Kind Words Spoken

Valerie Connor would like to thank Lívia Páldi for the invitation to contribute to the first chapter of Active Archive – Slow Institution and be part of the early development of this longer programme and thank the OFF Site artists Tony Patrickson, Dorothy Cross, Pete Smithson, Sandra Johnston, Anne Tallentire, John Seth, the estate of Patrick Jolley (now deceased), Tina O’Connell, Fergus Kelly, Ronan McCrea and Daniel Jewesbury, as well as John Frankland, Susan MacWilliam, David Monahan, and Kate O’Brien. 

Lívia Páldi would like to thank to all the Project staff,  Sven Anderson, John Behan, Rayne Booth, Daniel Bourke, Cecily Brennan, Valerie Connor, Vincent Doherty, Jennifer Fitzgibbon/NIVAL, Brian Hand, Marianne Heemskerk, Kate Heffernan, Dorothy Hunter, Jaki Irvine, Sandra Johnston, Fergus Kelly, Dr Enda Leaney/Dublin and Irish Collections, Eric Luke, Dublin City Library & Archive, Fiach Mac Conghail, Susan MacWilliam, Ruth McHugh, NLI Manuscript Collection, Peter Maybury, Nick Miller, Miriam O’Connor, Ruairí Ó Cuív, Colm O'Riordan/Irish Architectural Archive, Sarah Pierce, Donna Romano/NCAD, Paul Roy, Nat Schastneva, Anne Tallentire, Hannah Tiernan, Willie White and Tanad Williams among many others who have been helping the initial phase of the research. 


Active Archive – Slow Institution: The Long Goodbye

Dates: 31 Jan - 30 Mar

Show Time: 11am-7pm

Tickets: €0 (Free Admission)

Opening: 31 January, 6pm

Active Archive – Slow Institution is an extensive research initiative that delves into Project’s 50+year history, looking at the imagined futures and proposals for transformation recorded in Project Arts Centre’s archives.

In late 2018 the Project gallery was transformed into a workspace where documents relating to Project Arts Centre’s archives were studied and shared, and the many histories that are entangled in one of the earliest arts centres established in Ireland began to emerge through documents that are part public record and part privately collected materials.

Organised into three chapters, the first is titled The Long Goodbye featuring new commissions by artists that revisit documentation from their own archives, such as film and video material of the former Project Arts Centre building at East Essex Street by Brian Hand and field recordings made in Dublin by Fergus Kelly.

Miriam O’Connor has photographed the former addresses where Project Arts Centre operated before moving to East Essex Street and the sites where programming continued while the current building was being constructed. Special display structures have been designed and made by Tanad Williams. The timeline includes selections from the thematic archival researches of Dorothy Hunter and Hannah Tiernan.

The Long Goodbye focuses on the late 1990s as this marks a turning point in Project’s operational model and the finalization of the decade-long negotiations to provide Project Arts Centre with its current building. Significant events during that period include Demolishing Project – 39 East Essex Street is Closed, the two-week festival-like farewell to Project’s old building between 3 and 14 February 1998, orchestrated by the late Maurice O’Connell, then artist in residence, and the programming that continued until 1999 during the construction of the Project Arts Centre’s new building. This comprised the project@the mint theatre and live art programme and the OFF Site visual arts programme produced at various city locations.

Valerie Connor, curator of the OFF Site visual arts programme in 1998 and 1999, has selected and prepared photographs that she took during research and production visits for the 10 projects comprising that programme and for the first time, she will present these together with new writing about the experiment that was at the heart of the visual arts programming that ran while Project Arts Centre was in-between buildings.

Through the interrogation of documents and archival artefacts from the perspective of pressing contemporary issues, we can re-evaluate the status of exhibitions and the role of public institutions in relation to the changing conditions of artistic labour and production. This is the first chapter in a longer conversation to critically reflect on the development of Temple Bar, gender and class representation, the history of Irish feminism, and LGBTQ rights. We invite all groups and individuals to read and look at our archive materials together.

LISTEN: Vacant Possession (2019) 14′ 10”

This piece by Fergus Kelly, commissioned specially for ‘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 Fergus’ CD album for Project Arts Centre’s Invisible City (1999), as part of the ‘Off Site’ series of exhibitions during building renovations.

The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Maurice O’Connell (1966 – 2018).


Curators’ Texts:
Active Archive – Slow Institution: The Long Goodbye Some points of departure by Lívia Paldí
Slow Burn by Valerie Connor 


Constant Resurrection: Dorothy Hunter offers insights into Active Archive: Slow Institution, Visual Artists Ireland, May 2019
How sweet it is to murmur together: Valerie Connor outlines the off site programme (1998-99) she  curated for Project Arts Centre, Visual Artists Ireland, May 2019

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Project Arts Centre wishes to thank The Arts Council and Dublin City Council whose support has made this exhibition possible. Tanad Williams was supported by Bracken Foam.

Image Credits: 
Installation Photography by Ros Kavanagh
Still from Hi8 video by Brian Hand, 1998 February, courtesy the artist and Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Initiator and curator of the Active Archive – Slow Institution project: Lívia Páldi

Valerie Connor, independent curator and contributor to ’The Long Goodbye,’ curated the OFF Site visual arts programme in 1998-1999. Valerie is now an independent curator and educator. She writes and speaks about art and culture, and works with different kinds of commissioners to devise and deliver projects and programmes. She lectures on the BA Photography programme at Dublin Technological University’s City Campus in Grangegorman, Dublin. Valerie was the Visual Arts Director at Project Arts Centre 1998 – 2001.

OFF Site visual arts programme, 1998-1999
The OFF Site visual arts programme ran for two years, in 1998 and 1998, while the current Project Arts Centre building was under construction. The artists who presented new work commissioned for the OFF Site programme were Tony Patrickson, Dorothy Cross, Pete Smithson, Sandra Johnston and work-seth/tallentire (all in 1998) and Paddy Jolley (now deceased), Tina O’Connell, Fergus Kelly, Ronan McCrea and Daniel Jewesbury (all in 1999). The OFF Site programme took place at locations around Dublin with the exception of Dorothy Cross, whose project took place in Salthill, Galway and Tony Patrickson, who made an interactive CD-Rom, Fergus Kelly, who made a CD, however these were launched in Dublin at city centre venues.

Brian Hand’s art practice is broadly concerned with creatively exploring and researching events, spaces, agents, and ideas from the past. Hand has made many temporary public works and time-based installations, and often in site-responsive ways. He believes that we can find alternative images in the past that disrupt the naturalness of the present. Hand has worked on several collaborative projects with Orla Ryan.

For ‘The Long Goodbye’ Hand is presenting a new 5 channel video work edited from material which was recorded during the last days of Project in February 1998. Re-engaging with this material, he continues a conversation with his edited single channel video ‘under the one roof’ and with the original silent black & white 16 mm film from the same period. These short films largely explore the interior of the building, its lights and darks, a poetics of demolition, the sounds of its last gig and the materiality of Hi-8 video. Most shots are recorded on a tripod. Video 1 mostly depicts the abandoned theatre guided by the resonating sounds of an LP of Hammond organ. Video 2 presents the technicians’ spaces. Grunge guitar and drums flow through Video 3 with shots of performers and audience. Video 4 is shot mostly in the green room and backstage exits, capturing small details on doors and walls. Video 5 records the culmination of Maurice O’Connell’s Demolishing Project – 39 East Essex Street is Closed, in which the roof is burnt and broken down.

Dorothy Hunter is an artist and writer based in Belfast who works with the parallax of histories, information access and alternative and incidental archives. She is a recent graduate of NCAD’s MA Art in the Contemporary World and a current student at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI).

Hunter researches the disparate threads of the ‘eventualisation’ of the Project fires (1980 and 1982), exploring the tension between symbol-making and destruction, how it represents contemporary acts of protection and value, the art that was destroyed and made, and notions of proxy existence via the ephemera of the archive (either existing or that which was lost in the flames). In doing so, she uses a non-linear ‘something-nothing’ notebook (made collectively with other artists in the DAI), which is both a rough thought-gathering exercise and an object through which to present the archive. This is accompanied by a cumulative text, to which this notebook acts as a map or appendix. Another notebook is present in the space for use by visitors.

Fergus Kelly is an artist from Dublin working with field recording, soundscape composition, invented instruments and improvisation. He has shown nationally and internationally and received many Arts Council awards. In 2005, Kelly established a CDR label and website, ‘Room Temperature’, as an outlet for his solo and collaborative work, producing the CDs Unmoor (2005), Material Evidence (2006), Bevel (2006) (with David Lacey), A Host Of Particulars (2007), Strange Weather (2007), Leaching The Pith (2008), Swarf (2009), Fugitive Pitch (2009), Long Range (2010), Unnatural Actuality (2014), Quiet Forage (2015) (with David Lacey) and Trembling Embers (2018). Albums on other labels include A Congregation Of Vapours (Farpoint 2012), Neural Atlas (Stolen Mirror 2016), Shot To Shreds (Farpoint 2016), Local Knowledge (Unfathomless 2017), The Map Is Not The Territory (with Max Eastley & Mark Wastell) (Confront 2019).

Vacant Possession, 2019, 14′ 10”

This piece has been woven from field recordings, radio recordings, answering machine messages and concert recordings made in the 1990s, and it 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 is a sonic séance, a poltergeist’s pantomime, an entropy tango. I’m reminded of how Iain Sinclair pithily described the editing process for his film with Chris Petit, London Orbital (2002): ‘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. 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, such as the particular texture of Dublin bus engines, and the call of the Moore Street traders. The latter is pure music to me, without a need to loop or add to it, it is music ‘in the field’ in the best sense, part of a continuum of village vendors calling out across time the world over. Sadly, their calls are almost gone now, 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 is 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 signature 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 do so hilariously.

The 1990s 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 until the developers swept in for the kill. Signage on some empty properties would flag it as ‘vacant possession’, meaning there were no sitting tenants, the building was well and truly empty, and free of any potential impediments to development.

RTE radio 1 pips
Evening, Charles Street flats
Dublin Bus
Late night, Mountjoy Square
Propeller plane over Trinity College
Christchurch bells
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
IMMA lift
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@The Mint, Dublin, 1999
World Cup celebrations 1990
Fergus Kelly, January 2019

Miriam O’Connor is a Cork-based photographer and educator. Drawing inspiration from the language and sights and sounds of the everyday, her photographic practice engages with matters which reflect her everyday surroundings and contemplates the manner in which this persuasive medium permeates the way we engage with the world around us. Rather than providing answers, O’Connor positions photography as a tool for posing questions, a medium in itself that commands interrogation. She enjoys the special ambiguity of still images and photography’s capacity to conceal as much as it reveals. Her projects have explored: themes around looking and seeing; the relationship between camera and subject; the circulation and consumption of images; and the complex nature of photographic representation. Her work has been featured in publications including; Camera Austria, Source Photographic Review, The New York Times and The Guardian. Recent exhibits include: ‘Family of No Man’, COSMOS, Arles (2018); ‘Interiors and Other Landscapes’, Sternview Gallery, Cork (2018); ‘RHA Annual Open’, Dublin, (2018); ‘Encountering The Land’, VISUAL, Carlow (2018). Publications include: Attention Seekers (2012); The Legacy Project (2013); and Tomorrow is Sunday (2017). O Connor’s work has recently been selected for FUTURES, a photography platform that pools the resources and talent programmes of leading photography institutions across Europe in order to increase visibility of its selected artists. In addition to her art practice, O’Connor also lectures at Griffith College Dublin.

For ‘The Long Goodbye’, O’Connor has photographed the former addresses where Project Arts Centre operated before moving to East Essex Street as well as engaging with the sites and spaces where programming continued while the current building was being constructed.

Hannah Tiernan is a visual artist/researcher with a background in photography and sculpture. Her 2016 photographic project, EQUAL, won the Inspirational Arts Award. She is currently studying for an MFA in Art in the Contemporary World through NCAD. Her work primarily focuses on queer issues. Her current thesis research looks at the LGBTQ+ theatre of Project Arts Centre from 1976 to 2000, investigating how it has influenced contemporary theatre practice and how it has reflected social issues of the time.

Tanad Williams a visual artist living and working in Dublin, and graduated in 2012 from the Sculpture Department in NCAD. He works with a variety of mediums on research-based, large-scale and often permanent or semi-permanent works. Williams’ work focuses on human interaction within a landscape, built environment or within a system of language. Taking the form of an intervention or large object, the works are built to a human ratio or domestically familiar architectural size. An intensive amount of study and preparation is required for the production of each piece. Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Derrida and Ray Brassier inform and are pivotal to the practice of producing philosophically engaged architectural interventions, objects or dialogues. The work often takes the form of an epistemologically challenging sentence, fabricated object or situation. Growing up bilingual, Williams has an interest in languages and their structural form and utility ascribed and rewritten over time. Deeply rooted in academic research and linguistic investigation, his practice works toward a final object that is constructed to represent both its material reality and its theoretical conception. The work often presents abstract elements and theories as entry points for the audiences who interact with the objects. Whether a complex architecturally remodeled space, or a simplistic work of art, these deliberate alterations allow the audience to see new functions and potential dynamics emerge from the presented space or artwork.

Understudy/Untitled (AASI) 2019 is a new work commissioned by Project Arts Centre to coincide with ‘The Long Goodbye’. It was made with plywood, resin, LED panels, packaging foam, paint and steel. The work is built as a crate on conduit legs, with a potential handhold below. Research for this work was based on objects that emit their own light in relation to texts, or placeholders that need to be illuminated by an external source. The work attempts to hide its own materials and the way it works, while supporting the objects that it displays. The aim of the work is to present the significance of a document side by side with its constituent.

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