Ruth Connolly‘s photographs from ‘If you lived here, you’d be home by now’ give us a bleak insight into the Irish landscape post recession, a legacy that has left us with ghost estates, unfinished homes scattered across the countryside, edifices that proclaim the hubris of corrupt politicians, bankers and property speculators who landed us all in a pit of despair in 2008.
The Wizard of Oz has finally been revealed in Ireland but, despite what we have learnt, he’s back with his smoke and mirrors; property prices are rising, rent prices are becoming untenable, homelessness is at crisis point and so we go on. History repeating itself, the wheels of greed turning until we once again find ourselves back where we started with the same gombeen men lining their pockets with silver. We’ve just had a general election in Ireland and ironically the party that fuelled the disaster in the first place is on the verge of going back into power.
All that’s left are the photographs of artists such as Johnny Savage and Ruth Connolly, both of them capturing a moment in Irish history that must not be repeated. The pictures a reminder of what happens when we are seduced by mammon and the promises of more things, more acquisitions, more stuff. Here’s what she has to say about the ugliness of the Irish landscape. The empty brick houses a metaphor for our cultural state of mind:
‘A house which is uninhabited is indeed not really a house’. (Marx, 1859)
What then, is a house, having been built but never occupied, sitting idle in a vacant estate? What is its role? Where does it lie?
In August 2013, five years after the economic crisis first hit, I began to photograph Ireland’s ghost estates as places of both the cause and consequence of the economic crash. In my photographs, abandoned houses and unfinished plans serve as broken promises in a story of corporate greed. As I photographed the houses, I intruded on the estates, trespassing through back gardens, entering through shattered glass doors. I began to think of myself as the ghost, haunting the estates, an unwelcome visitor interrupting the regular state of things.
As an Irish artist, I photographed these ghost estates to confront the viewer, but ghosts are frightening- we don’t want to be faced with them, we don’t want them existing in our world. These photographs aim to serve as a warning of our own futures, loud and clear, but it is human nature to want to want to look away, to want to rid the world of ghosts.