We can protest all we like now, take over the town square and live in it for a year, if we wish. That’s all fine now.

I was born in 1983 in Waterford and grew up there [see diag. 1 (left) Waterford]. The name for the small city is Veðrafjórðr in Norse and Port Láirge in Irish. It is an ancient Viking City that has been used as a major international port for over a millennium [see diag. 1 (right) Coat of arms featuring boats]. People come in and go out. I left in 2002, aged 19. I am a Celtic Tiger Cub. I was educated in Dublin during the boom and first graduated there at its very height, Summer 2007. We are almost 10 years on now.

It is a narrow window to be a Cub. You would want to be starting college around 2001-03 to have ridden the economic waves of the Celtic Tiger and be out in the world before the social crash in Ireland fully culminated [see diag. 2. 407.C, freelance emergency response vehicle (2011), Cork + Dublin. www.carlgiffney.com]. I was working as artist in resident in Arigna Coal Mines, Co. Roscommon, when the word RECESSION hit the radio airwaves. High Summer, 2008. The workers were rattled. After some time, the IMF bailed us out.

The Cubs are a social group that is landmark. Until this point young groups were clutching onto the last remains of social cohesion in Ireland: the Church, the idea of the family unit, the GAA, the pub as social centre, having kids, the person as defined by their career, having employment at all, nationalism… everything was heavily eroded. By the time we came out into the real world everything suddenly collapsed around us [see diag. 3. Ubermensch A (2008) Berlin. www.carlgiffney.com].

None of us Cubs have mortgages. None of us own houses. Few of us have kids. Few of us have cars. Mainly, we take no part in the church. We have no pensions, we have no insurance, we have no health care. No bank loans. We often migrate.

2008 was the culmination of many major social collapses that happened right across the 1990s. It began with the Catholic Church being disgraced in Ireland, and came to a head in the Celtic Tiger’s sudden demise. We Cubs began our careers at its very peak and started out through its collapse. We live in the space immediately after social (and economic) collapse, but also before new replacements were began. In this place of vacuum, we live.

It is a place where people don’t identify much with nationality. It is a place nearly beyond gender. And politics. It is sometimes misdiagnosed as an apathetic place, when it is actually a chasm devoid of communication. There are no familiar shared terms of reference yet to allow conversation. And so visual art is one important language of this place. Music is another. It may be a place of primary and secondary partners. We may identify, or not at all. It is charcterised by things unfolding slowly – characterised by an overwhelming feeling, and understanding, and trust, that things are unfolding into new space with no possible clue to where we they are going.

In 2013, I found myself again entangled with this vacuum place, while working with it as subject matter, and with an invitation to participate in a long international residency project called Frontiers in Retreat (FiR).

I was invited that year by the Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW) to participate as one of the three artists put forward by them for FiR. FiR is a 5-year art project (2013-2018) funded by The EU Culture Fund and coordinated by Helsinki International Artists Programme (HIAP). It involves 8 art centres spread across 7 European countries, which are each remarkable due to their stark and eclectic contextual relationship to borders, land use, ecology and isolation (common themes of inquiry in the project). Across Finland, Scotland, Latvia, Serbia, Iceland, Spain and Lithuania, we are talking about places like remote deep winter group studios in the Arctic, to industrial buildings on the Danube River in post-conflict Belgrade. There is Scotland’s rich oil country in its stony northeast, and a tiny inhabited island in the Baltic called Utö. There are currently militarised borders, even tiny town-lands, partitioned by no mans land between east Finland and west Russia.

Three artists are nominated by each art centre, making 24 in total. The artists move around from space to space, averaging around 7 months residential work a year. We are commissioned to make new work all the time, in both individual and collaborative ways, and in relation to our context and the ecologies we find in it. Along with us 24, there is an equal number of curators and directors to match, who are very closely involved. A further 50 people made up of invited experts, students, assistants and technicians bring our working group to around 100 strong, with some coming and going over the years. We have all met en masse twice. It is well supported with material budgets, fees, stipends, and travel expenses. To date I have completed 7 residencies of 2-3 months each, sometimes back to back, working recently in Finland, Estonia, Serbia, Scotland and the Netherlands.

We are now 2 and a half years into FiR, and marking our half way point. I have spent the first portion of time making just one work, that ultimately takes the form of my first feature length movie entitled, I really don’t feel them, HD + video, 1hr 39mins (2016). It comes from the place of vacuum I speak of in Ireland. There are other strands, sub works, publications, exhibitions and public performances, but all works come under the movies name. IRDFT has been back-tracking the journey taken in its shooting in the form of an EU tour, from below sea level in The Netherlands, to Scotland’s politically charged highlands, to Winter in Finland, and us travelling deep into The Arctic on a search, where it ends.

On this tour, IRDFT premiered in The Arctic [see diag. 4]. It showed at the largest cinema there called Saamelaiskulttuurikeskus (SAJOS), and has been moving steadily south showing at small venues, in specially kitted out art spaces, industrial units made cinema, and in some of the special sites that feature as significant landmarks in the movie - a bronze foundry was a particularly nice one.

In addition to the EU tour, we organised a homecoming exhibition in Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin. It was a three-day event that itself was split in two. In the daytime, it took the form of an exhibition of 15 video stills on aluminum, empty pink antique seats on the floor and a large free-standing timber screen with projection set, but off. For this the gallery lights are on. At 18.00hr a drinks reception is held for up to 36 people. Gin. It is a short social event that precedes a seating, and a full HD video projection of IRDFT [see diag. 5-10]. For this, the gallery lights are off.

The movie, the moving image, I made on this EU residency, is free for all to watch, in full length and in HD, and will be actively spread further and freely distributed around the Europe as a solo work homed openly online.

To watch, visit www.carlgiffney.com and select I really don’t feel them, at your pleasure.


Diag. 1. Waterford and coat of arms.
Diag. 2. 407.C (2011), a freelance emergency response vehicle. It participates in emergencies, patrols and reconnaissance trips in Cork + Dublin. (www.carlgiffney.com)
Diag. 3. Ubermensch A (2008) Berlin. (www.carlgiffney.com)
Diag. 4. I really don’t feel them (2016) cinema premiere in the Arctic, at Saamelaiskulttuurikeskus (SAJOS), Finland.
Diag. 5-10. I really don’t feel them (2016) homecoming show at Kevin Kavanagh Gallery. Install shots + HD stills. (www.carlgiffney.com)