November 2, 2012 § 4 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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.