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Via the Irish Times, September 23rd 2009:

The arts cement our reputation abroad, are crucial to our smart economy, provide employment at home, fuel cultural tourism, and help form the nation’s psyche – they are vital to our national recovery, writes GERRY GODLEY.
IRISH ARTISTS, your country needs you. If there was a consensus among the high achievers of the Irish diaspora gathered in Farmleigh last weekend, surely this was it. A roll call of totemic figures, including financier Dermot Desmond, philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman, film-maker Neil Jordan and a forthright Minister for Arts, Martin Cullen, all avowed the importance of culture in the economic heavy lifting to come. Earlier this year, its potency in international affairs was underscored by Brian Cowen in New York, when he spoke of how “most Americans encounter Ireland today through culture: whether that is Irish dance and music, Irish film, Irish writing or an Irish play on Broadway”. Mary Robinson asserted its importance in a social fabric context speaking in August at the annual Béal na mBláth commemoration, when she said: “We should listen to our creative artists.”
Like the rest of us, they are each in their own way drawing from the well of our remarkable achievements. Each successive nominee or winner of an Oscar, Tony, Grammy, Golden Globe, Mercury and Man Booker, not to mention this week’s Emmy success, our Nobel Laureate and the world’s most successful rock band, is a jewel hewn from the rich seams of artistic expression that permeate every stratum of Irish life, representing levels of participation surpassed only by our great sporting traditions.
The arts have a vital role to play in our national recovery in five distinct areas.

According to the article, these are the arts and our reputational capital; the arts and the smart economy; the arts and cultural tourism; the arts and employment; the arts and the national psyche. The full text of Godfrey’s excellent article is held here.

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rathowen-co-westmeath

Image: Rathowen, Co. Westmeath, from Ghost Estates of the Irish Property Bubble
The title of this post comes from a chapter in Jane Jacobs’ book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, from 1963. Though speaking about housing and planning policies in the sixties and earlier in the US, the text has a sudden renewed sharpness in relation to recent events. (It doesn’t speak of diasaster capitalism a la Naoimi Klein, although there are similarities in the language of upheaval, violence and shock). Arguing for the necessity of ‘gradual, constant close grained changes’, Jacobs says:
this money shapes cataclysmic changes in cities. Relatively little of it shapes gradual change. Cataclysmic money pours into an area in concentrated form, producing drastic changes. As an obverse of this behaviour, cataclysmic money sends relatively few trickles of money into localities not treated to cataclysm. Putting it figuratively, insofar as their effects on most city streets and districts are concerned, these three kinds of money [state, private and ‘shadow world’] behave not like irrigation systems, bringing life-giving streams to feed steady, continual growth. Instead, they behave like manifestations of malevolent climates beyond the control of man – affording either searing droughts or torrential, eroding floods…
City people finance the building of suburbs. To be sure, one of the historic missions of cities, those marvelously productive and efficient places, is to finance colonisation…
This city building money operates as it does not because of its own internal necessities and forces. It operates cataclymically because we, as a society, have asked for just this. We thought it would be good for us, and we got it. Now we accept it as if it were ordained by God or the system.
The pervasive responses to the recession here  have been variations along the spectrum of  I’m fucked to I’m alright, Jack. (And maybe now is time to get a good deal on a used car?) Apparently we will have to weather this recession until times get good again. The sense of resignation to capitalism’s sometimes cruel weather systems is disheartening. There are very many diverse microclimates to be found in the shade of mountains and in gardens and small parks elsewhere, both by chance and by design.
It has been a rather sudden change here. Unfinished houses and 
housing estates in the landscape are now casually described as 
abandoned rather than in progress.

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

Ballenciaga, Fall 2008 collection

Ballenciaga, Fall 2008 collection

So, before the recession was ‘announced’ I was doing some preliminary research into how fashion correlates with economic trends (skirt lengths, volume of material used etc). A day or two ago I came across this post over at Freakonomics:

 

The global economic slowdown has had an upside for some people. First, it was debt consolidators and private security firms. Now, necktie companies are reporting a boost in sales as the unemployment rate rises, the Telegraph reports. The (questionable) theory is that employed men want to look sharp and thereby stay employed.

To think — just last October we were wondering whether or not the tie might be on its way out.

What other fashion trends can be linked to the ups and downs of the stock market? Skirt hemlines, of course. But in this curious slideshow, The Times’s Bill Cunningham wonders if the Dow might also be dragging down the already sagging pants of New York’s youth.

 

So the other week the three kingpins of celebrity economics in Ireland, David McWilliams, Eddie Hobbs and George Lee were all on Saturday night TV.

However there were no handbags at dawn or any direct challenges at all to each others economic predictions/ political positions (pre June 24 this was before the official announcement of The Recession). Instead, the three men regressed into an economic nostalgia glued together with anecdotes of Curly Wurlys and half crowns found on the street and cashed in at the sweet shop.

A comment from The Property Pin:

I was hoping we would ‘get real’ but no. This is just a fluff piece with a little bit of light sabre rattling, but no killer thrusts. The three boys almost being publicly embarrassed for being so right, and having to defend themselves – ‘no miriam, i’m not a doom monger’.

I believe we’re going to need a televised blood and guts, bone crunching, broken teeth D-Day type watershed to burst this bubble.

“Why is my 100% mortgaged shoebox worth 40% less than what I paid for it, if I could even find someone to buy it? I don’t remember anyone pointing out that was a possibility when I was being brow beaten into buying it.”

With the Dans and the Austins and the Toms and the Kens in the dock to explain how this all came about.
People in Ireland aren’t long about whinging to Joe Duffy if they think they were charged too much for a meal in a restaurant, but we have an entire generation who have been ripped off for their life savings and possibly their career earnings and there isn’t a fucking murmur of discontent to be found anywhere. It’s disturbing.

It seems that the penny sweet remains the primary unit that acts both as a touchstone for avarice and a way to extrapolate larger economic structures.

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