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Cork as canvas: exploring intersections of citizenship and collective memory in the Shandon Big Wash Up murals



Urban space has the potential to shape people's experience and understanding of the city and of the culture of a place. In some respects, murals and allied forms of wall art occupy the intersection of street art and public art; engaging, and sometimes, transforming the urban space in which they exist and those who use it. While murals are often conceived as a more ‘permanent’ form of painted art there has been a trend in recent years towards more deliberately transient forms of wall art such as washed-wall murals and reverse graffiti. These varying forms of public wall art are embedded within the fabric of the urban space and history. This paper will explore the intersection of public space, public art and public memory in a mural project in the Irish city of Cork. Focussing on the washed-wall murals of Cork's historic Shandon district, we explore the sympathetic and synergetic relationship of this wall art with the heritage architecture of the built environment and of the murals as an expression of and for the local community, past and present. Through the Shandon Big Wash Up murals we reflect on the function of participatory public art as an explicit act of urban citizenship which works to support community-led re-enchantment in the city through a reconnection with its past.
Cork as canvas: Exploring intersections of citizenship and collective memory in the Shandon
Big Wash Up murals
Deanna Grant-Smith
School of Management,
QUT Business School,
Queensland University of Technology,
2 George Street,
GPO Box 2434,
Brisbane, Queensland 4001,
Tony Matthews *
Property and Planning Discipline,
School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment,
Queensland University of Technology,
2 George Street,
GPO Box 2434,
Brisbane, Queensland 4001,
* Corresponding Author - email:
Urban space has the potential to shapes people’s experience and understanding of the city and of the
culture of a place. In some respects, murals and allied forms of wall art occupy the intersection of
street art and public art; engaging, and sometimes, transforming the urban space in which they exist
and those who use it. While murals are often conceived as a more ‘permanent’ form of painted art
there has been a trend in recent years toward more deliberately transient forms of wall art such as
washed-wall murals and reverse graffiti. These varying forms of public wall art are embedded within
the fabric of the urban space and history. In this paper will explore the intersection of public space,
public art and public memory in a mural project in the Irish city of Cork. Focussing on the washed-
wall murals of Cork’s historic Shandon district we explore the sympathetic and synergetic relationship
of this wall art with the heritage architecture of the built environment and of the murals as an
expression of and for the local community, past and present. Through the Shandon Big Wash Up
murals we reflect on the function of participatory public art as an explicit act of urban citizenship
which works to support community-led re-enchantment in the city through a reconnection with its
Public art can take three main forms: gallery art outside in which objects are placed in a
land/urbanscape where there is no prior relationship between the piece and its location; where an
object responds to its location in some way and becomes indivisible from its location; and public art
which provides critical commentary (Mossop, 2001, p. 21-22). In many respects murals as a form of
public art simultaneously reflect all three characteristics. Despite, or perhaps as a result of, their
contribution to a sense of community and focus on changing relations with public space the creation
(or destruction) of a mural can be an intensely political activity. There has been a great deal of
scholarship and commentary on the politically-oriented painted murals of Northern Ireland which
have figured as a prominent feature of the visual environment since the early twentieth century
(Rolston, 2012). Collectively emblematic of the segregated and polarised working class areas of
Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland (McCormick and Jarman, 2005) these murals have become
internationally recognised as exemplars of political wall art and have themselves been recast as a
tourist attraction (Hill and White, 2012). By comparison to the Northern Irish murals, relatively little
has been written about the contemporary or historic murals of the Republic of Ireland.
Murals can be a tool for space revitalization and inviting artists to work with the local
community to create works in previously neglected, abandoned or overlooked spaces can reactivate
and transform both communities and places. While murals are often conceived as a more ‘permanent’
form of painted art, there has been a trend in recent years toward more deliberately transient forms of
wall art such as washed-wall murals and reverse graffiti. These varying forms of public wall art are
embedded within the fabric of the urban space they occupy and can contribute to the creation and re-
creation of urban memories. In this paper we explore the intersection of public space, public art and
public memory in a mural project in the Irish city of Cork.
Focussing on the washed-wall murals of Cork’s historic Shandon district we explore the
sympathetic and synergetic relationship of this wall art with the heritage architecture of Shandon’s
built environment and social and economic history. We also consider the citizenship processes at play
in the production and consumption of the murals as an expression of and for the local community,
past and present. Through these murals we reflect on the functions of participatory public art as both
‘subtle inscriptions in the cityscape’ (Sharp, Pollock and Paddison, 2005, p. 1008) and an explicit act
of urban citizenship which works to support a ‘re-enchantment in the city’ (Mossop and Walton,
2001, p. 9) through a reconnection with its past.
Public art performs a range of social, community and economic development functions (McCormick
and Jarman, 2005; Grodach, 2009) and has the capacity to enhance or personalise public space and
provide a vehicle for a community to express its identity and engage in civic dialogue. Public art,
particularly through murals which focus on local themes, also has the ability to engender a sense of
pride and community identity by contributing to cultural heritage and responding to local issues
(Becker, 2004) and emphasising local uniqueness. Public art like murals can visually identify and
define a community (Remesar, 2005, p. 7) and contribute to the creation of a sense of place that
distinguishes a community from neighbouring streets and from comparable locations in other towns
(McCormick and Jarman, 2005). Public art of this kind can also contribute to the revitalisation of an
urban area and assisting in the stimulation of local economies and local economic regeneration and
revitalisation through tourism and increased local investment (Becker, 2004; Grodach, 2009;
Remesar, 2005). Public art can also help to manage public space and improve the existing urban
visual landscape (Remesar, 2005, p. 78); murals for instance can reduce the proportional amount on
new unsanctioned ‘graffiti’ (Craw et al, 2006). This process is not uncontested and shows the ways
that public art can also establish unintended exclusionary boundaries (O’Callaghan and Linehan,
2007, p. 313) by defining who and what kinds of artistic expression do and do not belong in a given
urban space (Schacter, 2008).
Perhaps the most important social functions of community-level cultural activities and public
art like murals can be the re-establishment of community connection and interest in a given public
space, or ‘common ground where people carry out the functional activities and rituals that bind a
community, whether it is in the normal daily routine or the periodic festivities’ (Carr, Francis and
Rivlin, 1993, p. ix). This may be enhanced by the fact that murals often exist at a human scale, at least
in terms of connectivity, and have an inherent and tangible connection to their site. Public art and the
process through which it is produced is able to create a sense of inclusion and generate a sense of
ownership which has the potential to forge new connections ‘between citizens, city spaces and their
meaning as places through which subjectivity is constructed’ (Sharp, Pollock and Paddison, 2005, p.
1003). As a result of this connection with place, Pearson (2006, p. 120) notes that creating a mural is
an act of generosity towards the built environment, as artists leave to posterity (or at least an extended
period) an addition to the architectural fabric and collective memory of a place. However, rather than
focussing on the painted murals to which Pearson refers, this paper considers the use of emerging wall
art techniques which, while temporary in nature, are no less significant in their ability to contribute to
community and connection with place.
Temporary murals include reverse graffiti and washed-wall murals which involve the creation
of temporary art by deliberately removing dirt from a surface and leaving a clean trace behind
(Truman, 2010, p. 8). Sometimes called artistic power washing, this process can involve the removal
of existing and naturally accumulating urban dirt or may employ the application of a background
screed onto a wall surface before a stencil is placed over it and power-washed to reveal images. This
washed-wall technique was used to create the Big Wash Up murals in the Shandon district of Cork
city, Ireland in 2009 which form the subject of this paper. Most murals represent or reflect the
community in which they are situated (Becker 2004). As such, they are closely tied to their
community and surrounding society. The following discussion contextualises the creation and
consumption of the Big Wash Up murals within their local and historical context before critically
considering the project through the lens of urban and cultural citizenship.
Shandon is an inner-city district of Cork, Ireland’s second largest city. Shandon is one of Cork’s most
historic and culturally significant districts. Shandon’s architectural form includes a mix of buildings
from the eighteenth to twenty-first centuries and boasts an eclectic mix of Georgian, medieval,
Victorian and more modern architecture. Shandon boasts a number of keynote buildings which are
integrated into the streetscape and architectural form of the area including: St. Anne’s Church which
features a clock-tower that dominates the skyline of Cork; the Firkin Crane with its distinctive circular
shape; and the Shandon Craft Centre, housed in the former Butter Exchange building, which boasts an
impressive entryway framed by four imposing Doric columns (figure 1).
Insert figure 1 here
Shandon’s urban form is high density, but not high rise. It is built at the human scale. In
keeping with the area’s medieval origins the street pattern has remained largely unchanged since the
1600s and the principal thoroughfares have medieval origins. The district, once housing Cork’s
working class in its narrow lanes of small terraced houses, is now characterised by a mix of social and
affordable housing, sheltered accommodation, private rentals and private ownership. Despite its
heritage value, Shandon and the centre of Cork became rundown (O’Callaghan and Linehan, 2007)
from the 1970s onward, as a result of a number of factors. Principal amongst these was a lack of a
coherent planning framework which led to under-utilisation, under-appreciation and ultimately under-
investment in the area. In the absence of an effective planning and governance framework, calls for
sensitive development, investment and regeneration of the area which would preserve its architectural
character were often unsuccessful. This prompted a groundswell of activities directed by the local
community, including residents, traders and artists. This movement was keenly aware of the
importance of exploiting the area’s tourism and economic potential while conserving its local heritage
and architectural character (Cork Corporation, no date). Various groups, including the Shandon Area
Renewal Association, formed organically with the intention of reinvigorating the area through
volunteerism, active citizenry, art, design and better use of public space.
Irish local authorities attach significant importance to culture as a tool of development and it has
assumed a major role in Irish spatial planning (Bayliss, 2004). Investment in the arts in Cork aimed at
regenerating the Sharon area has included converting the former Butter Exchange to house the
Shandon Craft Centre, which provided subsidised workshops for small-scale craft enterprises, and the
redevelopment of the Firkin Crane as a performance venue. Cork is widely admired for its flourishing
arts life, which attracts both locals and tourists (Murray, 1995, p. 149) including a vibrant calendar of
annual festivals such as the Dragon of Shandon Samhain Parade, Cork International Film Festival and
the Cork Jazz Festival among others.
There is a sense of civic pride in the cultural achievements of artists and art-workers from
Cork, and a strong interest in experiencing and showcasing the artistic and cultural achievements of
international artists (Murray, 1995, p. 161). This was reflected in Cork’s selection as the 2005
European Capital of Culture (Binns, 2005). However, some Cork residents felt that the program
privileged ‘high’ art rather than the kinds of cultural activities that they valued. In response, a number
of activities were developed by local artists’ collectives to support the official program in either a
formal capacity or as supporting, fringe and underground projects. This can be seen as part of a
broader attempt by some citizens ‘to asset their “right” to have an input in how the[ir] city is both
shaped and imagined’ (O’Callaghan and Linehan, 2007, p. 322). In some respects this work was a
natural extension of the community-led regeneration work undertaken in Shandon from the early-
2000s which reflected the need to make the city appealing to its own inhabitants as well as tourists
(Murray, 1995, p. 161).
Cork Community Art Link (CCAL) is one of the city’s most prominent not-for-profit community art
organisations. Based in Shandon, CCAL undertakes creative arts projects in partnership with
community and youth groups to create processes, interventions and art works in the local area.
Prioritising working with groups who are disadvantaged or socially marginalised in their access to the
arts and in their participation in making local and national culture, CCAL advocates access to the arts
as both spectator and participant as a fundamental right that should be universally available.
CCAL inaugurated its annual What if... public art initiative in 2005 as part of Cork’s
European Capital of Culture program. Utilising a partnership model to engage communities the What
if... program was designed to develop outdoor art works and activities which challenge the dynamics
of public spaces and places (CCAL, What if, no date). The 2009 program was called the Big Wash Up
and featured a series of temporary washed-wall murals showcasing Shandon’s community and
cultural history. The murals were launched on 27th June 2009 during the Shandon Street Festival. The
walls of the Firkin Crane and the Butter Exchange building hosted some of the more spectacular
murals (figure 2).
Insert figure 2 here
Community consultation is a vital element in ensuring that public art is ‘both for the people and by the
people’ (Remesar, 2005, p. 8). The recognition of a particular community and their association with a
specific place are integral to this process of validation and inclusion (Sharp, Pollock and Paddison,
2005, p. 1008). While French artist Philippe Chevrinais from Artitillerie joined CCAL for the Big
Wash Up project (Irish Street Art, 2009) it was also undertaken with the support and participation of a
large number of local organisations including St Mary’s Road Library, Northside Folklore Project,
and Shandon Youth Club.
Research for the Big Wash Up focused on gathering information relating to Shandon’s
cultural history from local people to bring stories and memories of the area back to life’ (The Firkin
Crane, no date). Focussing on the area’s cultural and economic history, the images were based on
information collected during a week of consultation workshops, called ‘memory collection clinics’,
held with the local community. The clinics were advertised locally through the library, residents
associations, youth clubs, public notices, and CCAL’s large local volunteer base. Interested
community members shared their experiences and memories of the area over a cup of tea. These
conversations and their impressions of historic local images were audio-recorded to provide a
reference source to inform the stencil design process.
Accounts of events and characters from Shandon’s contemporary cultural and folk history
included stories of shawlies (poor, older women in lace shawls who often ran street stalls), crubeens
(a traditional dish of pig’s feet), corner boys (unemployed and often unmarried young men who
congregated together for company and mischief) and the buttera (the Shandon Butter Exchange brass
band which has existed since 1878 and continues to attract membership of all ages from school
children to retirees). Through this consultative process, the collective memory of a community
inspired over fifty temporary images, each of which told a story of Shandon’s cultural past and
validated the history, lived experience and memories of the contributors.
CCAL also worked closely with children from local schools and youth centres and other
community volunteers to design, create, cut and apply the stencils that formed the subsequent murals
which were created using a temporary reverse graffiti technique. The technique involved applying a
temporary black screed onto the walls before power-washing a stencilled image to reveal a clearly
defined monotone image as shown in figure 3 (Hernandez, 2009). A video of this technique being
applied is available at Hernandez (2009).
The creation of public art, like these murals, can work to integrate the community with the
work of art by engaging people previously held at a distance from the artistic process to participate in
its creation. Miwon Kwon has observed that ‘sometimes this absorption of the community into the
artistic process and vice versa is rendered iconographically readable’ and can result in members of the
community being able to ‘see and recognise themselves in the work, not so much in the sense of being
critically implicated but of being affirmatively pictured or validated (Kwon, 2002, p. 95). This can
occur at a conceptual level where residents may see people like them or to which they positively
relate, or where they may even see themselves featured. This outcome was evidenced in the Big Wash
Up where stencils of the faces of youth volunteers were featured prominently in the murals on the
columns at the entrance to the Butter Exchange building. The young people’s names, in their own
hand-writing, were also included at the base of the columns (CCAL, Big Wash Up, no date).
Insert figure 3 here
Public art can help to create space in which people can identify themselves by creating opportunities
to reflect on the use of public spaces and how this can affect behaviour or actions within them (Sharp,
Pollock and Paddison, 2005, p. 1004). Weber (2003, p. 7) has observed that murals in particular
‘assert moral claims to public space, claims concerning the history, identity, and possible future of the
surrounding area’. As such they can be used to foster social inclusion in the city and give ‘expression
to the multiple and shifting identities of different groups’ (Sharp, Pollock and Paddison, 2005, p.
1006). This process of identity formation can be understood as an active process of citizenship in
which identity and citizenship are co-constituting; citizenship guarantees an identity (Turner, 1993).
Citizenship can be understood as the set of political, economic, cultural and other practices
that define a person as a competent member of a society, and which consequently shapes the flow of
resources toward or away from them (Turner, 1993, p. 2). Public art offers communities a way to
participate in the planning, design and creation of communal space (Becker, 2004, p. 6). Artists are in
a unique position to support such transformative citizenship ideas through the opportunity ‘to
intervene, to interact with the contemporary community, to research and reveal the past in a subtle and
intuitive manner’ (Sharp, Pollock and Paddison, 1995, p. 1008).
The considerate provision of public art requires close collaboration between artists and
communities (Smith, 2005). Communities are made up of a variety of actors and groups, who often
represent different interests. Community murals, like other forms of public art, can assert moral
claims over public space and can speak to an area’s past, present and potentially future history and
identity (Weber, 2003). Public art can exert significant influence within communities and may provide
positive expressions that galvanise actors or negative expressions that may be contested. Harnessing
community involvement in the creation of public art can therefore be understood as a process of
activating citizenship.
As the Shandon memory collection clinics demonstrate, the participatory creation of public
art at the community level can also provide opportunities for socialisation and contact across different
sections of the community and encourage greater understanding between groups and increase social
cohesion (Bayliss, 2004, p. 502). Such a process is consistent with a transformative view of
citizenship. Participatory processes, artistic or otherwise, founded on these transformative ideals do
not ask participants to cast aside their individual identity and embrace a common and shared identity.
Such a process allows a wider variety of understandings and experiences to become a resource for
public deliberation and can provide the opportunity for all citizens to learn from each other (Cameron
and Grant-Smith, 2005). As such, the goal of participatory art of this nature is not to present or
promote a homogenised version of the community but rather to progress one which is sensitive to
reflecting and responding to the diverse lived-experiences of others.
Notwithstanding its potential citizenship benefits, public art provision can be a contested and complex
process. Common issues that are contested in the development of murals include conservation issues
and image selection processes (Becker, 2004, p. 9). Early proposals for the Shandon murals were
contested by some parties because the Firkin Crane and Butter Exchange building both have
significant heritage value for Shandon and the wider city of Cork. Some Shandon residents and the
Cork City Council were initially opposed to the walls of these buildings being used as a canvass for
the murals fearing that they could damage or negatively impact on the aesthetic heritage of the
buildings. CCAL were able to address these concerns because the murals were specifically designed
to be low impact and temporary, leaving no discernible trace of their existence once removed.
Paradoxically, some parties appeared to be far less concerned by existing graffiti on these buildings
than by proposals for temporary and sanctioned art.
The image selection process also encountered some early resistance. CCAL sought to engage
members of the Shandon community at an early stage in the development of the proposal and
presented a suite of preliminary sketch-ups for the murals to the Shandon Area Renewal Association.
These designs featured triskele symbols. These designs were rejected on the basis that Celtic
symbology was considered trite, over-used in Ireland and disconnected from Shandon’s cultural and
historical contexts. Although CCAL had presented these images only as an illustration of how the
murals might be placed they were misinterpreted by some residents as being indicative of the final
mural design. CCAL assured the concerned parties that the final design treatment for the murals
would speak to directly to Shandon’s history. As a result of these assurances and the comprehensive
consultation process undertaken the proposal to develop murals was actively supported once it
became widely known that the final murals would reflect scenes and characters uniquely associated
with the area.
The selection of an appropriate site for a public art project like a mural must take full consideration of
a number of factors. These include spatial considerations, issues of cultural attachment and identity,
and scale (Matossian, 2005). Like Somdahl-Sands’ (2008) analysis of Mission Wall Dancers
performance the Big Wash Up murals became a dialogue between the location of the murals (both
geographically and architecturally), the subject matter, and the experiences and memories of those
who participate in both the creation and consumption of the murals. The relevance of the murals did
not only arise only from their connection with Shandon’s rich architectural and cultural history, but
also from their engagement with the local community which contributed to a sense of civic identity or
citizenship at both a group and at the individual level (Somdahl-Sands, 2008, p. 329-330). Using the
power of collective memory combined with existing social narratives of the site the murals fostered a
sense of community and shared citizenship through a deliberate act of linking the past to the present.
It has been observed that graffiti artists take an active role in ‘producing and constructing
their lived-in surroundings’ and consciously attempt to ‘permeate their surroundings with their self-
identity and personhood…an attempt to embody themselves in the very fabric of the city’ (Schacter,
2008, p. 38). Indeed Schacter (2008, p. 50) suggests that this may be part of ‘an overt tactic to reclaim
parts of the city, to regain possession of the metropolis which they believe had been sequestered from
them by big business and private property’. Perhaps something similar is at play in the Big Wash Up
Murals, like graffiti, remind us that public art is political (McAuliffe, 2012). Graffiti and other
unsanctioned wall art are often destroyed by painting over it in a conscious act of ‘disappearance’
(McCormick and Jarman, 2005). For instance, at the same time that Shandon was celebrating its past
through the Big Wash Up murals, another mural commemorating a different aspect of Cork’s history
the 1920 hunger strike death of former a Lord Mayor of Cork, Terrence MacSwiney was being
‘disappeared’ by the Cork City Council (Indymedia Ireland, 2009). The Big Wash Up installation was
developed from the site and its history, accounting for and taking advantage of the existing urban
form. The murals can therefore be understood as site-specific art work focused on establishing “an
inextricable, indivisible relationship” between the art work and its location (Kwon 1997, p. 86). As
such, the Big Wash Up project took great care not to erase prior ‘art’ such as graffiti and the existing
graffiti could still be seen in place through the murals (Figure 4). This practice of assimilation of co-
existence has also recently been practiced by commissioned artists who incorporated existing tags into
murals immortalising great Irish writers on the walls of the Cork Opera House (English, 2013). Such a
practice is reflective of an understanding of the place of public art in urban space and place as
contributing to the palimpsest; not erasing the past but rather celebrating and building on. However,
an important feature of a palimpsest as a multi-layered artefact consisting of multiple (re)inscriptions
is that each layer both changes it while allowing it to stay the same.
Insert figure 4 here
Public art has the ability to simultaneously reclaim place while recognising the past. The process of
mural production and design in the Big Wash Up built on the wealth of community assets in the
Shandon area, most particularly the buildings and the people. Focussing on bygone people, practices
and interactions, the murals were purposefully designed to celebrate the area’s social and cultural past
by communicating and connecting it to the present. Shandon’s past is often viewed and discussed by
residents with fondness, as a place full of characters, community and activity. The value of the murals
was their ability to render this history visible and to validate previous lived experiences by
communicating these realities to a contemporary audience of residents and visitors. The murals
allowed Shandon’s built environment to become a display space in and of itself and to celebrate its
history and communicate rich details of its past to a contemporary audience through the process. They
temporarily became another layer of the area’s architectural fabric and re-inscribed historical people
and customs on the contemporary urban form. In doing so, the murals were responsible for
‘reinstating a presence in the landscape and recovering a lost history’ (Sharp, Pollock and Paddison,
2005, p. 1006). Moreover, the imagery of the murals was informed by a process of ‘memory
collection’, which relied principally but not exclusively on older members of the Shandon community,
whilst younger members of the community actively participated in their creation and installation. This
provided another inter-generational aspect of the project that complemented its other citizenship
The stencilled images of the Big Wash Up murals encouraged viewers to imagine the detail
and to further animate the portraits in their own minds. This process led to some unexpected
outcomes, notably in the case of the large-scale images that were stencilled onto the four columns at
the entrance to the Butter Exchange building. Some viewers reported being unsettled by these images
the first time they saw them at night. This was because the area’s low lighting caused some people to
momentarily interpret the images as looming phantoms, surveying the streetscape and guarding the
entrance to the Butter Exchange. This outcome, though unanticipated, provided another talking point
in respect of the murals and offered another layer of understanding and shared knowledge amongst the
community. Like Lippard’s observations on photographs, the murals in this context can be understood
as ‘ghosts or shadows’ (1997, p. 56) concerned with ‘memoryor perhaps about the absence of
memory, providing pictures to fill voids, illustrating our collective memory. So they are an excellent
means with which to trigger concern and soothe anxieties about history and place (p20). However,
this practice is contingent on commitment to the idea of community, for without it there is always the
danger that the murals will simply be ‘shadow texts’ which are overly simplistic and promote
misconception and myth (Simon and Eppert, 1997, p. 184). Walter Benjamin is often noted for his
related observation that, ‘There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present
one…we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim,
that claim cannot be settled cheaply’ (1999, p. 245–246). Through Benjamin and Lippard we can thus
recognise that although cities are constant sites of change and that the contemporary is inevitably
overlaid onto the past, if the contemporary city and its citizens fail to pay sufficient and appropriate
tribute to its heritage, and we ignore the concept of community, it will come back to haunt us (Chin
in Lippard, 1997, p. 94).
Notions of community can be first and foremost honoured by including the community in
decisions about the public art which is placed in and on it. Community-based and site-specific public
art requires a relationship between the artist, artistic institutions, the community and the local site
which is based on an understanding of the history of the area and the constituency of the art audience,
the social relevance of the project, and the input of multiple stakeholders who ‘end up collaborating
with the artist to produce the work’, thus the project ‘in the end will have engaged the site in a
multitude of ways and the documentation of the project will take on another life within the art world’s
publicity circuit’ (Kwon, 1997, p. 100101). Indeed the project website is replete with images of
volunteers, young and old, cutting, creating, power-washing and posing by the murals (CCAL, Big
Wash Up, no date).
The Big Wash Up murals involved the initiation of social dialogue and the participation of a
community in depicting valued aspects of their culture. The project was intended to be temporary;
designed to last for only one summer before being removed. However, the life-span of the murals
turned out to be longer than originally intended and they were left in-situ for more than three years.
The Shandon murals were ultimately allowed to fade away instead of being consciously and
deliberately removed from public view. In this regard, the subtlety of their existence and eventual
disappearance was analogous to the memoriesand, indeed, peoplethey represented. They were
ephemeral but vital, temporary but lasting, individual but common, negatives of the ghosts of
Shandon’s streets. They served their purpose by addressing an audience, reclaiming place and
reproducing culture before fading away. In this regard, the life-cycle of the murals may be understood
as reflective of their content and aspirations and their unique presence and departure may be seen as
another vital layer in the unfolding Shandon story.
The Big Wash Up can be also understood as a small part of an ongoing effort of community
artistic endeavour within Cork which continues to this day with continued high levels of community
and volunteer support. A recent expression of this community engagement in the production of
relevant and site-specific art can be seen in the Voices from Shandon project which involved more
than a thousand community volunteers and children designing and producing flags which were used
as part of a temporary public art installation on the iconic St Anne’s Church in June 2013. This
textile-based project allowed participants to create their own visual voice through a creative
exploration of flag making, symbolism and community’ (CCAL, Voices from Shandon, no date).
These projects, alone and as a collective, are not exclusively concerned with the history of the place
but rather with its ‘historical narrative as it is written in the landscape or place by the people who live
or lived there’ (Lippard 1997, p. 7).
Cities are sites and places of change. As Barnes (2005, no page) notes ‘the inhabitants, their lives and
their territorial markings are temporary [and] the city is being continually rewrittenlike a
palimpsest—layer upon layer, never quite wiping the slate clean’. However, while the Big Wash Up
murals principally depicted everyday scenes and characters from the past, they also spoke clearly to
the present and a collective appreciation among the contemporary citizenry that Shandon’s history is
central to its present urban incarnation. The murals are an artistic expression of the human dimensions
of the city and the fragile and tenuous place and temporary space that individuals hold within it.
Further they are an expression of the city as ‘a layered location replete with human histories and
memories, place has width as well as depth. It is about connections, what surrounds it, what formed it,
what happened there, what will happen there’ (Lippard 1997, p. 7).
Emphasising the role that urban form can provide as a connection to the city and its citizens
present and past the murals both reflected and created memories. The murals created art in public
places and spaces that while not part of traditional art space within the city, could contribute to
fashioning a connection between people’s lives (past and present) and the urban spaces they inhabit.
In this way the murals functioned as an ‘enrichment of urban design through…familiarity and
memory in perceptions and experiences of the city’ (Mossop and Walton, 2001, p. 9). While the
murals may be seen by some as being perhaps trite or playing too much to the nostalgia of older
residents, this resurrection of the past could equally be understood as reflecting Lippard’s (2000, p.
164) rehabilitation of nostalgia as a seamless and positive part of life in the city. Similarly the
murals can be understood as a ‘welcome reprieve in the flow of everyday urban life (Kwon 2002, p.
65) in which values like authenticity are reworked through site-specific community art to reinforce ‘a
coherent sense of historical and personal identity’ (Kwon, 1997, p. 104) and an unearthing of
repressed histories…and the re(dis)covery of minor places so far ignored by the dominant culture’
(Kwon, 1997, p. 105).
Locally-driven site-specific arts projects can contribute to community empowerment as
planning, executing and enjoying such activities can counteract the exclusion of local residents from
local urban decision-making process and can strengthen community institutions and volunteer groups
(Bayliss, 2004, p. 502). The Big Wash Up provided participants with a licence to inscribe themselves
and their history on the walls of their local community and to make their mark on the urban landscape.
As a mural-filled space the walls both have memory and create memory, however, due to their
temporary nature the Big Wash Up murals escaped the fate of obliteration by simply fading away. In
many respects the murals can be understood as social history embedded in urban form and expressed
through public art, however, the temporary nature of the washed-wall murals remind us of the
temporary place that we too hold within the city.
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... Human beings are social creatures and the balance between the public and the private life appears to contribute to a healthy psychological and physical life. Public life provides opportunities for engagement and social contact [4]. Currently, public space as space for public life has become a rare place in urban kampung. ...
... Along with the advance of technology, mural making can also be developed not only by using paint but also by using printed wallpaper.Today, the presence of mural could also have side-effect. In physical context, several studies have proven that placement of mural art in the wall will decrease vandalism such as graffiti attack [4][6] [7]. In non-physical context, its presence could be used as space revitalization tool -mural that is presented in aneglected space could re-activate the places and its community [4]. ...
... In physical context, several studies have proven that placement of mural art in the wall will decrease vandalism such as graffiti attack [4][6] [7]. In non-physical context, its presence could be used as space revitalization tool -mural that is presented in aneglected space could re-activate the places and its community [4]. If the mural is created based on local issue or theme, it will be worked as communal self-expression that could shape the sense of pride and sense of ownership for the community in which its present [4]. ...
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The lack of public space is one of the main problems in the big cities in Indonesia. Urban kampungas part of the city is also no exception. Rapid growth on population sparks uncontrollable physical development that erode open space inside urbankampung. Sometimes, what is left is just neglected space which don‟t "live‟ and far from the definition of public space. Mural art has been existed since the beginning of human civilization. Now, it has evolved into one of the popular urban art. The previous research has proven that the process of urban art making through participatory approach could trigger community interaction in a space. Interaction itself is a main factor that may trigger the establishmentof a public space. With the same method, this research attempts to build mural in a neglected space inside urbankampung named Palsigunung. After all of the process done, the space still haven‟t changed from the previous condition, which is still a neglected space. Together with facilitator, kampung‟s residents need to be involved identifying the problem and also the solution to the lack of public space in their kampung. Particularly for urban kampungPalsigunung, the needed solution might not be mural.
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The research study investigates the social and political dimension of contemporary street art production in the deeply divided cities of Beirut and Belfast. Specifically, it examines how historical experiences with the ethnonational and the neoliberal urbanisation of space constitute and maintain the perceptions and motivations of street artists to engage with everyday life. While more is understood on the neoliberal urban and ethnonational impact of social realities on the social perceptions within the milieu of divided cities, much less is understood about the impact of new social realities about the social perceptions of street art communities. The research design for the project compared the urban and social phenomenon of street art in the post-conflict cities of Beirut and Belfast, over a four-month, blended case study and focused ethnography. The researcher conducted twenty-two semi-structured interviews with eighteen street artists, three festival organisers and one city management official, and observed participants while volunteering at two street art festivals in Belfast. By shedding light on some of their artistic practices, the findings reveal that street art communities engage in small- ‘p’ political acts. They re-purpose taken-for-granted spaces within the city to demonstrate how street artists adjust their practices to reveal pragmatic and rule-based forms of placemaking to avoid jarring with sectarian identities while bringing attention to the democratic, transient and transformative nature of their practices. While they do not have an impact on the nature of space, their interactions could remark on the possibilities for the co-production of space. Moreover, they intend to awaken the slumber of urban dwellers with the visceral enjoyment and experiences of creating and producing street art for the inhabitants of the space. While small, their artistic interventions gift the inhabitants of Beirut and Belfast with ephemeral and gratuitous forms of interactions which present an opportunity, however temporary, for different social worlds to meet.
Public art is internationally used as a place-making device to drive urban regeneration and boost social capital. Benefits include enhanced urban environments, increased resident and tourist footfall and improved local economies This paper examines public art provision in three regional cities in Australia: Townsville, Gold Coast and Toowoomba. Each city leverages public art for placemaking and renewal, seeking to deliver thriving and creative urban precincts with strong community identity. This paper investigates how planning approaches to managing public art vary across the cities and how effective they are in delivering artworks. Theoretical contributions focus on the intrinsic and instrumental values of public art for urban communities. Empirical findings derive from policy reviews, spatial audits and semi-structured interviews with art producers - elected officials and industry professionals. Findings from Townsville, Gold Coast and Toowoomba reflect international experiences, where public art projects improve spaces and remediate a range of disorderly urban conditions. This paper contributes to international literature on the planning and provision of public artworks as a form of creative placemaking and urban renewal. Its focus on regional, marginal cities is novel, considering the preponderance of international research focused on major cities and their metropolitan surrounds.
Public art’s accessibility to a broad audience and its potential to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds have granted it a unique power to make strong, enduring impacts on cities, places and people’s lives. The impacts warrant a systematic review and categorization, the results of which will provide insights that contribute to justifying the integral place of public art in society. As no such systematic review has previously been carried out, this article seeks to provide a qualitative synthesis of original articles selected from four major databases of international journals using a combination of keyword searches and filtering procedures. The 839 articles retrieved from the initial searches were screened by title and abstract. The remaining 132 articles were read in full, with 50 studies eventually being selected for analysis and synthesis. The public art impacts identified were organized into eight categories, in terms of placemaking, society, culture, economy, sustainability, wellbeing, wisdom and innovation. Implications were then drawn with respect to future research on the impacts and evaluation of public art.
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Citizen participation is enshrined in the Norwegian Planning and building Act, and was accentuated in the 2008-revision. In this article we ask if the research on participation in municipal planning enables conclusions of whether the Act works with regard to the spirit and the letter of the law. A guiding framework for the analysis is based on the concepts of input- and output-legitimacy, and of the distinction between “tidy” and “untidy” participation. The analysis is based on scientific publications published after the 2008-revision of the PBA. We find that the bulk of the research concentrate on zoning plans, and on municipality-initiated, “tidy” participation. This leaves spaces uncovered by research, both with regard to the planning context and with regard to the interconnectedness of different forms of participation., and tThe reviewed research is therefore only partially fit to inform the law makers on the functioning of the Act.
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Murals in villages revitalize communities and spaces, and are economically efficient. Central and local governments are therefore actively undertaking Mural Village Projects but there are some issues and concerns about the projects for the provision of uniformed landscapes for the regions that are the result of a short-term completion of projects, and instead of cohesion, cause destruction of place identities. In addition, the problem of sustainable landscape management that is the result of low community involvement can be pointed out because the murals are products of government-led projects. The study covered the context of landscape and space change processes from a critical perspective, and focused on Ihwa-dong Mural Village, which is considered the first mural village in Korea and has begun to undergo drastic changes due to attention received from media. The purposes of this study are as follows. First, the study provides data about difference of place identity perception and landscape preference between residents and tourists in Ihwa-dong Mural Village. Second, this paper evaluates the current Mural Village Projects and finds alternative directions to improve the projects by using these data. This paper analyzed tourist hot spots in Ihwa-dong Mural Village by using SNS analysis, a field study and focus group interviews. The difference of place identity perception and landscape preference was examined among three groups: residents, new residents who are invited by Mural Village Projects, and tourists. This study showed that many tourists are focused on landscape areas that were not intentionally constructed projects. In addition, the locations of preferred landscapes and stores overlapped. Meanwhile, using qualitative data analysis, it was found that residents perceived the area as being an under-privileged location, while the murals, a non-daily landscape, largely affected place identity perception of new residents and tourists. For landscape preference, tourists preferred outdoor rest areas, while new residents and residents preferred less. Additionally, new residents and tourists preferred an area`s night view while residents made no mention of this. Related to the direction of the projects, three groups showed their dependence on the government. This empirical study is significant from a participatory design perspective and in analyzing the issues for mural villages` landscapes, which are spreading across the nation and proceeding without criticism in urban regeneration. Implications for urban planners and suggestions for the future projects are given.
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Urban Regeneration. A challenge for Public Art, supposed the start of a trend of critical thought related to the topics of Public Art, Urban Regeneration and Urban Design. This trend agglutinated around the Public Art Observatory that, still today, develops its activities. The book gathers a series of critical proposals organized in the chapters " Art and Design in/for Public Space ", " Forms and Representations of Public Art/Public Space. The Producer/User Dilemma " and " Public Art / Cities in Competition: Strategies, Bridges and Gateways ", with the participation of, among others, Sergi Valera, Ray Smith, Martí Peran, Ian Rawlinson, Chaké Matosian, Enric Pol, J. Hyatt, J. Gingell or T. Bovaird.
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In cities such as Sydney, a succession of wars on graffiti has produced a moral geography of artistic practice. At the same time, the rise to prominence of creative cities discourses and the subsequent revaluation of creativity as a postindustrial salve unsettles the dominance of the normative criminalization of graffiti. The profusion of cultural plans and public art policies, along with metropolitan initiatives promoting the creative city, provide opportunities to resignify graffiti as productive creative practice. Set in a discursive world of murals, street art, and “legal graffiti,” some graffiti writers are grasping these opportunities, deploying multiple subjectivities in order to negotiate the moral geographies of the creative city. This article looks at contemporary state responses to graffiti in Sydney and the ways graffiti writers and street artists work within and beyond the various attempts to capture, enclose, and engage graffiti and graffiti writers.
It is often assumed that history becomes meaningful when seen through the lens of personal experience. We examine the ethical obligations in witnessing testimony that conveys aspects of a traumatic "lived past." We discuss two different modes of attending to testimony and illustrate the tensions between them in reference to testimony about the Nazi genocide of European Jewry. We consider the possibilities for nurturing and supporting an ethical practice of witnessing in the context of informal and school-based communities of memory, and develop a principled basis for retelling or passing on what has been heard. This work is informed by our extended study of forms of commemoration that enable the remembrance of genocide, colonialism, and slavery in a way that traces and supports the potential transformation of the social grammar of violence inherent in such realities. /// On suppose souvent que l'histoire prend un sens lorsqu'elle est perçue à travers l'expérience personnelle. Les auteurs analysent les obligations éthiques des personnes qui recueillent des témoignages au sujet de traumatismes vécus dans le passé. Ils discutent de deux façons de recueillir ces témoignages et illustrent les tensions entre ces méthodes dans le cas de témoignages portant sur le génocide des Juifs par les Nazis. Les auteurs se penchent sur la possibilité de favoriser le recours à une méthode éthique de recueil de témoignages dans des contextes informels ou des groupes scolaires et élaborent des principes pour redire et transmettre ce qui a été dit. Cette recherche repose sur l'étude exhaustive qu'ont effectuée les auteurs sur les formes de commémoration qui permettent le rappel des génocides, du colonialisme et de l'esclavage d'une manière qui retrace et favorise la transformation potentielle de la grammaire sociale de la violence inhérente à ce genre de réalités.
This article focuses on the long history of mural painting in Northern Ireland and specifically on the changing relationship between mural painting and the state in various eras. Originally unionist murals were state-friendly, painted as part of the annual celebration of King William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Later, murals were seen as beyond the pale, each for their own reasons; republican murals supported the armed struggle of the IRA against the state, while loyalist murals glorified the campaign of the loyalist paramilitary groups to terrorise the nationalist population. As the peace process took hold in Northern Ireland, republicans began to transform their own images; loyalists found this task more problematic, leading the state to intervene to fund the re-imaging of murals, thereby seeking to remove all offensive and military iconography. The article ends by critically assessing the outcome of the state’s Re-imaging Communities Programme.
Murals have figured as a prominent feature of the visual environment of Northern Ireland since the early twentieth century, developing, during the Troubles, into one of the best-known examples of political art in the world. This article examines the position occupied by these murals in the period (since 1994) of the peace process. It focuses on the multi-government-agency Re-imaging Communities programme (launched in 2006) and its attempt to intervene in the visual environment and steer the Northern Ireland muralscape away from expressions of sectarianism towards more ‘positive’ themes. The aims and achievements of this programme (to date) are assessed, along with the issues the programme and related initiatives raise with regard to the governance of the visual environment. The article moves on to examine a further means by which murals have been repositioned in the period since 1994 – the attempt to present them as tourist attractions – and closes by discussing the issues raised for remembering the Troubles by these interventions in and attempts to reconfigure Northern Ireland's murals.
This article focuses on what happens when mural paintings in Northern Ireland come to the end of their effective lifespan. It begins from a perspective of mural painting as a socially constructed artefact, which is involved in dynamic interaction with the local environment. But while most work on this subject area has focused on the reasons why paintings are created in the first place and/or on the meanings of their symbolic content, the article analyses what happens when the murals are no longer of any social interest and explores a number of reasons for their transformation, removal and disappearance. It defines a framework of seven categories: retirement, redundancy, recycling, redevelopment, reclamation, remonstration and restoration that can be used to explore how and why mural paintings that have reached the end of their life are removed or replaced.
In the following study, I will be investigating the distinct Iconoclash made manifest on our city streets, exploring the various discourses and themes raised through the clash over graffiti. Conducting an analytic account of this conflict, it will be suggested that the images possess both a potent and multifaceted form of agency and are physically embodied by their patients; it will equally be implied that their efficacy is advanced through the explicitly performative nature of the graffiti act, the images' evident ephemerality and the specific character of their medium. Subsequently, through an investigation into the discourses of dirt and deceptiveness, the various rationales assumed for the images reviled nature will be discussed, and finally, utilising notions of appropriation and dètournement, the particular nature of the graffiti-artists engagement with their environment will be examined. In concluding, the evident similarities between both graffiti-artists and graffiti-removers will be analyzed, and a personal account of the interaction with the images encountered will be attempted.
This study investigated whether the use of a colorful mural as a passive thematic prompt could significantly reduce new graffiti attacks in an area prone to graffiti. A control design with a preceding baseline tested this hypothesis. It was predicted that the mural would reduce the proportional amount of new graffiti that appeared on the mural area compared with a blank area. Acolorful muralwas painted on the section of a wall that had attracted the most graffiti during baseline. Data consisting of numbers of instances of new graffiti were recorded by two observers. Eight new graffiti attacks were recorded on the newly cleaned area with the mural after weeks (vs. 14 attacks in the fortnight of baseline). The main control section of wall was subject to significantly higher levels of graffiti during intervention than the mural section.