Dublin Intensive
Prof Philip Napier
The intensive was engaged face to face and on site in Dublin, utilising NCAD as a base, as a week of shared experimental teaching and learning. It built on previous ‘in person’ encounters in Tallin and online engagements in Budapest and Turku. The Intensive this time involved many of the staff and students who had formed relationships in Tallin, so an evolving rather than new experience for most with group ‘performative skills‘ and further understanding of shared working.
The use of the NCAD Gallery as a dynamic space that meets the street with a large landscape picture window was available to us, as were Fine Art studios through our scheduling in the Easter week. Our neighbourhood is an historic inner-city area that is both domestic and formerly industrial. It is becoming increasingly gentrified, colliding new behaviours, tastes, architectures and glazing tropes. The street is alive with the material of a diverse ‘local’ population and their digital devices, meeting and diverging from global visitors on their way to and from Guinness…sharing streets, broadband and satellites. The sheer sociability of people in the context, I think, formed an important multi-generational agency, building confidence in our students that the effort of connection would be ‘met’.
Our Dublin Intensive was themed around glass in its many dimensions and offered as a presented provocation by Brian Hand. He framed the ideas of vantage, display, screens and lens as flickering and fleeting, as durable and vulnerable, offering us sites of beauty, display, desire, deception, cruelty, agitation and protection. This was richly illustrated through artists references, images, artworks, activism and through film, glossing over a one-hundred-year time span.
The student and staff teams were mixed, evolving different approaches to shared work. Following alternative tours of our area and the translation of material elements was supported by the casting and moulding innovations of Vivian Handsbury. Our work was further enlivened by the presentation by artist Mairead McClean working in the context of missing and damaged records in the National Archives as Artist in Residence. She spoke to an autoethnographic research approach, reforming political mindscapes of memory and geography. Emma Finucane introduced the work of NCAD students advanced from the Budapest ‘Covid Monument’ Intensive (the previous November) that had been sophisticatedly evolved as semi-public artworks, now presented in St James Hospital.
Our four student and staff teams evolved discretely and in overlapping ways. To some extent the scale, proximity, and more familiar validation of the NCAD gallery window appeared to hold attraction. In one project the text-based recording of the class discussions on large plastic ‘slides’ (formerly used as Covid barriers) built a sequence of ideas and prompts. What then became a glazed cube of text layers evolved over our time together. The editing of the class discussion in text and further through video, opened a window on group decisions and how actions and tests were evolved and reflected upon. When lit, the slide cube made an effective tool for explaining and debriefing. Ultimately, three of the works were produced as performative actions, utilising the NCAD gallery window to connect to and mirror the passing people on the street. The performative actions required discipline, control, good humour and learning. The video and still image documents captured the semi publicness of actions, and engagement. For one group the formalisation of a vinyl cut text as a title on the window became a means of engaging in a suite of sustained spontaneous drawings, following immersive time in the wider area. ‘Faces of the Street Where Are You Going?’ spurred drawings as communications and enabled participants on either side of the glass to participate, creating a spectacle and crowds.
A final project utilised teachers as fellow student artists. Through the use of domestic clear sticky tape applied to glass windows in the foyer, the work spoke to the emergency provisions of managing glass as a dangerous shattering property. Sometimes formally applied and sometimes running wild, the sticky tape project developed an urgency of effort to complete. The slow burn of the work seemed to speak of the expanded threat and the ‘explosion’ of war in Ukraine with implied, subtle vulnerability (a legacy I remember from Belfast). The work spoke of temporary provisions, temporality and damage limitation. There was a formal concern to light the tape, to present the work as stilled but in progress. For some participants the work was emotional, live and present.
Our final tour offered by Mark O’Kelly swept from the Viking ‘networked’ origin of Dublin City (in close proximity to our School), down river towards the sea, charting the past, present and future emergence of the city in the digital docklands, housing the European Headquarters of global communications companies. A horizon of G5 and G6 glass fibre futures.
Concepts emerged from the practice
NCAD - Public Imagination Process and Realisation
Keywords for the methodology:
  • Socially engaged public art, community art as a background
  • Glass, window,  transparency, thresholds
  • Concept of the spectator in public art
  • Boundaries and divisions
  • The war in Ukraine
  • Access to the work at night time
  • Digital platforms: Google classroom, Teams, WhatsApp
  • Temporal public art
  • Collaboration and group work
  • On site
  • Keynote lectures from visiting artist
  • Pre-intensive
  • Brainstorming
  • Mentoring, equal artistic work/blurring the boundaries between the students and teachers, observers
  • Student-led team tours in the city
  • Sharing the process - groups showing and telling
  • Public interaction, gesture of participation, writing and drawing on the gallery window, mirroring and miming of public walking behaviours, performative street spectacles
  • Layers of windows inside
  • Choreographed group gestures and performances
  • Workshops, casting
  • Documentation
  • Cross-city historic collective walk
Feedback & assessment strategy:
  • Final day group presentations and critical feedback from the participants and lectures
  • Feedback from the local pre-intensives
  • Student surveys and questionnaires
  • Certificate of participation