Friday 29 September 2017 | 10:30 - 18:00

Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Merrion Square, Dublin 2 View map

William Raban

Free event but booking required. Book tickets

Event Details

As part of the port | river | city project curated by aemi and Cliona Harmey this full day event features panel discussions, presentations, and a screening of William Raban’s vital 1987 film Thames Film as well as a public interview with the filmmaker.

This public seminar event will consider the complex interrelationships between port, river and city, not only as they relate to this project and Dublin’s particular role as a port city but also more broadly. Speakers at this event include artist and researcher Moira Sweeney, artists Dan Shipsides, Vanessa Daws and Cliona Harmey, the writer Gabriel Gee, Dr. Patrick Bresnihan of Trinity College Dublin and filmmaker William Raban.

Historically artists have not only looked to the sea for inspiration but also to the specific interplay between nature and industry that is peculiar to port cities. This seminar will consider some of these responses specifically as they relate to moving-image practices looking at the work of Irish artists like Moira Sweeney, Vanessa Daws, and Cliona Harmey but also to significant international figures like William Raban and Peter Hutton. Peter Hutton for example suggests there is a particular affinity between the materialities of film and the temporalities specific to travel by sea. What Scott McDonald discovered in Hutton’s work was a form of ‘Eco-cinema’- “Hutton uses the chemical process of cinema […] as a means of slowing consumption and providing a model of a mindset that might take better care of the world outside the screening room.” Elsewhere figures like Marguerite Duras, William Raban and Allan Sekula used similar inspiration to help innovate what has now become known as the ‘essay film’, a far more subjective and often poetic form of documentary practice exemplified by Raban’s Thames Film (1986) which screens here. More locally, artists like Dan Shipsides and Moira Sweeney have explored the subject by immersing themselves in the environments and communities that are specific to these areas, where Vanessa Daws has taken a more submersive approach to those environments and Cliona Harmey has examined the technological histories that are specific to the coming together of port, river and city.

This single day event brings together researchers, curators and artists to consider the interplay between port, river and city.

This is a free event and lunch will be provided by Luncheonette.

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port | river | city is a project funded by Dublin Port Company as part of Port Perspectives.

Event Schedule:

10:30 – 11:00 Greetings and introductions

11:00 – 12:30 port | river| city Panel 1 – Presentations by Gabriel Gee, Moira Sweeney, and Dr. Patrick Bresnihan on the complex interrelationships between port, river, city followed by a discussion.

12:30 A complimentary lunch provided by LUNCHEONETTE

13:30 – 15:00 port | river | city Panel 2 – A panel discussion with the curators and artists involved in the port | river | city project including Cliona Harmey, Dan Shipsides, Vannessa Daws, (AEMI ) Alice Butler and Daniel Fitzpatrick.

15:15-16:00 Public discussion with filmmaker William Raban led by Moira Sweeney.

16:15 Screening of William Raban’s ‘Thames Film’ (1986)

“Raban’s reflective, ambivalent approach to cinematic Modernism reaches its apogee in Thames Film (1986)…Narrated by john Hurt, it is the closest Raban comes to a conventional documentary, incorporating archive film from 1921-1951, panoramic photographs taken in 1937. Brueghel the Elder’s painting the Triumph of Death and T.S.Eliot reading Four Quartets. Raban centres a study of the sites of modernity, and the meanings that time has inscribed into them, on the Thames, juxtaposing shots of the river in 1986 with readings from Thomas Pennant’s Journey from London to Dover (1787, close to the emblematic date of ‘modernity’, 1789). Modernity is put on trial: Pennant’s links between British imperialism, technological advances and the Thames are juxtaposed with derelict British imperialism, technological advances and pompous voiceovers from post-war newsreels anticipating the collapse not just of the Empire but also the ideals which supported it.” – Gareth Buckell, 2005

A complimentary lunch from Luncheonette’s Jennie Moran will be served from 12:30

Speakers’ Biographies

Dr. Bresnihan is a Lecturer in the Geography Department, Trinity College Dublin. His current research examines the legacies and contested futures of vital infrastructures, particularly water and energy. His work is transdisciplinary, drawing on history, critical theory, science studies, and anthropology to challenge traditional distinctions between nature, culture, politics and techno-science. He has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles on subjects as diverse as aquaculture, the commons, and the eco-poetics of John Clare. Last year he published his first book, Transforming the Fisheries: Neoliberalism, Nature, and the Commons (University of Nebraska Press). He is part of the Provisional University (, an activist research and education project based in Dublin, and a member of the Authority Research Network (, a research collective engaging with questions of power, alienation, and the making of the commons.

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Vanessa Daws’ art practice explores place through swimming and for port | river | city, she has created a new multi-screen Liffey-based work which will be back-projected onto the street-level windows of the Dublin Docklands Dublin City Council building on Custom House Quay. Daws’ work captures the experience of being in water, and what this does to our perception of land. From this vantage point, the camera has a tendency to distort – hefty structures and some Dublin monuments sit at implausible angles, precarious and unstable above the blurred water in great motion underneath.

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William Raban is an artist filmmaker who has exhibited worldwide in both art and film contexts. Initially known for his landscape and expanded cinema films of the 1970s, Raban’s landscape interests, were framed in the 80s towards a more historical and socio-political context: the history of London and the Thames. Reminiscent of Humphrey Jennings’ wartime films, Raban’s films from the 90s onwards look at the island of Britain and its people, in the context of the global economy and the effects of urban change. Commissioned by Acme Studios 72-82 interrogating the archive: the fallibility of memory (2014) has been screened extensively and was part of Raban’s retrospective at the 2015 Oberhausen Film Festival. Time and the Wave (2013) addresses the English obsession with nostalgic displays of pageantry, contrasted with political activism against the corrosive power of late capitalism. It has been screened in cinemas and shown as a continuous installation at the Mercosul Biennale, Brazil 2013. The 3-screen site-specific installation Duchamp’s Dissent was commissioned for the Tate Tanks opening programme (2012) and continues an investigation into how concepts of cubo-futurism can be transliterated into a contemporary digital installation. Commissioned by the Museum of London, The Houseless Shadow (2011) is a nighttime ethnography exposing the plight of the homeless in central London that formed the end piece to the Dickens and London exhibition at the Museum of London December 2011 – June 2012.

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Cliona Harmey is interested in the histories, artifacts and hybrid forms of technology. Her work often combines sculpture and live data feeds. Her work reflects on histories of communication systems from shipping to flags and signals. In 2015 she made ‘Dublin Ships’, a temporary public artwork through which the names of the most recently arrived and departed ships from Dublin Port were screened onto two large screens sited at the Scherzer Bridges beside the Samuel Beckett Bridge. Other recent work includes ‘Block and Receive’ at Butler Gallery with a work made using morse code and an Aldis Lamp which was facilitated by the Irish Navy at Hawlbowline, Cobh. She works as lecturer at NCAD, and is part of OMG an artists research group based at Connect, TCD.

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Dan Shipsides, is an artist based in Orchid Studios in Belfast and also teaches at the Belfast School of Art. Since 2004 many projects have been co-authored with Neal Beggs (Shipsides and Beggs Projects / SBP) based in northern France with whom he shares a love of art, mountains, music and creative madness. He (inc SBP) has exhibited nationally and internationally including; International touring moving image projects (Difference Screen and Figuring Landscapes); Le Bel Ordinaire, Pau (No Shooting in this Area); ACCA, Melbourne (Desire Lines); The MAC, Belfast (Still not out of the woods); Aliceday Gallery, Brussels (Vigil | Star); South London Gallery (Games & Theory); Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (Radical Architecture); Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (Elastic Frontiers); Konsthall C, Stockholm, Sweden (Under plattan, ängen!); Platform Guranti, Istanbul (Hit & Run); Confederation Gallery, PEI, Canada (Beauty Queens); HEDAH, Maastricht (Rochers à Fontainebleau); Riga Sculpture Quadrennial, Latvia (European Space); Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast (Beta); Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin (Pioneers); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (Sporting Life); Smart Project Space, Amsterdam (Endure); Melbourne International Biennial, Australia (Signs of Life).
Dan Shipsides was awarded the ACNI Major Artist Award in 2004, in 2000 the Nissan Art Award IMMA (Bamboo Support) Dublin and 1998 won the Perspective award, OBG, Belfast (The Stone Bridge).

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Gabriel N. Gee: is Associate Professor in Art History at Franklin University, Switzerland. Recent publications include “Art in the North of England. 1979-2008” (Routledge – an Ashgate book 2017). His current research interests include 20th century British and Irish art, the changing representations and imaginaries of port cities in the second half of the 20th century, as well as interconnected global histories, with a particular interest in urban and architectural representation. With Alison Vogelaar, he is currently finalizing a co-edited survey on the “Changing representation of nature and cities: the 1960s and 1970s and their legacies” (Routledge, 2018). He is a co-founder of the TETI group, for Textures and Experiences of Trans-Industriality (

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aemi is a creative platform dedicated to supporting and exhibiting artists’ & experimental moving image work. A key objective is to develop audiences for artists’ moving image in Ireland through regular, curated programmes of both Irish and international work with the intention of contributing to and developing critical discourse around a wide range of practices in this area.

aemi also prioritises access to the cinema space as a key exhibition site for visual arts-based moving image works and seeks to develop a strategic approach for the international distribution of moving image works from Irish and Irish-based artists by instituting a system that circulates programmes of Irish work compiled by a jury of experts. aemi endeavours to establish a multi-faceted network of support for artists’ moving image in Ireland. This would strengthen a connection with LUX, an international arts agency for artists who work with the moving image.

aemi was founded in Dublin by Daniel Fitzpatrick and Alice Butler in 2016

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With a background in experimental cinema, Moira Sweeney has honed her storytelling skills in the world of broadcast documentary. She therefore brings a distinctive creative approach to the worlds of music, art and social or personal history. Her experimental films have received numerous Arts Council awards and achieved recognition with international avant garde tours such as the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Signs of the Times. They have been screened at key film festivals including London, Melbourne, Berlin, Dublin and Edinburgh as well as at avant garde events such as the Yokohamo, New York Super 8 and Toronto Experimental Film Forums. Moira’s work has been broadcast on RTÉ, BBCNI, TG4, Channel 4 and ZDF and has been nominated for best documentary at the Boston Irish Film Festival, the Irish Film and Televison Academy and Radharc Awards.

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