This is the third and final post from my contribution to the Provisional University session last week.
The spatial politics of walking around Dublin’s north city
In her 2011 project Pathological Geographies, Emma Cummins puts forward the idea
“to really understand the current financial crisis – and by extension, the problems of capitalism itself – one needs to consider capitalism’s erratic, contradictory character in relation to its concrete material effects.”
She examined unfinished estates in Ireland and Spain and suggested that they “offer an
opportunity for sustained and radical reflection. …they are thus a tangible reminder of the structural problems of a complex, irrational system.” And while she is looking at
unfinished estates more specifically, there is also a spatial politics to these sites that we
have identified through our project. Many of the sites are unfinished in the sense that they began as the dream of a speculative process, anchored once by flows of capital through Dublin and the IFSC and anchored again by the Council’s planning process which facilitated the ‘development’ of the city as a European capital city. Many of the sites that we have looked at imply that they too are unfinished, even if they are sites where the existing building remains in place. In a sense they were ‘never started’ by a particular circulation of a vision of Dublin’s as European space. They remained in old Ireland, rooted to a smaller city core which could only dream of sprawling suburbs, still living in the shadow of Victorian tenement life. I am not going to go into how capital flowed across these places, changing them according to the material constraints. I do want to talk about making and re-making these places through the act of walking. Part of this project has been about seeing the city in a different way through walking around the city.
In the first chapter of his book Rhythmanalysis, Lefebvre distinguishes between two
In this second approach to studying space the cyclical and the linear act reciprocally.
However, rhythm is always some form of measuring but the unique quality of a rhythm is the binding of the qualitative and the quantitative. The work we did to compile these data had its rhythm. Our footsteps, heart beats, the swinging of arms, the talking about of the sites as we approached them and catalogued them. How are these aspects of the project measured, let alone mapped? What kinds of geographies arise from the process of mapping? How do we engage the parts the city that we walked in a new relationship? On noticing the derelict sites and arranging them on our map, we were conforming to fairly routinsed mapping techniques and using representations of Dublin that have broad familiarity. Millions know the representation of Dublin on Google maps: the river transecting the north and south sides; the gaping maw of the bay. This is partially why it attracted about 3,000 sets of eyeballs on Broadsheet.ie.
Beyond this however, how is the rhythm of the walking captured and mapped? How do the places that we walked become identified with a larger politics of the places
of Dublin? In taking part in democratic processes for the election of local representatives next year, how can we bind the practices and the rhythm of everyday life (the unnoticed and the visceral) on to the places that are themselves the outcomes of larger scalar process of capital flow? I am asking about how these derelict sites, the material outcomes of human labour, are made political spaces. How are they made ours for the purposes of political representation?
These spaces are produced and are often presented to us as spectres of processes
seemingly beyond our political control. The phrase ‘ghost estates’ is hardly accidental,
albeit different from the occurrence of longer term dereliction. These derelict sites and
buildings that we have mapped are representations of space and are made to be so.
How can we make them spaces of representation, spaces of the everyday? They are kept as spaces of specialised knowledge, of the architect, the planner and the engineer. These are deliberate and productive processes which carry within them specific uses. For the purposes of creating spaces of representation, what can the mapping that we have done achieve other than to contribute to a spatial politics that makes them inaccessible to everyday politics? These sites of dereliction are kept from being lived and remade. So at the end I am left with another question: what kinds of local politics opens them up for daily use by those who live here?
UPDATE: LiveRegisterTV has placed their footage of both our presentations online.