A celebration in stone and cement

The Times We Lived In – Published: December 19th, 1988. Photograph by Eddie Kelly

 

Brave, or what? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t fancy climbing up on that slab of concrete, let alone raising my arms into the wind like that. Just in case.

This iconic image was taken at the opening of Michael Bulfin’s artwork, A Walk Among Stone, at the Dublin Millennium Sculpture Symposium in 1988.

The piece, described by one commentator as “a formidable arrangement of imposing monolithic slabs sited close to the monolithic slabs of Ballymun’s tower blocks”, consisted of a lengthy path of alternating blocks of stone and concrete which made a silent but eloquent comment on the scale and geometric severity of Ballymun’s architectural horizons.

It’s gone now. As are the seven towers, built in the 1960s and demolished within half a century. The last one went in the autumn of 2015.

We usually think of stone as lasting forever, so it’s strange to think of this artwork – more of an installation, perhaps, than a sculpture – as simply having been chucked out.

No doubt the boulders were recycled and used elsewhere: not so, I suspect, the large slabs of concrete. We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with concrete in Ireland. As a child, I can recall my father’s dire warnings as to the catastrophes which would befall us if we sat on concrete steps without putting a rug down first.

Perhaps the placing of these slabs were meant to signal a new artistic appreciation of this implacable-yet-crumbly material? If so, it never really happened: and the jury is still out as to concrete’s long-term environmental footprint.

If you want to see more work by Michael Bulfin, check out his Sky Train at Lough Bora Parklands. It’s not concrete, but it is magical.

Meanwhile, who is this girl – and how did she get up on that gargantuan slab? We don’t know. But she is, and in this photograph will always remain, the picture of absolute joy.

Arminta Wallace

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.

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