Aren’t they?

July 2020
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