Tattered Outlaws of History

Dan Dubowitz and Fearghus O’Chonuir

In 2006 Fingal County Council Arts office advertised nationally and internationally for artists to submit their interest in becoming part of a Public Art Panel for Fingal.

Using funding from the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Governments Per Cent for Art Scheme, the council was in a position to commission new work which would represent Fingal’s rich heritage, landscape, society and culture. Visual artist Dan Dubowitz (UK) & choregrapher Fearghus Ó Conchúir (IRL) were selected and began the process with extensive site visits in the county.It was clear that they were both particularly taken with the Martello towers and began to research their history, their use and their owners, filming each of these unique buildings from a rooftop perspective. A fitting creative partnership was formed between these artists that has resulted in the first visual art and dance collaboration to occur in this way in Ireland. To create this piece a camera was placed at the tower’s former cannon point and moves slowly on a motorised tripod to take in twelve revolutions of movement and landscape, to correspond with the presence of the twelve towers. Fearghus intercepts the filming with movement capturing the character and feeling of each place. Fingal’s landscape is beautifully represented in these films through the choreography and the inclusion of a variety of Fingal’s local characters. Joe from the Howth Radio Museum Martello Tower demonstrates morse code, Dorothy from Rush recalls her fond memories from her days living in a tower, and in other towers children play.

For this exhibition the Martello towers are symbolically united in Fingal. Ó Conchúir and Dubowitz have approached the towers as a family that has drifted apart but are temporarily reunited in this work.The work generated great interest in the media with coverage on the RTE Six One News, a feature on TG4’s Imeall, Irish Times and Herald Features.The project was close to hearts of the Skerries people,many of which volunteered to mediate the tower at weekends during its summer run.Over the weekends stories of the tower emerged, visitors pinned old images of the tower and wrote suggestions on the wall as to what might be next for the building. The last day of the project ended with a heritage event with an historical talk on the towers,a personal account of the project by Fearghus and visit from Senator Fergal Quinn whose father owned the Red Island Holiday Park and spent summers himself in the tower.As for the future of the building Fingal County Council have been approached by DIT to discuss the possibility of using the tower as a live project for students on issues of conservation architecture, quantity surveying, the aim being that they could research and cost a potential renovation.

Watch the video