In 2004, I made an unintentional tour of ex-communist Eastern Europe. It was my first visit to Poland and I spent the majority of my time in Krakow. My stay happened to coincide with Pope John Paul II’s first visit back to his home city in many years. In preparation, Krakow abstained from drink for three whole days before his arrival. The party went underground, down winding damp stone staircases, through heavy doors and arriving in medieval bunkers far beneath the cobbled market square. Through the haze of smoke and head banging, I couldn’t help but think about the last time these bunkers might have been occupied.

The day after The Pope Mobile rolled out of town, I paid my respects at Auschwitz. The terror of the approach – vast tracks of nothingness, flatness, pine and train tracks: the disbelief of how everyday life carried, and continues to carry on around this time capsule monumentalizing terror and genocide forces each of us to carry with us and keep a safe hideaway for those who need shelter.

On that same tour, in Budapest, I visited Statue Park, filled with the enormous remnants of Hungarian communism and dictatorship. Again the flatness of the approach, but now on the horizon there is a group of five-storey-high Lenins gathered in stagnant conversation. I arrived in a metaphorical waiting room for ideology where I stood on Marx’s middle toe and made a rough sketch of his concrete head looking up from below.  In a way I was astonished that the place existed, but perhaps that is the Irish condition, so many reference points to our colonial past are long bombed, burned or buried.

Why did Budapest keep them? The cynic might say to charge tourists money to stand on Marx’s middle toe. I can only surmise that someone had the foresight to consider that maybe there could come a day for their repurposing – to platform the works as historical reference points to begin to talk about our today. To begin from the beginning again and reinvent the good parts.


In Barcelona Sants Station, the words light up big, bright, golden and good –DESTINO-Questioning my tá sé Spanish: destination or destiny, or both?  And what happens when one has to wait, still awake from the night before and you find yourself in a train station, waiting to go to Marseille at stupid o’clock – one can only look up.


In the mid to late nighties, recently released from a five year incarceration at a Catholic boarding school, I sought out the sleaziest, most debased town in Europe – and went to make my home in Rimini, passing through Milan on the way. My young and impressionable self fell heavily for Milano Centrale, perhaps because it was the first destino I reached on my own. For many years after, I referred to it as my favourite building in the world and would ask anyone travelling through Italy to visit the station and whisper reminders softly to its concrete walls.

Ten years later, full of European history and architecture, I found myself back in that station. I looked on the structure again and was appalled. What had my young eyes seen that drew me in? Had I not noticed the signature references to Italian Fascism, even subconsciously?

Sit and wait.

Where is the waiting room?

And then, on Platform 3 the flash mob erupted – good and gold – a DIY 90’s rave intact with boom box, neon, headbands, whistles and tracksuits.


Scooter Update

About a month ago, a company called Platinum Concert announced a Scooter live show in Torun, scheduled to take place on November 14th, 2014 and began to sell tickets. Many people bought the tickets despite the fact there wasn’t any other information about the Scooter show besides the Platinum Conert facebook page.

Then, representatives from the venue in Torun said that they didn’t know anything about the show and that date was not booked. Platinum Concert said that they’ll change the venue. Three days ago they announced that the concert is moved to Lodz but when people called Atlas Arena in Lodz the situation is the same as with Torun, there’s no booking for anything. Meanwhile they Platinum Concert have blocked (on facebook) people who have requested information and want their money back.


Alberta Artist Copyrights Land as Artwork to Keep Oil Companies At Bay


Alberta artist Peter van Tiesenhausen has provided an interesting legal precedent in his long-when he was a boy. Over time, he has watched industry transform that landscape. “I grew up there, and the oil and forestry industries have just devastated it,” he said in an interview with fellow artist Marina Black in May of last year.

Of course, artists transform the landscape in their own way, calling into question the relationship between people and nature, whether it’s Robert Smithson with his “Spiral Jetty” or Frederick Law Olmsted with his careful designs for Central Park and Mount Royal.

Realizing that mining companies can legitimately lay claim to any land underneath private property to a depth of six inches, van Tiesenhausen contacted a lawyer who drew up an intellectual property/copyright claim that said that if the oil company disturbed the top six inches in any way, it would be a copyright violation.

This is eerily similar to the defense Portia deploys against Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” in which he is legally entitled to extract a pound of flesh from a debtor who can’t pay, so long as he doesn’t extract a single drop of blood or marrow or bone.

“The oil company wanted to come across with a pipeline,” said van Tiesenhausen. “And I said: No! And they said that I don’t have any choice because we own the top six inches and they own everything else underneath, the mineral rights, etc. That’s the way it works in Canada. And I said: you can put your pipeline as long as you don’t disturb the surface. Of course, it’s pretty much impossible or very expensive. But it’s not a field or just a forest, it is an artwork! And they realized that I have a case. So for last 15 years they have left me alone.”

Shylock’s reply to the judge, after realizing he wouldn’t be able to claim his debt was, “Is that the law?”

Samhain Past

When I tell friends I will be travelling outside of Ireland during the final week of October, the response has been pitied mutterings. Not, as one would have imagined, greedy glances or enquires as to destination.  It’s just everyone knows how good it is to be home, in Ireland, for Samhain or Halloween.

Samhain always falls on October 31st, the day proceeding All Souls’ Day, when we honour our dead.  In ancient Ireland, and indeed still today in contemporary Ireland, a new fire is kindled every year on the eve of Samhain to usher in the New Year associated with the change from autumn to winter. Moreover, it is widely believed, that on this night, the souls of the departed are supposed to revisit their old homes, warm themselves by the fire and comfort themselves with the good cheer provided for them in the kitchen or the parlour by their affectionate families.

Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands off the West Coast of Ireland, has its own distinct traditions surrounding this ancient festival. Like their mainland counterparts, they believe that the souls of the departed roam the land on that night. Entering the pub in Killronan, Inis Mor on the eve of Samhain, one might be taken aback to see people sitting in silence with gloves on, sipping drinks through straws or manoeuvring huge costumes while ensuring  their veiled faces are in order. Nobody here wants to be recognised. As I usually drink stout – I wrote rouge orders of ‘Gin ‘n’ Tonic’ on scraps of paper and handed them to the barman, in silence. Once midnight strikes, the fear of being recognised and taken to the other world by the souls of the departed dissipates: the entire village gathers in the community hall where there is a big party, all is revealed and prizes are awarded for the best disguises.


As a child growing up in County Clare, the ritual of Samhain was particularly well respected: there was the barn brack excitement of who would get the ring, the stick, the coin and the rag, each with its obvious symbolism. Bobbing apples in basins, apples with coins inserted and suspended by srting from the ceiling, so that, blindfolded and with hands tied behind our backs we might try to bite out the coins.  A mountain of flour with a cherry on top was always the finale, a sort of ancient Jenga, taking turns to slice the flour while ensuring not to topple the cherry, as to do so would mean getting your face plunged into the flour mountain several times over.

When everybody had the go of the flour, and the floor was fully strewn with nut shells, it was time to visit the neighbours in costume and then finally down over to our dear friends, the Gill’s for the bonfire, dipping bull rushes in petrol and running through fields or on ponies with golden swords ablaze. As we got older, the ritual also included joy riding bangers around a large circuit trodden by feral cattle. The night always finished around the fire with stories from other worlds– my then eight- year-old brother Dessie might recall his sighting of the banshee, ten times the size of any regular woman sitting atop a house in Quin village, using chimney stacks to comb the giant knots from her hair  – The sort of first-hand accounts that make real the terrifying possibility that one might see such sights on any commonplace evening in the half-light coming back from hurling training.


USA’s adoption of Halloween has in its own way become a misunderstood cultural appropriation, so that now the night is often a glut of sexy cat’s, devils, nurses and pre-bought batman costumes. In 2002, I lived at 56 Franklin St, Lower Allston, Boston. That year, it was fixed that our house should have a good Halloween party. I planned my disguise for weeks. I was going to be a dinosaur and I set about making the costume from foam, cutting out the shape as one would a dress, carefully supergluing the seams, and then painting it, coat after coat. The project needed to be moved to increasingly bigger work spaces several times, due to its growing size and ambition. For a finish there were two 8 foot tall dinosaurs – with foam heads, tails and feet.


That same year on the morning of October 31st I got a phone call from my Dad, to say that my Grannie didn’t have much time left. I immediately rang Aer Lingus and shortly thereafter found myself high above the earth, hovering across the ocean towards the West of Ireland. I arrived in Clare, in the early morning of November 1st or All Souls’ Day. My sister Sarah rally drove me to Ennis where we joined thirty family members gathered around my grandmother’s bed. Grannie had waited all night to say goodbye and departed this world twenty minutes after my arrival.


If you do the math, as they say in the States, at the time I was gathered with my family to say our final goodbyes, 56 Franklin St was being raided with riot police, dogs and a Paddy Wagon.

Ryan, who still today lives at 54 Franklin St., had at that time a very good noise show on WZBC radio, which he presumed  few people listened to, and had earlier that day made an announcement about the good party. And well, lots of people turned up – a posse of five or six hundred strong.  That night, among the eleven people hauled to jail, detained and charged, were two of my roommates. In retrospect the rap sheet is interesting reading for those looking for Samhain costume ideas –  clothing is listed as follows: tinfoil headpiece, cardboard body attire, rags, full body paint, comforters, rugs, curtains, table clothes, cushions and teddy bears, glued paper on plastic bags, feathers and latex.  Indeed the police report suggests that one particularly tall and skinny duo wore just cling film and were somehow attached to one another.

Ultimately, my roommates arrests was 56 Franklin St.’s undoing, but that’s a story for another day. Suffice to say, the good Samhain party is always there for the taking, though experience says to avoid radio announcements and to remember that when the Spirits call to you, listen, sometimes they know what’s best for you and might insist that you fly over oceans, to come out and dance with them in disguise.


After note: The dinosaur costumes were worn by collaborators Elizabeth Mooney and N. Sean Glover and served as both surprisingly good disguises and shields from the Boston Police Force.

We Invented Halloween – Michael Fortune (IRL, 1975)


We invented Halloween is the title of a multi-channel video installation recorded on Halloween night, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 in the artist’s family home in rural County Wexford.

Each year a central activity of the night involves the artist’s mother dressing up in an improvised manner with anything that will disguise her identity, and calling to his granny’s house, which is next door. Prior to calling to the house we see his mother getting dressed, with the aid of his sisters, who dress and undress her with layers of coats, socks, tights and plastic masks.

The work, which involves long, hand-held takes, follows her along the road and into the grannies house. In both recordings, his granny ignores the camera and welcomes his mother, though she is unaware of her identity, thinking instead that she is one of her great grandchildren. Each of the three films finishes when his mother leaves the house, delighted that she has fooled his granny once again. By revisiting this annual practice the viewer is offered an insight into the immediate environment of family life, human relationships and contemporary ritual.

part 1-filtered

Part Two-filtered

part 4-filtered

For more work, sources and info on Michael’s work see:

Foraged Archaeology


The siege of Toruń took place from 26 May to 14 October 1703 as part of the Great Northern War. The Swedes under King Carl XII  conquered the fortress and walled city of Toruń after months-long siege.

Toruń was defended by troops of Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and the King of Poland. While the Swedes suffered less than 50 men in losses, the Saxons lost their entire 6000 strong garrison .

The above image depicts a reproduction of a lithograph entitled, Belagerung von Thorn (1703) illustrating the siege and The Cat’s Head Stone believed to have been used to defend Toruń.