Eight Hours Project
Two afternoons at the Project Arts Centre
22nd & 26th February 2010
‘Tri-umph’ – Adam May (Designer and director of ‘Language’, a design company based in Dublin)
Adam appeared with all the ‘umph’ his title suggested. To afternoons populated by laptops he added a wetsuit, a bicycle, some compressed air, and a sense of timing honed by several years surviving the rigours of the triathlon. When I first spoke to Adam about ‘Eight Hours Project’ he confessed himself to be an ‘enthusiast’ in many areas so the first job was to decide which one to focus on. Even his sport of choice doesn’t want to settle on any one thing.
Valentia Island, off the southwest coast of Kerry, is ‘seeped in history, smothered in beauty, with plenty of things to do’, according to DiscoverIreland.com. Since 2006 one of those things is competing in the annual Valentia Triathlon, an event started by Adam’s friend Tim Poullain-Patterson. The demands of the race would put the frighteners on most ordinary mortals but in his photographs Adam appeared to be actually enjoying himself. He described how it was all about the transitions, how one element joined with the next, and demonstrated his technique for removing a wetsuit and mounting a bicycle without loosing too much time or dignity. Adam’s story was mapped helpfully by diagrams and charts depicting the ups and downs of the course and its toll on the human body, and it had a pleasing arc, after several years of competing we saw a final pair of photographs showing Adam and Tim completing the 2009 Triathlon together, stride for stride over the finish line.
‘Physical Graffiti’ – Greg Dunn (Retired hairdresser, student, and aspiring filmmaker)
Topics and activities for the project were governed by an important rule – no visual arts and no theatre. Greg’s presentation probably came closest to ignoring this with his mostly photographic based projects making their own claim for artistic merit. He began his talk however by stating, “I am not an artist”, so that got us off the hook.
Greg spoke about ‘Play-stations’ and ‘Physical Graffiti’, and finished with his collection of early 90’s London phone box ephemera. ‘Play-stations’ is a series of more than 100 photographs of telegraph poles. These poles are distinguished by the presence of tattered ropes, the remnants of makeshift swings used by kids in the days before playgrounds and ‘Playstations’. Greg seems motivated by a wish to document things that are passing and has a large archive of images depicting curious details of the urban world. ‘Physical Graffiti’ is a photographic catalogue depicting the palimpsest of marks and images that accumulate on walls and other surfaces around the city. He drew our attention to areas normally hidden from view – lanes, backstreets, and dead-ends – and the curious desire of people to leave their mark on these unseen places. His photographs are often beautiful, making striking compositions from timeworn, embattled grounds – places where ‘Anto’ always rules.
‘Oasis’ – Kaethe Burt-O’Dea (Independent consultant in health care design research)
Kaethe lives in Stoneybatter. In 2005 she founded a garden on a previously derelict plot at the end of the street where she lives. This modest ‘oasis’ in a densely housed part of the city has become a catalyst for the neighborhood to hang out together and a touchstone for wider research into better utilizing abandoned areas of the city. A prize for waste management from Vodafone provided the Sitric Compost Community Garden with funds for the fist ‘Sitric Salad’, a street party and celebration of the gardens produce, and now followed annually by ‘Sitric Soup’, it’s autumnal equivalent.
Kaethe showed examples of gardens in other cities that had been developed from unused or neglected areas. The ‘High Line’ is a recently opened public park on a disused elevated railway line in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. There is a similar park in Paris, the 4.5 km long ‘Promenade Plantée’. These served as examples for what might be achieved closer to home, a section of the Great Western Railway line between Phibsboro and Broadstone in Dublin providing just one exciting opportunity.
‘Taste’ – Seamus Grogan (Fine Art technician)
The original title was ‘Discernment’ but that might have sounded pretentious for what was mostly just an excuse to quaff wine. Seamus came armed with a crate of the stuff and a corkscrew that had seen plenty of service. He began by describing how our taste buds work, aided by on the spot sketching and a box of mysterious potions. Extensive research in the field (a field roughly the size of the south of France) has contributed to Seamus’s ability to stay calm in front of an expensive wine list, and with similar calm deliberation he introduced the group to the pleasures of wine drinking (perhaps none was needed) and how to appreciate the difference between a ‘leathery’ merlot and a ‘silky’ pinot noir.
Whites got a look-in too, with ‘grassy notes’, and more worryingly, ‘cat’s urine’ featuring prominently in descriptions. Once the educational aspects were out of the way the serious drinking could start (birth certs checked first of course) and everyone seemed to enjoy the task. When time was up the group took the remaining bottles away with them to continue their research at home.
Wines courtesy of ‘Hargadons’, Sligo and Dublin.
Friday 26th February 2010
‘American Primitive’ – John Graham (Artist)
Originally I had a food enthusiast lined up to demonstrate the joys of the French omelette. When this fell through I improvised to include a place for myself and my two favourite guitar players, John Fahey and Jack Rose. They represent two generations of brilliant American guitarists who play in a style coined by Fahey as ‘American Primitive’; a self-taught style marked by virtuosity but more importantly a deep connection to the blues. Fahey (1939 – 2001) was a gifted and complicated genius who stands at the fulcrum of 20th century American guitar playing, drawing inspiration from early greats like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson and inspiring in turn younger players like Rose. We listened to tracks from Fahey’s, ‘The Legend of Blind Joe Death’, (1967) and ‘After The Ball’ (1973) and watched footage of him playing ‘Red Pony’ from a 1969 American TV show.
Jack Rose died at the young age of 38 in December 2009, making his unforgettable performance at the Douglas Hyde Gallery a year earlier seem all the more precious. We listened to tracks from ‘Kensington Blues’ (2005), finishing with the propulsive and shimmering, ‘Calais to Dover’.
‘Chicks’ – Peter Sheehan (Pensions Manager)
Peter lives on several acres of Wicklow hillside and when not advising people how to save their money spends his time chasing birds. How would Temple Bar based urbanites take to his tales of ‘broody hens’ and ‘dominant cocks’? Photos helped the group to see the difference between a pheasant and a partridge and how to tell a male from a female bird – a good idea when breeding is at stake. Peter took us through a history of efforts to increase the headcount of pheasants in his area and some of the obstacles that stood in the way – flooding, adventurous chicks escaping the wire coop, hungry foxes on the prowl. Despite all this numbers are increasing, so he is expanding the operation to include the nurturing of grey-legged partridges, a rare bird much outnumbered by the red-legged kind.
Peter is a believer in diversity and he traveled from Devon last year with 30 eggs stowed away in his luggage, eggs that when hatched back in Wicklow would widen the gene pool, and cosmopolitan outlook, of the local stock.
‘Blow’ – Robin Hegarty (Art Director and director of ‘Language’, a design company based in Dublin)
Looking suitably windswept from his cycle across Capel Street Bridge Robin arrived to talk about his enthusiasm for all things nautical. He began by showing a colleague’s sketch of him daydreaming about boats, an image that might have stood for ‘Eight Hours Project’ overall, with its evocation of being there and somewhere else at the same time.
Robin sails all year round, racing in a tiny ‘Laser’ during the winter months and on larger boats in the summer. He spoke about growing up in Howth and the constant presence of the sea. Robin’s grandfather had been a professional sailor and passed on his passion to Robin’s father, fondly known as ‘The Heg’, who worked for Guinness’s brewery but lived for sailing. ‘The Hegs’ own children, including Robin, became readymade crew on his voyages around the Irish coast and beyond. Robin’s young daughter Juno had photographed portraits of boats adorning the walls of her grandfather’s house and these provided a key for several more stories – sailing down the Croation coast was the setting for one, and by a striking coincidence the audience present was 50% Croatian. Everything came back to that daydream and how it blew through generations of Hegartys. ‘A Voyage Around My Father’ might have been the title, or better still, ‘The Old-Man And The Sea’.
‘Hands’ – John Judge (Gentleman – Retired)
Someone had to bring proceedings to a finish and I knew John would be a safe pair of hands (!) Though care was needed – playing cards with a Friday night poker school graduate ran the risk of the ‘arty types’ being fleeced – so it seemed like a good idea to have Werther’s Originals stand in for cash and to swap poker for the mysteries of Pontoon. (Also known as ‘Twenty-One’ or in Casino speak, ‘Blackjack’) There’s no point in trying to explain the rules of Pontoon because like most card games you have to play it to understand it, and we eventually learned how to play it badly. John was such a cordial guide that loosing didn’t seem so bad. Printed on the occasion of Galway winning the All Ireland Senior football Championship in 1956, the cards themselves had been used for more than fifty years; so handling them was a privilege in itself.
It was after 6pm when all the ‘Twisting’, ‘Sticking’ and going ‘Bust’ finally came to an end and happily no-one had lost their shirt or their bus fare home.