Bog standard: Modernity in the Space of an Irish Wasteland

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    In 2000, Ireland’s entry to the Venice International Biennale of Architecture was a small, labyrinthine pavilion made from bales of peat briquettes. Designed by the architect Tom de Paor, the pavilion embodied an ongoing and enduring fascination with the material culture of the Irish bog. This concern, which straddles the twentieth century, counts among its antecedents figures as diverse as the Irish pedagogue and freedom-fighter Padraig Pearse and the German artist Joseph Beuys. The collective interest in the bog, however, stems not from its natural beauty but rather its productive qualities and the apparent paradox of a landscape and its products that seem at once to be machined and mythical, ancient and avant-garde. In fact, as Ireland adopted nascent forms of capitalism and industrialisation throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the bog remained an undeveloped, obsolete landscape on the periphery of a colonial imagination more concerned with the potential of arable lands or the romantic sceneries of the west. Its re-alignment to become Ireland’s most pervasive site of industrialisation coincided with a post-independence period of physical and cultural nation building. Thus, this vast section of hitherto leftover Irish space became subject to the accelerated processes of production and mechanisation that begin to define modernity. And with this came further paradox, contradiction and inevitable human, material and cultural obsolescence.

    This paper explores the debris of the industrialised bog, arguing that amongst the ruins of machinery and architecture, altered landscapes and abandoned settlements, one can discern fragments of ideologies that challenged the limits of a nationalist project to claim – as de Paor and Beuys have perhaps also claimed – the Irish bog as an internationalised landscape.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCrossing Borders
    Subtitle of host publicationSpace Beyond Disciplines
    EditorsKathleen James-Chakraborty, Sabine Strümper-Krobb
    Place of PublicationOxford
    PublisherPeter Lang
    Pages133-148
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-0353-0130-4
    ISBN (Print)978-3-0343-0192-3
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

      Research areas

    • technology, culture, Nationalism, industrialisation, space, Karl Marx, Padraig Pearse, Joseph Beuys, turf, briquettes, power station, Ireland

    ID: 4419308