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Old Ballymun Swimming Pool in Dublin


Exhibition: 29 February to 12 April 2008
Old Swimming Pool, Ballymun, Dublin

Exhibition: Santiago Sierra, Hiraki Sawa, Cecily Brennan, Jota Castro, Minerva Cuevas, Jeanette Doyle, Matthieu Laurette, Janice Feighrey, Stephen Gunning, Jesse Jones, Nevan Lahart, Ken Meehan, Mark McGowan, Theresa Nanigian, Women of the Star Project, Seamus Nolan, Adam Chodzko, Hugh O'Neill, Abigail Reynolds, The Centre of Attention

conference: 'ART AND AUTONOMY?'
28 and 29 February 2008 Civic Centre, Ballymun, Dublin 9
Prof Tony Bennett, JJ Charlesworth, Daniel Jewesbury, Lu Jie, Maria Lind, Amanda McDonald Crowley, Ailbhe Murphy, Tone Olaf Nielsen, Tim Stott and Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, Dr Mick Wilson.
Further details on exhibition and conference here

a Breaking Ground exhibition and conference curated by Aisling Prior



The Centre of Attention presents a new work:

Famine Road

A wall like that of an abandoned stage flat stands in a derelict pool. Hanging on this wall are several paintings all square in shape and red but executed in a variety of sizes, shades and media.

We are in the derelict community swimming pool in the North Dublin suburb of Ballymun. Visual artists have been brought in, to perform and display, like imported birds of paradise.
Alas this bird can not dance its own steps but must provide a response to a theme ... and engage with the local and the social ... in the name of regeneration. In the sur-mesure modus operandi expected from contemporary artists, this can often manifest itself in monstruous commonplace banalities. The vacuous sounds and terrifyingly trite parrot screeches grate.

Famine roads lead nowhere. These roads were built by the Irish agricultural poor, in return for soup and a small allowance. This scheme was the British authorities' answer to relieve the hardship caused by the potato blight. A pointless occupation, the road building was required for the morality of the ruling classes to be upheld. Nothing for nothing.

To draw a parallel not illustrative but analogous in a resonant way that is worth contemplating and returning to.

Over the past five years, the Centre of Attention commissioned art institutions to provide a 'red square painting' for its shows. Each was exhibited at the time as an integral part of the installations.
'Famine Road' presents a series of paintings executed by the Biennale di Venezia, Kunsthalle Winterthur, the Limerick City Gallery of Art, Plymouth Arts Centre, Istanbul Modern, Kuenstlerhaus Mousonturm and others.


Famine Road (detail)



In 1964 the planned Ballymun Estate represented a brighter and better future, Dublin's 'march to the new housing frontiers'. Ireland had entered the 'brave new world' of public housing. As such Ballymun was to become the symbol of this new modern Ireland, commissioned and managed from above.

…the road builder with his soup; the long-term unemployed on another job scheme; The commissioned artist...

For us these red square painting works represent the identification of the art institution as a producer, author and artist with its own agendas, motivations and tropes. The institution expressing itself through artists becomes distasteful and sinister in a political and ideological arena.

The early 1960s plans for a pool on the Ballymun estate were soon abandoned and the land was redesignated as shop units. However, as the building work was about to begin, the community, in a seminal moment in Ballymun's history, staged angry protests and sat in front of the bulldozers to prevent the construction work from starting. Eventually the fight was won and the pool opened in 1974.

What is a red square? Is it a place? Is it a fundamental form? A flag? A colour? The Centre of Attention trademark or logo? Malevich-esque non objective art? - Abstraction. Conception. Passion. Anger. Erotic. Seductive Idealism. Destructive Modernism.

"...What is your body now if not a famine road?"

The collection of red square paintings produced by our 'creative partners' also exists as an indexical diary of the journey of The Centre of Attention. The arresting sculptural/ architectural element of 'Famine Road' underlines its nature as a phenomenon that has taken place, referencing the original hanging of the pieces and the transplantation of ideas, ideals and idealism.

Roads leading nowhere, constructed of meaning, each part a stone heart, flint cold, the selfish imperial rigour. Subjugation for gain. Or turn the stone in the hand. Degradation of a treacherous force; an enemy of the sceptred isle; an unfaithful popish whore...
The programme of road building may have cost more to pursue than the giving of alms.



Constructing a path away from hunger toward knowledge, in search of basics we pursue a road to emptiness.
Listen to the hope peddlers! Searching the glory of the natural world, the flowering of humanity, the realisation of self: in dismay. Withheld, running on empty, meaning in nothingness; a prolonging of futility.

The giver and taker, voracious and mindless: we continue not knowing what we can not know. Determined by chemistry and form; rules. Life - a by-product of chemical replication.

This wall of red squares continuing to replicate as we speak... is the building of a road to nowhere, the coming up against an ending and the understanding of self-replication at the heart of life.

The repetition continues.
A new Regeneration for another half generation. The expectation once again that physical change will change our lives...

Utopia is nowhere is a tautology.
We're walking the famine road where there is no arriving; we serve our time.



The Centre of Attention, February 2008

Old Ballymun Swimming Pool in Dublin