The purpose of art is to evoke in oneself a feeling that one has experienced, and having done this, then by the means of movements, lines, colors, sounds and forms expressed in words, one is able to transmit this feeling so that others may have the capacities in oder to experience this same feeling – this is the activity of art.
It is a human activity, and what consists in this is that one man consciously, by means of external signs, hands on to others the feelings he has lived through, so that other people are infected by these feelings, in order to also experience them.
The Situation – In September 2006, two children were badly injured by a petrol bomb that had been thrown into the car in which they were passengers, in the Moyross Housing Estate situated in Limerick City.
It was as a result of this incident that the Government was forced to appoint John Fitzgerald, a former Dublin City Manager, to urgently report back on possible solutions to a long ongoing spiral of serious anti-social problems relating to the public housing estates of Limerick.
It is in one of those housing estates, O Malley Park, in Southill, that I was born and have grown up in for the past 30 years.
When the report was being processed there was a lot of skepticism in the area, with the most topical phrase being touted, “ haven`t we heard this before. ” I had not. Yet when the report was finalized, and the vision plans announced, for the first time in my memory there was a buzz in the area. New houses were shown, new green areas, private back gardens, police on bikes; in short, what was shown was an outline that truly excited people. And the people felt proud. I looked out my window and I saw a future of hope.
Today, March 2012, I have no hope. I remain on a block of four houses, where once there were twelve, and my home stands as the only one not derelict. The same situation is repeated everywhere throughout the estate.
The community has been torn to shreds, and the fearful thing is that the people are not been spoken to. The young families are again leaving as quickly as they can yet some of the old residents are fearful of moving out, because of fear of being stigmatized.
They have lived here for over forty years, law abiding, family reared, most of them owners of their homes. To leave they are offered Thirty Thousands euros so their homes can be destroyed. Forty years after buying them, and they are expected to go and get a mortgage four times the rate of what they are being offered by the council.
Most of the people who study the working class areas in Ireland will say that the problems that exist there have been encouraged by bad planning, bad policing and a total lack of responsibility from the councils involved. What is needed is an apology. And that is just the beginning.
The regeneration report was to offer hope, and on the master plan for the regeneration, there are quotes offered from some of the board of directors, outlining that this was not just beneficial to the areas affected, but to the entire county and the mid west region.
The most poignant quote that struck me was from my own parish priest, who offered truth, hope and vision.
“ A city lives, breathes, can prosper, can die. The health of any city depends on how all its citizens are cared for, included or seen outside. Limerick, with all its successes, has not been a flourishing city.
Pockets of poverty were allowed to develop, poverty on a par with some of the worst in the world. We are slow to ask the appropriate questions.
But with the advent of Limerick Regeneration, a new
opportunity, a new beginning has been offered to the city. An opportunity is being given to build a new city and a new citizenry.
Future generations will judge us on weather we facilitated the process, working to overcome all obstacles, or whether we besmirched their lives with our complacency and our refusal to be moved to a sense of greater understanding of each other, staying in the comfort zone of finger pointing.
Critical historical moments come to cities rarely, maybe even every odd century, this is one for Limerick.”
To underline the lack of belief in the regeneration process at the very outset, and the suspicion that it was just another failed project in waiting, we have to go back thirty years or so.
In 1982, the then leading current affairs program, “Today Tonight”, undertook a report that highlighted the problems of social exclusion in the Southill estate of O Malley Park. During the program one panelist spoke out and commented,
“ There is a serious area of deprivation here, a cycle of poverty and deprivation which is leading people, descending people, down into the criminal milieu.
What I`m afraid of in an area like Southill is that we have an army of alienated children just waiting for the call.”
That panelist was our future president Mary McAleese, who likened the problems of poverty, education, crime and
disorder to those endured by Catholic areas in Northern Ireland following their abandonment by successive governments. Again when you look between the lines it is still abandoned.
The Dream – It is in times of real crisis where one finds the ability to hope, to dream again and laugh. To imagine a better future when all around you points to nothing but failure. When the tail starts to wag the dog.
My ambition is to create a new oasis. To plan as if all has been lost, and Southill has been stumbled across like an ancient lost civilization. No laws, no rules, abandoned like a drifting island in the ocean that has been discovered but never claimed. All that is left is a few people who have the opportunity to rebuild this city.
This beautiful hill side Eden, looking down on the ancient city of Limerick, has not been inhabited since the beautiful emerald isle lost it sovereignty to the German Bankers, accumulating in the Ardnacrusha Power Plant being demolished and the old Viking city of Limerick drowning in her own waters.
I want to rebuild the republic. Build an empire who`s rulers do not wish power for their own purposes, but who instead use it to check and control the desire for it in their subjects.
A republic that seeks for a new understanding of knowledge; a new role for art and culture, and a new language for politics and psychology.
Where the power of the ruling elite will not be used to oppress but to benefit the common people, developing a regime of expertise, unity and happiness. A city where the thought of living well, both individually and collectively was the highest aim. A city who`s very virtues are comprised of wisdom, courage, self discipline and justice.
Thursday, March 8th, 2086.
Today was tough. The city is destroyed from the disaster, with everything flooded except for the higher grounds in the south and the east. We have been deployed in the south, made up of perhaps 40 acres of so. Perhaps more but compared to the disaster, what is left is minimal.
It was too bad to land, too dangerous in the high winds so we just scanned the area looking for any sign of life. There is no sign of any human existence down there. The only life we spotted were the gulls, the crows, and a few sparrows or starlings. Hard to tell from the distance we were looking from.
I really wanted to land to have a real inspection. I have been excited about this trip since it was first announced. But i sadly had to accept that with the ferocity of the weather it really was just too dangerous to land, so we decided to head back to base and search again tomorrow. From above one can only be perplexed by the scale of the disaster.
Friday, March 9th, 2086.
I am certain that i spotted life today, well the shape of a human disappearing into the hedge growth. I was absolutely certain, but yet again i was the only one who spotted it. The only one out of an eight man crew.
I knew by the others reaction that they did not believe me when i said it. Numerous times before they have expressed their doubts in my thoughts and vision. They think that i am so caught up in the belief of life being there that my mind has begun to play tricks on me. I could counter argue that they are so caught up in there not being life there that even if they see it, they will either not notice it or just simply choose not to believe it. At least my hallucinations are positive and i will find people. I WILL.
We did make history today and I am proud of that. We are the first humans to set foot on this scared hill in at least fifty years or so. The grass and foliage is tough, the trees are really dense, and the soil bogs you down making it tough to move around.
It has been hard and draining and there was no sign of life once we were on the ground. The moving shuddery, the swaying trees, are all a lot harder to notice once one is not above looking down. Once you are down there you are lost. It unfortunate but something we will have to manage.
We returned to base empty handed, yet i remain positive.
Saturday, March 10th, 2086.
This is not a fascination but i am sure that there are people who are still alive staying here. We spotted and marked many different pathways throughout thefoliage but again i am the only member of the team who is arguing the case that its human trails.
It could be the tracks of animals, like foxes, wild dogs, even otters entered my mind today, but i am sure there people tracks. The group are certain that it is not people. If there were people here, why would they not approach us, they must have noticed us from above the first day, and if not then they definitely would have spotted us landing on the second day.
This makes me question my belief in finding people although i still believe that the tracks were man made, my hope of finding humans alive are starting to slim.I radioed back to base and asked if i could stay the night only to be re informed of my orders. Land, search, map and go. This will be repeated again the following day from where we left off. I am getting annoyed. We could be pulled from this in any moment.
Sunday, March 11th, 2086.
Again i am certain of finding life. today i felt that they`re were people looking at me. I did not see anybody but i could feel a thousand stares and the feeling didn’t go away until we stumbled across a massive void. At first we were unsure what it was until we realized that it was a mass grave, which reaffirmed my believe that there are people here.
How else would there be mass graves? If it was caused by the disasters then bodies would be scattered everywhere, yet these have been strategically placed, all what looks like face down, and they seem to be resting there for what seems like decades.
Maybe they built mass graves for the dead they found, buried them and waited for help to come along. But no help arrived. How long did they last waiting. Weeks, months, years? All that waiting and then nothing. No one showed until we arrived, perhaps fifty or so years later.
Maybe thats why if life is here, that they are so keen to not show. Maybe they have lost all faith and trust in their fellow humans. If it were me in that position i don’t know how i would react or behave.
Yet again the crew think i am crazy. Its funny that when you think differently to the so called group that they consider you crazy. No one ever likes to look at themselves as stupid, its better to point at the one and call him crazy. I just know i ain`t stupid.
Monday, March 12th, 2086.
I am sure we were being followed today. The boss wants to call off the search because of finical reasons and the cutbacks. I cannot except that. How many times can a people be ignored. I had a heated exchange with the boss and he agreed to let me stay for an extra two nights starting tomorrow. I have a feeling they may make themselves known under the cover of darkness.
I also expressed my doubts about the search. They others in the group were not searching. They were walking and talking, and did not give a shit for no search. I will be glad to be on my own here for a few days.
Sometimes i feel that it may be a hindrance to the establishment to find people. Crazy thing to say but perhaps if the people are found then they will offer up questions that the establishment will not want to answer. Mad thing to think but i get the feeling that they just don’t care.
But perhaps i maybe care too much. Perhaps i should take a step back and just re think and relax a little. I just cant get the stories out of my head about what i have heard about this piece of land so i guess i am adamant to not give up, and to do all in my power to look for these people to show i care. I think its the least that they deserve.
So tomorrow i am dropped off alone for two days, and i guess if i find nothing then it will be another fifty years before anyone gives a shit about looking again.
Tuesday, March 13th, 2086.
Found what looked like the ruins of a few sheltered houses today. They all faced towards what looks like the remains of a massive bonfire, of which the ground around it is scorched in a twenty foot radius, which is almost exactly circular and runs parallel to the ruins. Place seemed strange, and slightly daunting.
I decided that this is where i should rest tonight, so i did a few adjustments to the roof for a bit of shelter, and lit a fire. I am hearing a lot of noises that i have not heard before. Not sure if it is because i am not listening to the bullshit talk of my colleagues or because that i am alone the voices are not frightened to be heard. They seem to stem from all directions and also the scent of the area has changed.
Again i have the feeling of being looked at and followed, and i have a slight fear of being here. It seems a bit scared or something but perhaps my mind is running away again. I thought of moving on but it is too dark and too late so i will stay wake for as long as possible and stare into the fire.
Wednesday, March 14th, 2086.
I awoke today to a gun being pointed at my face. I was surrounded by armed men, at least six, but got a sense that there were others lurking behind them in the over growth. For the first twenty minutes no one spoke, and there was always a gun no more then six inches from my temple. Yet saying all that it has turned out to be a truly amazing day.
The men were not dissimilar to me, which made me ponder what it was i was expecting to find in the first place? After much deliberation i found out more then i could have possibly imagined. They had been following us since the first day we passed over their base, and they had followed us foot for foot as we searched their lands for any sign of human life.. They followed us, studied us, and got to know us. They knew our habits, traits, weaknesses. I get the impression that if the others
were here that they would have never shown themselves, i believe that i am alive because they trusted me from following me. They knew why i was here, and they believed i cared. They also knew that the others just came along for the ride. I had a feeling that they trusted me.
I had fell asleep on what is scared ground to them, but in their world, with their rules, you are not going to be killed because of something thats called scared. I simply didn’t know or as they say, i was not educated in their ways. In our world you are killed for disrespecting the scared, no questions asked. You should know. Here they teach.
The grounds where the ruins ly is where the first survivors had meet up by accident, its where they built their first base, and returned to look for more survivors. When they found all that they felt remained of the living, they dug graves for the dead, buried face down, so they could not see that no one had returned for them. After that, the base was too small for the many who lived there so they moved to a new base, hid it with foliage and built half of it under ground, for protection, isolation, and warmth. It had been seven years since the first survivors had met when they found the last remaining one.
They eldest, and the elected leader had passed away 10 years previous to when i got there. Now there were three in charge but each was in charge of different areas. Everything was negated with the group and all were equal. They explained the history of the land to me, before the disaster, and how deep the level of distrust that existed was running in their minds regarding local people, the authorities and the institutions.
They felt that they didn’t belong, that no one would listen, and those who were lucky to get educated realized how easy the cycle would be passed on until soon the young would not expect anything different, therefore they would never fight for it. The institutions and the authorities, even their elected government had made them institutionised to their way of life.
No one had ever listened to them, or cared, and those who had were quickly ignored, tarnished, or silent. The people at the top had too much to lose. The disaster just highlighted that fact. It took fifteen years for all hope to fade that anyone was going to turn up.
The elder would always say that no on would turn up to aid them because no one cared.He kept many notebooks and would write as often as he could, the history of the past, the aspirations of the future, the mistakes that were made, and he put in place a new systems, a new way of living, and vowed that no matter what, these mistakes will never agin be repeated. Not on this land. He vowed to be a separate race, a separate identity, one where all are equal, all share responsibility, and everyone looks after everyone. That was the first rule. This was written as the constitution and thought to the young, for it was the young, and how they were educated that gave the health to the city. If you can teach the young to not be corrupt, then they will demand that from their elders.
We will grow again he would say, but we will never again look from the bottom up,
nor shall we look down when we reach the top. We are all equal. This offered a new way, new hope, all equal in all ways. He thought, histories, fears, reminders, aspirations,- these all turned into volumes and volumes of works. The works seemed endless but the camps education and outlook has come to depend on it.
Amazingly his eldest son gave me the first transcript that he has ever written, outlining his early intentions after the realization that they were alone. He would not fear, he would use this as an opportunity to change they way we live in think. Although it was in a small corner of a small country, it was a start. We have to start small.
I was given this on one condition. I leave the camp, and return to base saying there is no sign of life and that i have been hallucinating all this time. Everything i imagined was faked. That was my order, so that this new land and way of life can be protected out of fear of this new way being destroyed before it is weaved into the fabric of their life. They are not ready yet to tell the world their story out of fear and mistrust. I understand them.
I return to base tomorrow , from where i will ask to for a leave of absence for a month of two, to digest this text, and what i have been told and what i have seen. They have developed a way of life that goes way beyond ours. They have none of the technological advancement that we have, yet they have no need for it. They went backwards to go forwards, and they are happy. And that is the key, They are happy. You have no wants as long as you look after your needs.
It seems so simple and communal, so alien to our own complicated lifestyles, so peaceful. I will return, perhaps get to use their guidelines to alter our world. But now i will leave them in peace, and go and study elders text. Amazing day.
MA SPACE – VL PROJECT
Visiting Designer/ Artist
Project Brief/ Concept
To create a piece of theatre set in the year 2086 after Limerick has been flooded in her own waters because the IMF has taken back the Arnacrusha power plant because Ireland could not repay its bank debt. The only place that remained above water was Southill, where the survivors had to start from scratch, recreating their own laws and constitution based on not repeating the mistakes of the past.
The Artists/ Designers Intention at the outset and if it changed, during the project.
The intention is to get people thinking and talking about a utopian society, village, that they have the ability to create, and to refocus that thought in the direction of Limerick regeneration, so people believe that they do have a voice in the process.
The Artists/ Designers Role
Director, producer, storyteller.
Who is the Audience or Benefactor of the project.
The community of Southill, Limerick, and the wider Limerick Community.
How is that defined.
The story is focusing on one area of the Regeneration process, in order to instill a believe in the community that things can change. At the moment there is not even a residents association because they believe they have no voice. i would like to have them believe that they have a voice
What are the projects Theoretical and Practical Reference Points
The artist has lived in the area for thirty years so has a great understanding of the feelings of unrest and negativity. The reasoning behind the regneration, the purpose and reason why estates like Southill where built at the time of the housing crisis throughout Ireland and the history of Limerick give me a great understanding of the field. Working in conjution with expertise in the field of Architecture and Pyscology
What are the methodologies employed in the project.
Theatre of the Oppressed Augusto Baol Storytelling and Comedy Fantasy and Utopia
Context – what are the key factors that influence the Artists/Designers interaction in the context.
Limerick Regeneration Process
Social, Geographical, Temporal, Political, Historical, Material, Experiential, etc
Southill Community, Limerick City, and regeneration communities throughout Ireland. University of Limerick
Primary and Secondary
Description of Stakeholder Involvement
Primary and Secondary
Contact Strategies – Face to face Email
Phone Written documents
Face to face meetings, email ideas and thoughts, phone calls, video clips, photograph documentation. There are regular face to face meetings between the stakeholders. Also a steering group has been set up so the project does not run out of control and is keep within its limits.
Context Stakeholders Agencys Funders
Ethical Issues/ Constraints
Attach a doc with timeline where appropriate
Milestones – key achievements that are obtained along the project timeline.
Deliverables – key occurrences that must happen along the timeframe.
Artists/Designers input hrs and fees
20 hours a week – no fee
How is the Artists/ Designers business structured
Additional Resources Required
written documentation and it is video archieved from the point of view of the artist. Written script.
Add additional sheet with specs if appropriate
How is Documentation of the project by outside persons or organizations controlled.
Time, context, duration, form, etc
Public Relations/ Media/Press
Business, Stakeholder, funders, etc
Things that went wrong and outcomes from that.
How was the project meaningful and to whom.
Other notes and quotes.