SOUTHERN CROSS (1999-2001)

November 2, 2012 § 5 Comments

As part of the project, SOUTHERN CROSS, the series, prospect critically surveyed the space of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC). While historically, the Irish Republic was witness to other instruments of capital, this site was the first financial district in its history.

‘Stephen from Dublin’ (IFSC, Phase 1, Dublin 2001) from series, ‘prospect’

Established in 1987, the first phase of the IFSC opened on the north quays in Dublin’s inner city in 1989 with the second phase completed in 2000 – the European location for over half the world’s largest banks and insurance companies, and generating at its height, approximately 60% of the Republic’s wealth (IDA annual report 1999). This symbol of global aspiration and capital, the IFSC embodied ‘the Irish States monument to its position in a global economy’ (Carville 2002: 24) and was ‘driven by tax incentives, millions were spent to develop an international centre that would compare with The City in London or La Defense in Paris’ (MacDonald 2001: 14). The initial focus in its establishment was ‘jobs to market…[mostly] ‘back-office’ functions such as administration and processing; however, the goal [was] to establish higher value ‘front-office’ jobs…to ensure these companies stay here’ (Brennan 2004: 33).

‘Anita from Dublin’ (IFSC, Phase 2, Dublin 2001) from the series, ‘prospect’

Prior to the onslaught of the ongoing global economic crisis, the precariousness of the Republic’s position in attracting and retaining global capital investment would be reflected early in the cover headline in 2004 of an Irish business publication, ‘The IFSC – Finance Temple or Future Ghost Town?’ (ibid.: 1). The position has only been deepened further with the present circumstance. In 2006, the lack of regulation in the financial sector in the Republic was critically highlighted with terms like ‘tax haven’, ‘offshore’ and ‘shadowy entity’ being applied, alongside the plight of the majority of the workers in this sector, whom in addition to facing mass lay-offs, it was revealed how, ‘contrary to popular perception…[many] domestic financial services and IFSC employees were never in the big leagues when it came to making money’ (Reddan 2010: 15).

‘Financial Centre 4’ (IFSC, Phase 1, Dublin 2000) from the series, ‘prospect’

prospect surveyed the economic aspirations symbolised by the IFSC – a flagship of global capital and the architectural embodiment of the ‘new Ireland’ – and included images of the landscape and portraits of the young office workers, the new ‘physical labour’, inheriting the space from those who constructed it.

‘West of the City’ (M50, County Dublin, 2001) from the series ‘site’

The accompanying series from SOUTHERN CROSS was titled, site and explored the transitory spaces between ‘what was’ and ‘what will be’ – the construction sites – being the birthing grounds of the ‘new Ireland’. The images, allegorical references to the effect of the changing geography on society incorporated landscape images made in the Dublin and county region, intersecting with portraits of the workers, those charged with the responsibility of transforming the landscape in the hope of fulfilling the desires of the society around them.

‘Sean from County Kildare’ (Temple Bar, Dublin, 2000) from the series, ‘site’

In its entirety, SOUTHERN CROSS (Gallery of Photography/Cornerhouse Publications 2002) was a critical response to the rapid development witnessed in the Republic of Ireland at the turn of the new millenium. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) brought about the largest economic transformation in the history of a country which never experienced the full impact of the Industrial Revolution. Completed between 1999-2001, the project critically mapped, through the spaces of development and finance, the economic aspirations and profound changes of a country on the western periphery of Europe. It presented the newly globalised labour and landscape, described then as the so-called Celtic Tiger Economy, being transformed in response to the predatory migration of global capital. In his essay, ‘Motionless Monotony: New Nowheres in Irish Photography’, addressing projects which charted the impact of the Celtic Tiger, including SOUTHERN CROSS, the writer and educator, Colin Graham observes in relation to the project:

‘evidence of the rasping, clawing deformation of the landscape, the visceral human individual in the midst of burgeoning idea of progress-as- building, propped up by finance-as-economics…it stands as an extraordinary warning of the future that was then yet to come (2012: 15).

‘Financial Centre 5’ (IFSC, Phase 2, Dublin 2001) from the series, ‘prospect’

Commissioned by the Gallery of Photography, Dublin in 2000 as recipient of the inaugural Artist’s Award, the exhibition of the same name took place in 2002. It was accompanied by a publication with the support of the construction sector of the trade union, SIPTU, and included the essay titled, ‘Arrested Development’ by writer and educator, Justin Carville and poem, ‘Implications of a sketch’ by poet and writer, Philip Casey. Further presentations included Cologne, Germany (2003), Lyon, France (2004), Paris, France (2005) and Damascus, Syria (2005).

References cited:
Brennan, C. (2004) ‘Financial Centre of Gravity’, Business & Finance (vol.40, no.14) 15 July-11 August, 32-36.
Carville, J. (2002) ‘Arrested Development’ in Curran, M., Southern Cross, Dublin: Gallery of Photography.
Graham, C. (2012) ‘Motionless Monotony: New Nowheres in Irish Photography’, In/Print, Volume 1, 1-21
IDA Ireland (2000) Annual Report 1999, IDA, Dublin.
MacDonald, F. (2001) 7 February, ‘Capital Architecture’, The Irish Times, pp. 14.
Reddan, F. (2010) 4 April, ‘Behind The Façade’, The Irish Times, pp.15.

‘Predatory Mobility’

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

‘Global capital in its contemporary form is characterised by strategies of predatory mobility (across both time and space) that have vastly compromised the capacities of actors in single locations even to understand, much less anticipate or resist, these strategies. Though states…vary in how and whether they are mere instruments of global capital, they have certainly been eroded as sites of political, economic and cultural sovereignty’

(Arjun Appadurai (2001), ‘Grassroots Globalisation and the Research Imagination’ in  Globalisation, Duke University, p. 18)

THE MARKET a project by Mark Curran

January 9, 2012 § 10 Comments

In the continuing evolutionary aftermath of the global economic collapse of 2008/2009 and absence of sustained practice-led research engagement with the central locus of this catastrophic event, the ethnographically informed, multi-sited, transnational project, THE MARKET (2010-), builds upon the cycle of long-term research projects, beginning in the late 1990s, by practice-led researcher and educator, Mark Curran, and focuses on the functioning and condition of the global markets and the central role of financial capital.

THE MARKET (installation image) Belfast Exposed 2013

THE MARKET (installation image) Belfast Exposed 2013

The cycle of multi-media research projects, addressing the predatory context resulting from migrations and flows of global capital began with SOUTHERN CROSS (1999-2001)(Gallery of Photography/Cornerhouse 2002) which surveyed the spaces of development and finance of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ Irish Republic. This was followed by  The Breathing Factory (2003-2006)(Edition Braus/Belfast Exposed/Gallery of Photography 2006) and subject of his practice-led PhD, sited in a multinational complex in Leixlip in the East of Ireland, the project addressed the role and representation of labour, global labour practices and fragile nature of globalised industrial space. Ausschnitte aus EDEN/Extracts from EDEN (2003-2009)(Arts Council of Ireland, 2011) focused upon a declining industrial and coalmining region in the former East Germany, an area which prophetically evidenced the massive impact regarding the unevenness of development inherent through the functioning of neoliberal globalisation. All projects are intended to demonstrate a continuing and sustained engagement addressing the predatory impact of global capital.

Critically, the ongoing project, THE MARKET, which began in 2010, seeks to access those sites, which all of the other project work to date has also been decisively defined, spaces where literally and metaphorically, futures are speculated upon – the global markets – and to explore, survey and excavate focusing upon their operating functioning and how this is reflected in for example, language, architectural understandings and centrally, the individuals who inhabit, dwell and labour within these global financial spheres. Conceptually pivotal and mindful of technological evolution with specific reference to the role and functioning of algorithms, has been a desire to both make visible an understanding of such sites and to explore the interconnectedness of such markets. Therefore, multi-sited access has been sought to survey various global locations, including sites in Dublin, London, Frankfurt, Addis Ababa and Mumbai. Extended stays and re-visits have been undertaken in each location to facilitate further research regarding the site, address access, establish contacts and develop relationships with individuals as key collaborators and informants of the project.

As demonstrated in Curran’s previous projects, the cross-disciplinary interventions have included an ethnographic understanding in the collaborative and multi-vocal application of media in the form of photography, audio-digital video, soundscape and the collation of verbal testimony. The intention for THE MARKET has been to afford process-led undertakings over the course of its construction, extending to site-specific interventions, web presence and forums around the project installations incorporating interested parties thereby facilitating the opening up of discursive spaces around the central thematic.

The anthropologist, Karen Ho’s central argument is that Wall Street investment bankers reshape corporate America in their own image, and through the construction of the market, result in the manufacture of crises while simultaneously, ‘assuring its rescue’ (2009: 323). In this, as she defines, ‘economy of appearances’, Ho outlines operating structures, the significance regarding ‘pedigree’, citizen complicity and the critical role of fear in this ‘culture of liquidity’ (ibid.)’ Ho, K. (2009) Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street New York: New York University.

In the financial markets, there is a natural predatory instinct that is hard to control (former trader and author, Micheal Lewis, BBC World Service, 9 May 2010)

The video shows a taped up plastic curtain inside the factory, one that seems to be installed for blocking the artist from viewing production equipment and process. Although we cannot see, there seems to be a working (breathing) machine inside the curtain as it, almost unnoticeably, inflates and deflates repetitiously. In fact, the video seems to summate what the audience experiences in the exhibition. The camera made its way inside the factory, but it cannot tell us what the employees actually do or what they produce. We are only allowed to hear the breathe of the factory. This is analogous to today’s globalised economy and financial markets. For many of us, it is almost unfathomable to understand how they operate. We are left outside of a curtain, inside of which a giant machine breathes intermittently. (from Spectators of the Same Story: Economy, Technology, Photography, Jung Joon Lee, Review of The Breathing Factory: A Project by Mark Curran, DePaul Art Museum (DPAM), Chicago January-March 2010, CAMERAta, Seoul, Korea, May 2010)

Keywords Global Capital, Ethnography, Photography, Speculation, Transnational, Vulnerable, Fieldwork, Precarity, Testimony, Cross-disciplinary, Labour, Witness, Reflexive, Installation, Montage, Multivocality, Access, Technology, Algorithms, Visual Art, Futures

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