Owners came, friends came (having painted walls in the tower while rain seeped down them), a mayor spoke. Dan and his son, Zach, wore linen suits.
We gave Caroline flowers to thank her for joining us on the journey. We had a big marquee and Irish music. There were queues of people to make it to the viewing platform. I had to breath deeply when I couldn’t turn on the power and Dan couldn’t turn on the power. But Zach saved the day with the rhetorical question: ‘Shouldn’t that be plugged in?’
And here’s how it all began and ended up. Footage from our very first visit to Skerries and from the day of the opening.
Even though I am used to the vagaries of Irish weather, when you organise an indoor event for the middle of July, you don’t expect that torrential rain will be a problem. I arrived in Skerries today to start the preparations for the opening of Tattered Outlaws of History on Thursday. When we opened the door in to the tower it was clear that the drips and dampness we’d had to contend with in the past had escalated to extensive leaks that didn’t bode well for our system of electrical wiring and fancy plasma screen set up. More heavy showers are forecast for the next few days.
Fortunately, the water damage was mostly on the perimeter of the first floor, leaving the place where the screens will go relatively dry. We installed the TVs and covered them for the night with plastic shrouds. I know the electricity works so if they survive tonight, Dan and I will test them more fully tomorrow.
They keep you on your toes, these buildings. But returning to them, I feel very happy that they are part of my physical memory now. I’ve been rain-soaked, sunburned and wind-buffeted on them; I’ve rubbed my skin on their stone, slid on the tussocks of grass that have survived in their cracks. I know what the towers feel like and how they dance.
I arrived in Skerries yesterday to see what our installation of twelve Tattered Outlaws films look like. From the Skerries tower you can see the Martello Tower on Shenick’s Island, so I’m reminded straight away that however solitary each tower seems, it is an echo of another tower. It is part of a family that share a structural DNA, however the vagaries of history may have shaped its members in different ways.
We’ve persuaded the council to clean out the layers of bird droppings from the tower but it’s still a rough environment with scaffolding supporting the rotting ceiling and floor.
Dan has been working with Pickle to install the screens, stairs and viewing platform so that when I arrive, I can climb from the gloom of the ground floor to the viewing platform and be dazzled by the unexpected brightness of screens. Dan has designed such an elegant and simple construction that the screens seem to grow out of the damp floor like high-tech mushrooms. That’s a good thing.
It was wonderful to be able to show the work to a variety of people today: for many the excitement of the project lies in the opportunity to be inside the towers and to see what the other towers look like. It occurred to be that the towers are a bit like the areas subconscious – a repository of stories with not quite understood associations, present but mysterious. Reading the towers as an unconscious helps me make sense of the place of the dancing bodies on the towers. I think the movement can communicate the less rational associations of the towers, their strangeness and the permission they, as outlaw buildings, give people to shelter the outlaw aspects of their consciousness.
We’ve had to dismantle the installation now to protect the screens from damp and damage until July when the exhibition opens properly. There are still jobs to do, as Dan’s list suggests, but we know it can work.