Séamus Nolan: Hotel Ballymun, Ballymun, Dublin, March – April 2007

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

Last night was spent in the Hotel Ballymun.
‘What a quiet, spacious, cocooned evening it was.’
Moving from room to room as if from world to world.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

Each space an entirety, except maybe the passages of the halls.
But it felt as if there were no halls and that we walked through walls, like ghosts. Bumping into other ghosts sporadically – they would enter our space and we would enter theirs, nodding, exchanging pleasantries, marvelling at the oddity and simple beauty of it all.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

And what oddities there were, fragments pieced together and renewed into hybrid memories – performing functions never intended, they stretched out enthusiastically into their new role as whatever – table, chair, bed, mirror – playing.
It was like the furniture was playing a game of dress-up, make-believe…becoming.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

Looking out the window we could see blue, all blue with the sun shining from it, burning into the bare walls, pock-marked with air bubbles, a sign of their former liquid state.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

We sat on a white plastic garden bench, beside a dried, yellow flowering plant, feet stretched into the gravel and cement rubble, piling away from us against the walls.
Lumps into the corners with iron rods poking our awkwardly, as if ashamed, as if its concrete dress had just slipped to the ground and revealed its nakedness. We sat admiring. How can debris cause such a sensation of peace?
The calm of sitting with chaos.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

The sun slid past the window then.
What world should we enter next?
What friendly furniture! It felt as though Quasimodo might appear from around one of the exterior corners, manoeuvring expertly in the heights.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

A kaleidoscope pointed out towards the city, a myriad world of shapes and colours framed by an urban sprawl, new buildings, glass boxes, cacophonous cars.
A bike saddle as an office chair, mudguard attached, an eager thing waiting for an adventure, waiting to be brought somewhere, for someone to touch it into life.
A chair that lets you sit on time.
Tennis rackets that hold the trappings of your day, rings, phones, watches, throughout the night.
It felt as though time were on hold.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

We existed now in this cumulus time among the clouds, gawping down at the map below, everything; buildings, pavements, lamp posts, grass, boulders, tilting and thwarting in the most unusual ways, two-dimensionalised, flattened and pressed like dried flowers in a book.
We were all puffed out and floating, full of our bodies, and the object bodies, the furniture Frankenstein waiting in the dark for us to see them by the light of a 25-watt bare bulb.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

We played jenga.
31 storeys tumbled.
We thought the building might plummet from under us just as our own game ended. Building towers within a tower. Two bulbs, jenga and a bell. What could be the significance of that?

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

A room where tapes were spilled out, hungry for selection and the stiff click of the button to sound and whirr their music out again – somebody’s selection, somebody’s choice – Stevie Wonder, The Furey Brothers, Pink Floyd, Christy Moore. A red embrace of a disco ball, a space to dance, or sit, or laugh, or think.
A man in a box in a bath with a shark, pursuing some urgent struggle – we observe from a flattened sofa of hard leather.
Pursuit.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

A contained pursuit, destined for nowhere but where it is.
A man in a box in a bath with a shark.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

One night in a tower. How could they ever come down?
The roar of the city below, making no effort to dissolve its strangeness or the alterity of the towers.
Empty rooms filled with rubble, precious rubble.
Filled with accident, mistake, torment, denial.
Filled with stories, histories, memories.
Filled with laughter and shouting and voice and bodies.

Hotel Ballymun , 2007, installation shot; photo / courtesy the author

Drenched in people.
A people anonymous to us – traces on the walls, a palimpsest of proclamations and signatures – traces in the object bodies – the newly formed oddities of generosity, a gift of no return.

Jessica Foley is an MA student on the Art in the Contemporary World programme at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.