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Views of Dublin
A project based upon a series of inter-related events in Dublin in the 1960s. John Le Carre’s cold war thriller, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, was made as a film in Dublin in spring 1965. A replica of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie was constructed in Smithfield Market as part of the film’s set. Actor Richard Burton and his wife Liz Taylor stayed at the Gresham Hotel for ten weeks, attracting much attention. Recollections of these events are today still heard around the city, and the Wall replica is often recalled as an unusual oddity of Dublin architecture.
Sustained research around the subject focused on the aftermath of the Wall’s removal. After film production, Bart Cummins, a local scrapdealer, purchased the set in its entirity. He re-erected a watchtower in front of his yard in Inchicore and appeared on national television as the man with the best known replica of the Wall. He gradually sold it off in sections. Some of the material was recycled to rebuild Saint Christopher’s School, the first Travellers’ school in Ireland. Situated in Cherry Orchard at the western edge of Dublin, the school was organised and run independently of the Department of Education by civil rights activist Grattan Puxon. The first version of the building was burnt to the ground by the Dublin Corporation the previous year.
Considering the materiality of the city in this transformation from film set to makeshift school, further research was enacted to interconnect a series of incidential events around this time, including Liz Taylor’s jewellery being stolen, Bertrand Russell’s cheque for twenty-five pounds, a real life robbery on Sheriff Street thought to be part of the film, and the day-to-day realities of the Traveller community agitating for civil rights in 1960s Ireland.
A resulting artwork disseminated the circumstance around these actualities, as an attempt to understand the prevailing politics and economics of Dublin of 1965. A sixteen page publication was produced and freely distributed. A presentation at the Gallery of Photography featured a collection of photojournalistic images, cut out of local newspapers of the time and enlarged as digital prints, framed as fragments and documentary residue of these events. A public talk occured with Grattan Puxon, who described his work as a journalist and activist at the time.
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