Although the quality of the photo is not the best, I love the story behind this skeleton. I found him scrawled on an abandoned building in the Ballymun section of Dublin. What was I doing scrounging around condemned property? Well, to be fair, it was not yet condemned when I set foot in it. While working for an Irish music magazine (shout out to Hot Press and their amazing staff!), I wrote a piece on a hotel in the top floor of an old housing project. Below is an excerpt from my HP article:
"Until last March, the likelihood of a hotel opening its doors in Ballymun was about as likely as Ireland winning the Euro Cup. For years, the neighborhood's reputation for crime and drug problems preceded it, fostering a host of negative stereotypes. Built in the 1960s, the Ballymun flats housed low-income families, many of who were removed from inner city areas during a period of "urban slum clearances".
However, the area around the flats was not equipped with the amenities to properly serve the community. While the government spoke of schools, shops, and play areas, action did not match the rhetoric. Lack of basic services combined with high unemployment created one of Ireland's worst ghettos.
With little government assistance, the citizens of Ballymun took matters into their own hands. Starting in 1997, the Ballymun Regeneration Initiative set out to revive the local economy, improve housing conditions, and develop more community facilities. Then, in 2002, the group launched Breaking Ground, an organization committed to local art programs.
In 2006, Breaking Ground enlisted the help of Kilkenny artist Seamus Nolan. Nolan decided to look at the flats from a different perspective...Over a 10-month period, Nolan and his partner, Lisa Marie, and a team of local artists, worked together to prepare the Clarke Tower. A group of designers scoured the flats in search of abandoned objects to transform into furniture. With the exception of the beds, nearly everything in the hotel belonged to former tenants.
The result is truly remarkable. Each room is stripped down to the bare essentials: a bed, a chair, the occasional side table. Everything is renewed; old books are transformed into chair seats and an old VCR, fitted with legs and a top, is reincarnated as a table. In the garden room, sweet-smelling flowers are potted in old cupboards. Wall decoration is sparse save for the occasional painting found in the abandoned flats and patches of wallpaper still clinging to the old concrete." --Duffy, Meg. "How Suite It Is." Hot Press Magazine, 2 May 2oo7: 25.
The towers have since been imploded to make space for new construction, but I just loved this sketch. I think I like him because he embodied my feelings about the hotel at the time: artistic and beautiful but a little bit creepy. Artistic space and bright rooms above were in juxtaposition with the derelict flats below, giving the space an odd undertone. The crux of Nolan's project also represents why I love street art so much. By thinking of the space in a completely new way, he was able to attract a crowd who otherwise would never set foot in Ballymun. I'm glad I captured this sucker before he got away.