18 July 2011

You snooze, you lose

One of the disadvantages of recovering from a major illness is that you are recovering.

That means that while you may think that because all the wires and tubes are removed you are operating at or near peak efficiency, the reality of the situation makes itself very evident every now and then and forces you back to bed for an afternoon nap, or an evening nap, or possibly even a pre-bedtime nap. If you are really lucky then all three can hit you at once and you end up writing off most of the weekend.

This weekend I was very lucky.

Weakness and exhaustion forced me to miss out on all manner of excitements this weekend, from the inflating of a seven metre-high Aidan Walsh accompanied by Penny-Farthing bikes on a tightrope above Temple Bar Square on Friday to the anti-IMF march on Saturday, with festival fundraising gigs and friends' housewarmings in between for good measure, all of which I slept through. I did make it to a friend's gig in the Concert Hall on Friday night (all 60 minutes of it, followed by an immediate return to sleep), and enjoyed a visit to the Unkie Dave household on Saturday evening by Phnom Penh's latest bluegrass sensation Mr Alex (though I slept through at least half of it), but this weekend is more notable for the cornucopia of events missed than anything that actually transpired.

In a valiant attempt to rectify this cavalcade of sloth The Very Understanding Girlfriend and I ventured forth into town yesterday afternoon in search of adventure, excitement and possibly also exciting adventure, or at least the reasonable facsimile thereof that can comfortably be found of a Sunday afternoon. In addition to The Very Understanding Girlfriend pointing out the rather excellent 'They Are Us' piece by Maser (above) which somehow I had failed to notice before, followed by a casual stroll down to Cow's Lane just in time to miss the end of an outdoor screening of Alice In Wonderland, and an enjoyable hour spent in the Chester Beatty Library at their Matisse exhibition, something else that we stumbled across made me pause for thought.


Located on Cope Street, just behind the Central Bank, this project brings together academic, student and graduate architects in an attempt to catalog exactly how much of the city has fallen into NAMA's hands and, by extension, should be in the public domain, and to ignite a conversation about what to do with these properties by offering a series of alternative uses, both provocative and constructive.

Based at the Dublin School of Architecture, DIT, the group has launched a manifesto for the architects of this brave new post-Tiger world:
To make the spatial reality of NAMA transparent to the Public
To present information in order to stimulate debate for a broader social change in Ireland
To look beyond the economic value of NAMA's assets
To design alternative propositions for these sites that will benefit society
To declare that architecture can no longer be a slave to short term speculation
Radical architecture, with a mission - fantastic! While its a pity that it took the complete collapse of an overheated property market and the subsequent closure or downsizing of a sizeable majority of architecture firms in the country to encourage architects to sit up, think about the physical nation they were building and try to engage with the collective consciousness of the citizenry, the project concept stopped me in my tracks and had me peering through the windows like a giddy child outside a wonka-sized sweet shop.

NAMALab at Cope Street is a combination of exhibitions showcasing alternative uses for properties acquired by NAMA, walking tours of the current NAMA portfolio, discussions, workshops and lectures meant to provoke and inspire and get people thinking about ways that physical space can regenerate the city.


I say 'apparently' because this was Sunday, and it all ended on Saturday. While I was sleeping.


You see, the lesson here is that despite my frequent castigations of this city for being a deep dark pool of despair that sucks in all the life and joy of its inhabitants and spits out nothing but a toxic miasma of recalcitrance and antipathy, the fact is that actions and events of wonder and positivity occur with alarming frequency, both spontaneously and carefully nursemaided by people who have a genuine love for the city, or at the very least a fervent belief that it can be better than it is.

All I need to do is not spend my days sleeping through it all.

Made In Temple Bar - festival running through to July 24th
The Art Books of Henri Matisse - until 25th September at the Chester Beatty
NAMALab - they are planning a Symposium in October

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