Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

To follow on from the post this morning on guerilla gardening, here is a great piece of guerilla art put up at the weekend and well worth visiting if you’re in the area.  The piece (Romantic Ireland: From the Streets) consists of a whole series of paintings attached to the front hoarding of what was going to be the headquarters of Anglo-Irish Bank (North Quay Wall, Dublin) each painting carries a line from September 1913 by William Butler Yeats.  It’s also well worth reading Yeats poem.


As the artists state: “Anglo Irish Bank was a central player in the madness that went on in this country. This site is an exceptionally appropriate and evocative symbol of the audacity shown in the previous 20 years and the results of that audacity. We own this building through NAMA therefore no permission need be sought to use it. Nobody sought permission to spend our taxes on private debt.”


(Photos by Cian O’Callaghan)


We need a lot more artistic expressions of the crisis – art, plays, poems, literature, music – to help us think through what has happened and is happening, and to think through a normative politics of what we would like to happen; to envisage a new and better Ireland.

“Romantic Ireland is dead and gone” … but what have we replaced it with?

Rob Kitchin

A new group called ‘Nama to Nature‘ has started an innovative bit of civil disobedience, planting trees on unfinished estates to help speed up the process of entropy and revert the spaces back to nature.  TheJournal.ie details the groups activities in one estate in Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim.

We left early in the morning, some of us rowing across a lake in the haze of daybreak with bags of compost, spades and saplings. By 8am we were down to work, managing to find sufficient exposed soil to plant 500 alder, 100 silver birch, 100 hazel, 100 ash and 200 willow. What we did was a largely symbolic gesture, tonnes of rubble still need to be removed and the plastics need to be disposed of as a matter of urgency or they could pollute the adjoining lake.”

Such kinds of activism are called ‘guerilla gardening’ and there are such groups all round the world.  guerillagardening.org gives a good intro  including details on guerilla gardening in Ireland, also see the Wikipedia page that has a load of links.

The basic premise is to reclaim public space for the public by planting seeds and plants and to encourage community participation in the environments in which we live. The rather grey area with respect to unfinished estates is the extent to which they are public spaces given that the unfinished elements of such estates remain legally in private hands, and indeed the lived in parts do to until they are taken in charge by local authorities.

Nevertheless, the point of civil disobedience is to challenge such notions of what constitutes public/private space and to actively intervene to positive effect.  Nama to Nature, and guerilla gardening in general, does both.  Through direct intervention it actively shows what alternative futures some of these abandoned developments – especially the ones that are not commercial viable now or in the short to medium term – could have.  And moreover, it starts to make such futures possible through planting.  It’ll be interesting to see if the movement catches on and how these new gardens and forests fare in the coming years.

Rob Kitchin