Circa Art Magazine. No. 84, 1998
Dig my nails into the cracks and drag myself forward with my fingers. It will be the end and there I'll be, wondering what can have brought it on and wondering what can have... why it was so long coming. There I'll be, in the old refuge, alone against the silence and...the stillness. If I can hold my peace, and sit quiet, it will be all over with sound, and motion, all over and done with.
Samuel Beckett, Endgame
Faber and Faber, 1985
The first piece of theatre I ever attended at the Project was Endgame in the old premises on South King Street. It seemed appropriate somehow to recall this, when Amanda Ralph's installation Sea Area Forecast was given a two-day segment amidst Maurice Ó Connell's No Opening Just Closing Demolishing Project adventure and interactive jamboree, to mark the closing and redevelopment of the Project site in Temple Bar.
From John Ford's Monument Valley country to Ireland, the return to a known place, the use of RTÉ meteorological broadcast on the wireless, as symbols, voice-activated notations of space...strange, unknown place of shifting sound qualities...a radio or rather a wireless in a lighthouse, with tonal interjections, pronounces the existence of time and place. There is no other sense of otherness, like listening to the full meteorological forecast for odd-sounding outcrops around these islands. A sense of impending disassociation creeps upon the listener as a whole world unknown to all but nautical explorers sounds more barren and other-worldly than the farcical political histrionics of Cape Canaveral. This shadow world, crepuscular soundings from the outer realms of the known world, the exploration of which could be a mental journey of abstraction, an insane pantheon of places...this whimsical symphony could make a delectable chromatic scale for any exploration of inner space.
Amanda Ralph has placed this unfathomable symphony between us and objects of ironic humour: a bath with oars; a Japanese origame mobile like whispers in the dark; reflected light upon pools of water, Zen gardens of musical animist imagination which burble alongside the mobile.
The fragile construction of what is home, a tentative investigation of real space, the outer elements of perceived geographical reality, as espoused by the naming of places, by mapping as in wireless dimensions. The ability to enhance the banal by contrast with the mundane is enchantingly whimsical, while displaying a mature sense of cultural dichotomy. This amusing hors d'oeuvre by a challenging artist, recently returned was completely delightful, all our numbed brains exposed to the elements in the midst of the ongoing destruction of the building.
The destruction of the fabric shell of the Essex Street building allowed for an unusual experiment in curated anarchy, conducted by Ó Connell and the invited artists, who were joined by a plethora of passing contributors. These events ranged from a performance by six bands accompanied by three hundred followers and police, to confused press coverage, a nightclub with a no-addmittance door policy, "Amanda Ralph...making the place look like a Gallery again...[and] Ross [who provided] the dynamite on the last night" (from Ó Connell's 'declaration and account' of the project). This use of the derelict space almost recalled the often weird events of its early incarnation, when the energy flowed and fun not funding was the core of the establishment.
The inspired decision to allow Ó Connell to take over the space for two weeks, fourteen twelve-hour days of mayhem and conversation, led to this most vibrant interactive event. Saying that artists were invited seems almost too formal, but scheduling the space for two-day opportunities for installation and event artists gave Ralph amongst others a public space to perform where so often there is nothing. This idea of using buildings for unspecified, event-orientated activities brought to mind the unused National Ballroom. Wouldn't it be a superb use of the space, and good—well, interesting—promotional advertising for the future annex building to the Municipal Gallery, to assault the ghosts of millions of nurses' dances with what could only be an invigorating experience? This type of curated multiple use of dormant spaces has in the past achieved unexpected random results.
For more on the Project project, the internet might be persuaded to disgorge Maurice Ó Connell's web site, though it chose not to engage with this writer. The experiences and manifestations of the fourteen days were documented by Michael Boran and Brian Hand with both stills and video, but to me the memory of Ó Connell removing a brick from the outer wall and sticking his head through to appear on the street like a mask from the catacombs, conveys the humour and much-needed creative anarchy of the Project's demolition.
© Ciarán Bennett
At 1.50 in this clip Jim Sheridan talks about The Dark Space, a 1977 use of Project Arts Centre during an earlier period of renovation; a historical precedent to Maurice's 1998 No Opening Just Closing Demolishing Project.