The Spirit of Gracious Living

Project Description

‘Searching for the Spirit of Gracious Living’ was a series of workshops as part of the University College Dublin Now What? Summer Studios in 2009 and included the ‘Now What?’ exhibition and talks series in Smithfield, Dublin.

‘A city is more than the sum of its inhabitants. It has the power to generate a surplus of amenity, which is one reason why people live in towns rather than isolation’ (Cullen, Gordon, 1971)

Dublin in the very recent past was a city that generated much surplus of amenity and privilege. One indicator of this was the provocative and suggestive property marketing campaigns that pushed the later stage of the city’s property boom.  Along a busy stretch of dual carriageway, in the southern suburbs, glossy hoarding heralded a new ‘luxury’ apartment development. One of the most memorable images on this hoarding featured a lone(ly) young woman looking seductively at an asparagus tip speared daintily on a fork.  Such signifiers and symbolism abounded. Accompanying slogans made claims such as ‘few addresses generate this kind of dream’.

By 2009, in the throes of Ireland’s epic economic collapse it was fast becoming apparent that the rapid growth and ‘prosperity’ of the country’s property bubble was going to leave a particular legacy.  Young apartment owners were now living in stranded isolation in incomplete ‘high-end’ developments.  In that south Dublin suburb a single section of the formerly glossy hoarding remained; tattered and fading it read ‘the spirit of gracious living’. Just visible behind the hoarding the apartment development was now part inhabited, flickering with the blue light of flat-screen tvs, and part abandoned building site.

Through a series of discursive workshops we explored ideas of self-sufficiency, collectivity, isolation, surplus and the marketing of affluence, asking the question… ‘What is the ‘Spirit of Gracious Living’ anyway?

The Now What? Summer Studios initiative was produced by Alice Clancy, Fiona Hughes and James Rossa O’Hare.


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