Vacant Possession (2019) 14' 10”
This piece, which was made for Project Arts Centre's show 'Active Archive - Slow Institution - The Long Goodbye', has been woven from field recordings, radio recordings, answering machine messages and concert recordings made in the 1990s, and also includes some TV and music from the time. The field recordings were originally made for my CD album for Project Arts Centre, Invisible City (1999), as part of their 'Off Site' series of exhibitions during building renovations.
Going back to these recordings twenty years later is a curious experience, a time machine to different times, where, in a digital surgery of grafting and transfusion, presences are reanimated, spirits invoked, vacated spaces haunted. It's a sonic seance, a poltergeist's pantomime, an entropy tango. I'm reminded of how Iain Sinclair pithily described the editing process for London Orbital (2002), his film with Chris Petit: “The choice was stark: become a digital mudlark, rummaging through exhausted footage for retrievable images. Fool's gold, dropped down the toilet bowl of the culture.”
This piece functions like a radio play or cinema for the ears, where hybrid scenes are stitched from various parts of my record of the decade, and different characters appear and disappear. Though the recordings were not part of any attempt to exhaustively document the decade, merely part of an ongoing continuum of recordings of things that interested me. Edits from solo and collaborative performances of mine colour the second half of the piece. Wading through the tapes, there were some things I'd completely forgotten (and glad) I'd recorded.
Certain signature sounds are salient parts of the landscape for me, and work like 'soundmarks' or sonic landmarks. The particular texture of Dublin bus engines, and the call of the Moore Street traders that is pure music to me, no need to loop it or add to it, it's music 'in the field' in the best sense, part of a continuum of village vendors calling out across time the world over. Their calls are almost gone now, sadly, in a changed landscape and regulatory framework where traders, since the beginning of this year are not allowed to pass licenses down through families, as they had done for decades. I fear it's the beginning of a process that will see them eventually leached out in favour of larger developments.
Radio was more a part of my media landscape then, and hearing certain sig tunes really takes me back – Morning Ireland, Gay Byrne (the point where I switched off), Myles Dungan on Today at Five, Scrap Saturday (satire the likes of which we have not heard since). Callan's Kicks, try though it might, just doesn't cut it like Dermot Morgan et al used to so hilariously.
The 90s was a time of enormous flux and upheaval in the built environment, and thankfully I had the presence of mind to photograph various sites around the city as they underwent significant changes. Looking back over these, I'm reminded how much dereliction, open space and abandoned property there was (going back 20 years or more). It was a gap-toothed city, with areas steadily accumulating value till the developers swept in for the kill. Signage on some empty properties would flag it as 'vacant possession', meaning there were no sitting tennants, the building was well and truly empty, and free of any potential impediments to development.
RTE radio 1 pips
Evening, Charles Street flats
Late night, Mountjoy Square
Propeller plane over Trinity College
Gay Byrne, housewife of the year contest
Archaos (FR) performance, Tallaght, 1991
Bow Gamelan (UK) performance, Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin 1990
Mike Murphy & Stephanie MacBride reviewing Sculptors' Society of Ireland 'Random Access' artists' soundworks CD, produced by Crocodile Records, 1994.
Concrete pouring, Morrison Hotel (former Ormond Printworks) 1997
DJ Shadow – edits of 'Midnight, In A Perfect World' and 'Changeling' (1996)
Scrap Saturday RTE Radio 1 satire programme with
Dermot Morgan, Owen Roe & Pauline McLynn
Birmingham 6 River Parade of Innocence, December 1989
Myles Dungan, 'Today at 5' RTE Radio 1 news programme, 1995
Marian Finucane, phone-in about censorship
Tricky – opening vocal from 'Pumpkin' (1995)
Scaffolders, Grafton Street, 1997
Moore Street traders, Talbot Street butchers, Mary Street home wares shop, 1995
Roller shutters, Moore Street, 1997
Car alarm set-up, 1997
Max Eastley aeolian sculpture, 'Pine Ghost', part of Sculptors' Society of Ireland
exhibition, 'Ireland & Europe', Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, 1997
Fergus Kelly prepared bass solo perfomance, for 'Body Without Organs' event,
Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin 1999.
Scrap Saturday, 'Maurice Pratt' (Quinnsworth) Gulf War skit
DART leaving Tara Street station 1997
Master Musicians of Joujouka performing for Dave Fanning radio show, RTE, 1992
Frank Rynne interviewed by Dave Fanning about 'Here To Go' show at Project, 1992
'Alan Partridge'/Steve Coogan
Fiach Mac Conghail
Frank McDonald talking about the Civic Offices
Duo with Max Eastley, Arthouse, Dublin 1997.
Joan Fowler mentioning 'In A State' show - Project Arts Centre's contribution to
Dublin '91 (when we were Capital of Culture)
Scrap Saturday 'Mike Murphy' exhibition review skit
Repetitive Strain Industries (Fergus Kelly, David Lacey, Jurgen Simpson) performance
for Fergus Kelly's 'Invisible City' CD launch, as part of Project's 'Off Site' programme,
Project at The Mint, Dublin, 1999
Project at The Mint, Dublin, 1999
World Cup celebrations 1990