Saturday, 30 June 2007

Safe Pass Training

"The FAS ‘Safe Pass’ Health and Safety Awareness Training Programme is a one day safety awareness training programme aimed at all construction site personnel, including new entrants, to ensure that they have a basic knowledge of health and safety. It is important that workers have a basic knowledge of health and safety to make them aware of the inherent dangers on construction sites so that they will not be a risk to themselves or to their co-workers who work alongside them."

Sitting alongside Dublin City Council employees (planners, storemen, designers, cleansing team) I wondered what I was really doing there. I was tickled to be taking the course and enjoyed the incongruity and the chance to bring my work into an environment that didn't expect it. But what was I really going to gain.

The training modules incorporated within the safe pass programme are:

- The reasons for promoting safety
- Health and Safety at Work Legislation
- Accident reporting & Emergency procedures
- Accident prevention
- Health and Hygiene
- Manual Handling
- Working at heights
- Working with Electricity, underground and overhead services
- Use of hand held equipment
- Safe use of vehicles
- Noise and vibrations
- Excavations and Confined Spaces"

So I sat there and took in the sensible information (we didn't get to Weill's disease until near the end and as someone acquainted with pigeon droppings my ears pricked up) while simulataneously letting some other part of my brain take that information and examine it from other perspectives.

I imagined dancing on hydraulic platforms (working at heights), burrowing in excavations and confined spaces, with a whole lot of manual handling going on.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Ernest Pignon-Ernest

Adrian ( has drawn my attention to this work of Ernest Pignon-Ernest who makes interventions in the public space with beautiful trompe l'oeil drawings of human bodies. He affixes the drawings to buildings and leaves them to weather. I understand that he takes account of the particularity of each environment and draws his work accordingly. He does make the work in the studio though and only when it's ready abandons it in the public space.

I ask myself how much I want to make material that takes the particular built environment into account. I'm wary of accommodating external pressures too soon in the process as what interests me is the encounter between the prepared material and the environment. Of course there's accommodation in that encounter but the material has an independence that precedes the encounter.

There's more information on Pignon-Ernest in this blog:

Friday, 22 June 2007

EastBerlin Flap

Near the EastSide Gallery in Berlin, I found this open space to do my flip-flop flap dance. Something about Berlin (the background dope scent?) made me want to do silly, irreverent movement though the music with this clip pulls it back to a more sombre tone. I'd expected to find Berlin a good environment for my bodies and buildings research since it has undergone so much change in the years since reunification but I found the atmosphere different. The building is reconstruction more than construction; the city and its people seem familiar with the large projects around them. This current wave of building is one of many Berlin has experienced. And so there is less dissonance between the bodies and the building around.

In Ireland, where the huge building programme is unprecedented, the challenge of working out the relationship between what was before and what is now, between what our bodies remember and what these new structures dictate, is more compelling for me.

Wounds or graves

Working in Berlin this week, I responded again to the similarity of building sites to open graves in the city. 'Dead like you' - the graffiti on the building on the corner of Rosenthalerstrasse underlined the connection though I'm not sure what its point is. I think of it as a kind of memento mori.

This little grave in Kreutzberg is a gentler reminder of transience. The red tape marks the boundaries and signals danger. The collection of flint in the centre of the hole gives it a shrine-like quality, or a sense of an ancient tomb uncovered. In my head anyway...

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Our 'green' Taoiseach

Thanks to Fintan O'Toole Irish Times article about Bertie Ahern this weekend (Sat, Jun16)(, I have a readymade link between urban construction, destruction, Ireland and China.

'No Irish political leader has ever been so openly contemptuous of environmental concerns. This is the Taoiseach, after all, who complained in 2003 that every big infrastructural project has to "go through eight hoops, through all environmental, planning and blah blah blah, and every blah costs a few hundred million". This is the Taoiseach who loftily dismissed all objections to motorway routes as being about "swans, snails and people hanging out of trees", and who sighed with envy in Shanghai at the power of a Chinese mayor to bulldoze everything in his way: "Naturally enough I would like to have the power of the mayor that when he decides he wants to do a highway and, if he wants to bypass an area, he just goes straight up and over".'

Perhaps I can be one of the people hanging from trees, or a swan, or a snail - a brake on untrammeled bulldozing for the physical life that the Taoiseach's list of irritating objections embodies.

Bulldozer, snail, swan, hanging body - power.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The Black Book

Looking at the Grand Canal Theatre video material, I remembered images from Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book. It's a kind of detective novel set in Istanbul but the novel is as much about the city and its expression of Turkish identity as it is about the narrator's missing wife. It's a difficult read; it is labyrinthine in its structure like Foucault's Pendulum. But I recall clearly the dark spaces of the city he describes: the tunnels and caves beneath Istanbul which catalogue its history and contain a fantastical alternative version of the present; the dark central shaft of the apartment building where the narrator's family live, a shaft where items lost and fallen gather. These dark spaces are a kind of unconscious - a space made of memory, fantasy and desire - what was and what mustn't be. We build in the light but but can't avoid dealing with these shadow spaces

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Grand Canal Theatre

I'll write about this later but there's something familiar in this juxtaposition of the exposed earth and the aspirational construction that made it the right home for me to sense and move. It is fitting that Iarla Ó Lionaird's music (An buachaillín bán), though applied only when I edited the movie, both belongs to and reinforces this world where I try to navigate a relationship between the conscious and unconscious, the 'foul rag and bone shop of the heart' and the ambitious futures of these hard buildings. This sketch on the corner of the building works for the new Grand Canal Theatre has brought me back to long held preoccupations.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

'There's the funny man again'

"'Funny' = 'ha! ha!' or 'funny' 'peculiar'?", my father might have enquired. I guess these middle class kids romping in IMMA's formal gardens on a Bank Holiday Monday were in their own polite way agreeing with the 'psycho' comment of the Guild street boys.

I liked the looming cranes and the architectural planting and wondered what it would be like if the guy was dressed as a builder.

Sunday, 3 June 2007


She's standing in a little place she's found herself - a vantage point and hideout. She's inserted her body in the space defined by the hard walls and soft foliage. And from this place she watches the crowds on the other side of the street who are shuffling along the narrow length of the Liffey Docks to enjoy the tall ships, to spend money, to not be at home on a Saturday afternoon. Barriers prevent the crowds spilling onto the road. Barriers keep them safe and slow and shuffling. She's found her own little niche.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Rebecca and site specific chat

Specifically, we were in the kitchen this morning talking about the difference between the kind of site specific work which still takes place within a clear frame (a start and end time, a defined location, a ticketing system which controls access) and the guerilla appearances which she and I have started to do. She's been very successful at creating events which occur within particular frames outside of the theatre space, but she's also done performances which arrive out of the blue and land in some public space - a shopping centre in Athlone for instance. Of course the performances are not really out of the blue at all, since they are the result of careful crafting in a studio environment.

That careful crafting is an important aspect to what I'm trying to do too. It gives the work its integrity. But once the material has been prepared, I don't want to keep it in a glass display case. I want to find out of it's strong enough to go out into the world and encounter whatever the new environment offers it. It is this encounter which I hope can be transformative, both of the material and of the environment which the material temporarily inhabits.

So mornings in the clean and comfortable spaces of Dancehouse (
Afternoons on the dusty building sites of Docklands.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Guild Street in the sun

I went back to Guild st in the sunlight with trainers that I didn't mind getting dirty, in the hope that I could so some more energetic movement. I had reckoned on the intersection being so busy with people on their way home from work, with children out of school and with Mum's sunning themselves on their porches. For all my bravado about opening my work up to the public in a very direct way, I was nervous about starting, about making that transition from walkng and standing to the revved up energy of the material I wanted to do. But I did it and people stopped to watch. A car pulled with a couple who asked what I was up to. Dolores, a woman living across the street asked if it was martial arts or dance. She also advised me to be careful of my camera phone and when I told her I liked the graffiti backdrop, she suggested I look at a mural painted alongside her house opposite the new railway station.

I was very aware of the number of construction workers on their way from work who passed me. They're mostly foreign nationals I guess and as they went by I wondered if bodies and buildings could find a way to connect to their experience of this changing urban landscape?

Before I left, Dolores told me that some people thought I was a 'psycho' but she told them who I was - an artist.