This work takes several influences; primarily it is concerned with the Model Villages of early to late industrialist Britain and Ireland, Model Scale Villages that exist as tourist attractions today and the remnants of our recent property development boom known as Ghost Estates. As the first industrialists of the 19th Century emerged so did their factories, these factories required skilled and local workers who could be relied upon to operate the first ever large scale specialist machinery. Less benevolent methods to house this emergent class would develop alongside the Model Village during the industrial age but the Model Village was the one of the first attempts to solve this issue. The early industrialists of that time were establishing themselves just after the era we currently call the Enlightenment; as a result many of the hallmarks of that age can be seen in the development of the Model Village. The Model Village was the more philanthropic method to house and sustain workers in direct contrast to the Dickensian squalor we are more familiar with from that period. Model in this sense is the ideal to which other communities should attempt to attain; all amenities would be provided for in these environments according to the will of their benefactors and their gardens would be kempt simulations of idealised nature. Much of the social attitude and etiquette from that time has lasted to this day; there is a direct line of lineage between the housing projects of the 19th century and the failed housing developments of the economic downturn.
Scale Model Villages are usually made to enhance a community’s tourist industry; often they are of scale representations of the town itself. They emerged in this form somewhere between the 1930’s and 1950’s; predominantly the models portray an Idyllic version of a community in the midst of summer. Their origins are said to come from Japanese Miniature Gardens which more than likely came to the west due to enlightenment infatuation with all things Oriental, due to their perceived quality of harmonised balance between nature and man. Ghost Estates are the antithesis of a community in harmony, because often there are no people hence no community capable of harmonising. The few who have somehow wound up in the habitable sections of these Estates are isolated and surrounded by half built monuments to quashed economic momentum. There are very few communities in Ireland that have not been affected by this new economic environment, this is not new information. Deel Manor in Askeaton for instance is listed as a housing estate exempt from the new House Hold Tax, that status is the unofficial indicator that it exists as a partial ghost estate with unfinished aspects to its original plan. The housing Industry that existed for the brief period of economic growth comes from the direct line of industries that started with the first steam engine, the model village defined the criteria that sub-urban planners adhere to today. As society focused on concerns of status and its trappings something that should have been the bi-product of idealised industry became the industry. It was an ouroboros propped up by the mythology of what came before.
Taking the structure of the model village and showing its corrupted skeletal form the work intends to reveal the inner mechanics of that history, like a human skull without its skin a house without its façade is quite unnerving. There is a sense of simulated tranquility brought on by the homogeneity of housing estates, their very site brings on generations of subliminal triggers so deep rooted their contribution to contemporary behavior is almost inescapable. Nude dominant ideologies are unsettling, they say too much about the thin veneers that linger from times past. Like many past periods of success there is a movement within mass society to emulate the symbols of status, the post-colonial etiquette behind cutlery for instance or the post-war emergent culture of sub-urban living. As these trends become more main stream there is a demand on industry to increase production speed and reduce costs of materials in order to streamline the process.
This work was made with the help of Askeaton Contemporary Arts at the 9th Edition of Welcome to The Neighborhood curated by Michele Horrigan.
This work was made possibly with the technical exceptionalism brought to the project by Ray Griffin, Carl Doran and Aaron Lawless
Drone Videography thanks to Mike McCarthy