Dublin Port supports the arts

By Paul O’Rourke

A still from Keepers of The Port, filmed and directed by Moira Sweeney. Artist Sylvia Loeffler behind her work Transit. Photo: JR@N4.

Dublin Port is known for many things; importing 25 million tonnes of cargo every year, welcoming almost two million ferry passengers and providing safe harbour to over 100 cruise ships.

Late last year, the new port centre was opened to the public with access to a landscaped maritime garden complete with an historic ten ton Stothert and Pitt crane, and as part of their make-over, The Port Authority appear to be embracing not just all things nautical, but also the arts.

Following an open call to artists to create site-specific works as part of an initiative entitled Port Perspectives, a series of original and innovative public art works and installations were commissioned, reflecting contemporary practice.

The commissioned artworks were to respond specifically to the built environment and local areas in and around Dublin Port, enhancing the public realm to draw audiences and port visitors, while creating a living exhibition and cultural trail.

In recent years, a series of commissioned works have provided a powerful means to tell the story of Dublin Port and are helping to renew the historical link between it and the city.

A central objective of Dublin Port’s soft values strategy is rebuilding these links, which have been traditionally forged through long-standing education, cultural, sporting and community initiatives, and now the arts.

Two of these artistic initiatives were on evidence at the Lab Gallery on Foley Street in late February. One was a documentary film entitled Keepers of The Port, filmed and directed by Moira Sweeney.

In this lyrical portrait of working life filmed on Dublin’s docks, a pride emerges within the stories and memories of the custodians of the Port. As the film moves through discrete yet interconnected hubs of activity, using contemporary and archival material, the filmmaker narrates her reflections on the evolving picture of a vibrant, transforming port life.

Recurring themes include a nostalgia for lost communal tradition and solidarity, the precarity of seafarers’ lives and the complexity of a global digitised structure which controls ship movement into and out of ports.

The second piece was entitled Transit Gateway by Austrian artist Silvia Loeffler, which documents the transitional changes to the shape of Dublin Port.

For the past year, Loeffler has been deep mapping the changing face of the port from Medieval Dublin through to the present day. Originally based at Terminal 1, Silvia hand painted a series of nine maps which were on display to members of the public for the past year before moving to The LAB Gallery in February for a two-week stay. They will be exhibited next at Dublin Port on the June bank holiday weekend for the Tall Ship regatta.