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Dan Dubowitz & Fearghus O’Conchuir at Martello Tower, Skerries
Public art commission by Fingal County Council
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The Martello tower at Skerries, all of the dozen on the Dublin coast in fact, are remarkable buildings: highly idiosyncratic now, and quickly anachronistic even when they were built first  in the nineteenth century.
The collaboration between Dubowitz and O’Conchuir – visual artist and dancer/ choreographer – over the last two years departed from this initial curiosity. The resultant work manifests in the Skerries tower as a 12 screen video installation, to be regarded from a single point of view on a platform built for visitors. Each screen shows a single slow panning shot from the canon position in each of the twelve towers, coolly surveying the remains of each tower’s interior architecture and the view beyond, from chic inhabitation to rugged folly. Ah, Portmarnock golf course, says a visitor at my shoulder.
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New work in the public realm by students of the National college of Art and Design:

Niamh Moriarty; Oonagh Comerford; Emily McFarland; Hilary O’Mahony; Siobhán Carroll.

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The Artificial Paradise project tries to analyse how we approach each other and our surroundings in such a rapidly changing and evolving city-scape often in a whimsical and entertaining way.  Five third year NCAD students have made unique and engaging pieces of art reflecting their thoughts about this regeneration.  A wide range of research and experimentation has been undertaken by these students since the project began late in 2008.  The works presented include community interactions, sculptural performance, intervention and large-scale public constructions.

Artifical Paradise Website

Image: Niamh Moriarty

Artist: Gareth Kennedy; Composer: Ian Wilson; Musician: Cathal Roche; photographs by Sarah Browne.
A white van with two men in it arrive on site (an abandoned housing development). They are wearing hi-vis jackets. The van evokes breakfast rolls, Lucozade and bad takeaway coffee.
They exit the van, unpacking a series of large green bags and a set of wooden sections. They assemble a lattice with the wooden sections – they become floor sections – and a flat yellow hexagon is placed on top.
A sound system is assembled.
The bulky green bags are zipped open and a mass of pale yellow, plasticy material is pulled out and lifted over to the floor. It looks like a big primrosey, marshmallowy thing. The colour of it exactly matches the new housing development up on the hill in the background. (This particular colour of exterior housepaint in the early 2000s is to magnolia in seventies hallways and sittingrooms).
A generator is switched on and a fan or compressor can be heard. The soft yellowy mass begins to gain in volume, the mallow being filled with air: quickly within the mass distinct forms begin to emerge. No edges, but forms are there – columns, a flat section, and a pointed shape. (This part points upwards insistently and there is something vaguely priapic about it). Fairly quickly, the shape that looked something like a Claes Oldenburg soft sculpture, or a huge melted ice cream cone, has morphed into a robust piece of architecture.
A microphone is placed on the floor, more like a stage now, and another man becomes visible by the side of the white van. He is dressed simply in black and is holding a saxaphone.

The saxophonist walks onto the stage, and with no announcement begins to play, improvising with and against a pre-recorded piece of music.
It’s harder to adhere words to this part, as I don’t really know how to talk about music and sound, and how it makes you feel and think. There are sound samples in it: a landmark moment in Irish history; and (my favourite) Bertie Ahern saying I want to talk about the future. Future. The piece has a peculiar kind of energy to it – based on the crescendo of the last decade’s economic growth, there is a kind of wildness to it, and a suspense: the form of the music anticipates no obvious conclusion.
The end does arrive, and the collected audience clap.
August 17th, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim. Part of AFTER

AFTER is the name for a series of public art events forthcoming in counties Leitrim and Roscommon.

AFTER received its final injection of arts funding from the Arts Council in late June, coinciding almost exactly with the ‘announcement’ of the Recession in the economy. As such, the work the artists have developed over the last year is bound to resonate with the sense of an aftermath that currently pervades discourse about the Irish economic and cultural landscape – what we are left with in the wake of our decade of growth and ‘success’; how these resources and developments have been used (or squandered); what will happen to a rural landscape in particular that shows half-occupied, half-abandoned housing developments, and sodden plywood boards declaring computerised visions of dwellings that will never be?

From the project website:

AFTER is interesting in that it seeks to respond to changes in the Irish landscape arising from the unprecendented economic growth of recent years. To our knowledge, there has been no collective artistic endeavour which has sought to negotiate this terrain. It is also noteworthy that these public art interventions – rather than been initiated from within organisational/ institutional frameworks, as is the norm – are artist-led in concept, commissioning, design and delivery.

The title of the project, conceived months ago, suggests that the current ‘economic downturn’ did not necessitate a clairvoyant prediction (as some suggest) but was rather more marked by inevitability. The works developed by the artists make responses and proposals that are alternatively pragmatic and poetic; offering tentative solutions and/ or positions of dispute.

The artists involved in the project are Alice Lyons, Anna McLeod, Carol Anne Connolly, Christine Mackey and Gareth Kennedy, who participated in a residency that was faciltated by Alfredo Jaar as part of the TRADE programme delievered by Leitrim and Roscommon local authorities. The launch of the project is September 6th 2008 at the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. Project website with extensive information on artists and works here

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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.

It’s got it all: a council, an artist and a packet of regeneration money.

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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?

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