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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

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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

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[the book above is The Future of Nostalgia, by Svetlana Boym]

A recent stay in Berlin found me at Ostel, a hostel renovated as an homage to ‘ostalgie’, in the style of the former DDR. (see this post) 

My expectations of the place were of course building it up for a fall, but even still, it seemed oddly, eerily empty. It lacked spirit. And as much as it pains me to say it, it lacked the elusive texture of authenticity, not even that I would know what that was.  

The rooms were furnished sparsely, mainly with what seemed like strips of imitation vintage wallpaper and IKEA furniture, peppered with some older items – in our room some beautiful books, a radio/ record player, and a fantastically ugly circular wicker-framed mirror. Builders were at work on scaffolding outside the window, which highlighted the grating, sparkly newness of the place, spotless tiled bathroom and all. 

Almost instantly, the experience of walking through the corridors recalled my experience of Hotel Ballymun, something I have not written about here. The parallels between the 2 places are fascinating – one a self-conscious recreation that walked a line between irony and sincerity, manufacturing the authenticity (or the knowing postmodern suspicion of any such experience) craved by tourists; the other an art project that served as some kind of memorial that implicitly traded on such modes of collective experience and cultural memory. 

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

November 2017
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