This video documents Uncommon Land’s 3rd photography flash mob in Hanover Quay, Dublin. It formed the final piece of the installation in Hack The City, an exhibition at Dublin’s Science Gallery.

The video piece was made using photographs and video footage taken by participants in the flash mob, which took place  on August 1st, 2012. Over a short period of 5 minutes, 38 people captured 780 photographs and 19 minutes of video.

For more about this flash mob, see http://uncommonland.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/hanover-quay-hijinx/

On a sunny Wednesday evening in August, 38 people gathered on Hanover Quay beside the Grand Canal basin in Dublin’s Docklands, equipped with their digital cameras, DSLRs and smart phones. Outside Facebook’s Irish headquarters they spent 5 minutes photographing at will, capturing 780 photos and 19 minutes of video footage.

This was Uncommon Land’s third photographic flash mob, an artistic intervention aimed at exposing the strange phenomenon of ‘private’ streets in Dublin where photography is restricted.

Hanover Quay is part of a larger area owned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), a State-created body that operates as a private company. Following reports that Facebook security staff had been stopping people from taking photographs on the street outside the building, we decided that this would be an ideal location for our next flash mob. The reason the Facebook staff have been giving for restricting photography is that the street is privately owned.

Flash mob participants played a game of ‘photo tag’ – this involved remembering and ‘tagging’ various different people on cue by photographing them. This turned out to be a more complicated than it first appeared! After 5 minutes, the flash mob dispersed and the normal flow of the area resumed.

Hanover Quay is more than 200 years old and has a rich history as part of a busy port. In the 1990s, it was handed over to the DDDA as part of their regeneration scheme for the area. Along with new offices, restaurants and apartments came the ubiquitous presence of high-vis jacketed security staff who enforce the economically-driven rules and ethos of the DDDA.

The photographs have bee geo-tagged and uploaded to Panaramio and Google Maps, creating a photo cluster of this tightly controlled area of the city. The video footage has been edited, creating a piece that documents the event. This video and the photographs form part of an installation at HACK THE CITY, an exhibition at Dublin’s Science Gallery, which runs until September 8th.

This video piece documents Uncommon Land’s recent photography flash mob in the IFSC area of Dublin. It forms part of Hack The City, an exhibition currently at Dublin’s Science Gallery.

The video piece was made using photographs and video footage taken by participants in the flash mob, which took place  on May 19th, 2012. More than 35 people took part, capturing 1,321 photographs and 53 minutes of video in defiance of the photography ban in this area.

For more about this flash mob, see http://uncommonland.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/photo-blitz-in-dublins-ifsc/

Uncommon Land contacted the Dublin Docklands Development Authority about their de facto ban on photography in the IFSC Dublin. After a series of emails, the company’s logic was revealed: individuals, in theory, are permitted to take photos in this area, as long as ‘you are not taking photos of private buildings’.

Considering that this is a built-up area in the city, it is nearly impossible not to take a photograph in this area without capturing a ‘private building’ in it. This restriction means that security guards routinely stop members of the public from taking photographs in this area.

Sent: Tuesday, 29 May 2012, 17:19:33

Dear Sir/Madam,

On several occasions recently, while taking photographs in the street in the IFSC/ Docklands area of Dublin, I have been approached by security staff who have instructed me to stop taking photographs. They have informed me that I need a permit to take photographs, on the basis that these streets are private property.

I would like to know what the justification for this rule is, bearing in mind that this area is completely accessible to the public – indeed many people live there – and is owned by a state agency, the DDDA.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Eilis Murphy

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Sent: Wednesday, 6 June 2012, 13:25:53

Hi Eilis,

Thank you for your email.

You are required to have a permit for commercial photography/photocall or filming, of course if you are taking pictures for yourself as a ‘tourist’ a permit is not required.

Kind regards,

Mette Boye Hansen

Marketing Executive

Dublin Docklands Development Authority

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Sent: Friday, 8 June 2012, 14:15:44

Hi Mette,

Thank you for your reply.

You say that a permit is required for commercial photography or filming.

Firstly, I have not been engaging in commercial photography. I am simply an individual taking photographs in the street. On each occasion that I have attempted to do so in the IFSC area, security staff have approached me and told me to stop, because they say it is forbidden without a permit. This has also been the experience of friends of mine who have tried to take photographs in that area.

Secondly, and more importantly, could you please explain why the DDDA does not want people to engage in commercial photography or filming in the IFSC area?

Thirdly, is there some specific legislation or some clause in the DDDA’s charter that allows the DDDA to enforce this requirement for a permit for commercial photography/filming?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Eilis Murphy

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Sent: Wednesday, 13 June 2012, 13:48:50

Hi Eilis,

We follow the same policies as Dublin City in regards to commercial filming and photography. If you are not taking photos of private buildings you have every right to take leisurely pictures around the Docklands.

Kind regards,

Mette Boye Hansen

On a Saturday afternoon in May, 35 people armed with cameras descended on the IFSC area of Dublin’s docklands. Following a pre-arranged cue, they captured more than 1,300 images in defiance of a photography ban in the area, strolling through the heart of this financial district for a quarter of an hour.

This was Uncommon Land’s second photographic flash mob, an artistic intervention aimed at exposing the strange phenomenon of ‘private’ streets in Dublin where photography is forbidden.

The IFSC area is owned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), a State-created body that operates as a private company. These streets constitute one example of the creeping privatisation of public space that is a feature of contemporary Ireland.

The streets in this part of Dublin look and feel like streets in other parts of Dublin: there are shops, cafes, apartments, offices, a third-level college. The Luas tram even runs through it. However, they are policed not by Gardaí, but by private security staff. These security guards enforce arbitrary rules laid down by the DDDA: no busking, no skateboarding, no begging. And no photography.

On several occasions before and after the flash mob, this ban was tested by Uncommon Land. As soon as an individual starts to use a camera, security guards appear and forcefully instruct that photography must cease; that a permit is required for such activity.

But how would they deal with more than 30 people photographing simultaneously? In the event, no security guards appeared during the May 19th event. The photography was evidently observed – participants noticed CCTV cameras following the group as it clicked its way westwards along Mayor Street.

After 15 minutes, another cue brought the flash mob to an end in Commons Street – one of few remaining public streets in the IFSC. The group created 1,321 photographs and 53 minutes of video footage, which are now being sorted. The photos will be geo-tagged and uploaded to Google Maps, creating a photo cluster of this highly controlled, hitherto unphotographed zone.

I have written to the DDDA, seeking clarification about the legality of and reasons for their photography ban. I am awaiting a response.

The photos and footage from both of these photography flash mobs will form part of the Uncommon Land installation at HACK THE CITY, a group exhibition at the Science gallery, running from June 22nd until September.

Uncommon Land will organise another photographic flash mob during the summer. If you would like to sign for this flash mob, please email uncommonland@gmail.com

Uncommon Land is looking for participants for its upcoming flash mob taking place in a surprise location in Dublin city centre on the 19th May, 2012.

To get involved please send an email to uncommonland@gmail.com  Once you have registered your interest, instructions will be sent to you regarding the time and place and what you have to bring.

Uncommon Land is an urban intervention led by artist Eilis Murphy, which takes the form of a flash mob. The project explores how public space is used and controlled and seeks to question the subdivisions that exist within cities, highlighting the invisible borders between public and private streets: pseudo-public areas.

To see a previous flash mob, go to http://uncommonland.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/tallaght-cross/

Documentation of this flashmob will form part of HACK THE CITY exhibition, running from 21 June – 8 Sept 2012, Science Gallery, Dublin. This exhibition rethinks our cities from the ground up through the spirit and philosophy of the hacker ethos – to bend, mash-up, tweak and cannibalise our city systems, to create possibilities, illustrate visionary thinking and demonstrate real-world examples for sustainable urban futures.

We are delighted to be part of Hack The City’s programme and hope that you’ll be part of it too – so sign up today at uncommonland@gmail.com

Here is an article about Uncommon Land in the current edition of Rabble, a Dublin-based, independent newspaper. This issue of Rabble focuses on what it calls ‘the great enclosure debate': the privatisation of Ireland’s public spaces and public services.

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