A Space for making Good Decisions About Place - VISUAL

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art &
The George Bernard Shaw Theatre

A Space for Making Good Decisions About Place

Helena Fitzgerald

26 February - 22 May 2022 |

Admission: Free

This installation by Helena Fitzgerald proposes a way of thinking about the places where we live. It is a prototype, describing an approach to how we can make good decisions for the future. The space has been assembled in response to the pressing need to make good decisions at a local level, so that we can act to address biodiversity loss and climate change.

On entering the space, a threshold is crossed which asks people to consider the spectrum of participation – who should contribute to the decision-making process. Questions are posed on three walls. A fourth wall locates the space in a particular place, in this case Carlow. Each wall contains a horizon line positioned above the text. Sometimes the horizon represents a limit – of our understanding, of possibility or of knowledge. On the fourth wall the horizon represents the future. A series of drawings describe the assembly and expected operation of the space and a round table in the centre of the room invites collaboration. A Space for Making Good Decisions About Place references Sala Dei Nove, the council chamber of the Sienese Republic where three frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1338-40) – early works of civic art from the Sienese School – formed a framework to guide decision making by the Council of Nine – Siena’s citizens’ council.

On 23 July, 2021, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 was signed into law by the President of Ireland creating a “national climate objective”. Ireland is now obliged to transition to “a climate resilient, biodiversity rich and climate neutral economy by no later than the end of the year 2050 and to thereby promote climate justice” [1]. The transition described, will require an acceleration in decision making about local environments – the places where we live, work and spend time. It will change aspects of our day-to-day lives. A Space for Making Good Decisions About Place is a prototype created to explore how this acceleration in decision making can happen, in a way that can overcome inaction and allow these changes to benefit all.

Drawing on Fitzgerald’s participatory practice as an architect, and further refined through research, the space is proposed as an easily understood model for good decision making to be communicated widely; a decision making shortcut to allow us to act quickly – like the 2m social distancing rule adopted during the pandemic – to protect our health and wellbeing and to bring about effective action at a local level. Drawing on observation and experience of the co-creation of integrated landscape management plans, A Space for Making Good Decisions About Place is proposed as a space for bringing together different types of knowledge and different life experiences, a space where useful knowledge can be shared. The installation is focussed on the activation of evidence-based, local responses to achieve the “national climate objective”. Its operation – which will be explored through a programme of interactive events during the installation at VISUAL – is expected to reveal difficulties in accessing the useful knowledge and place-specific data needed to allow these good decisions to be made.

About the Artist

Helena Fitzgerald is an architect and a Research Fellow at the Department of Economics, University of Limerick. Her practice engages with architecture as both a science and an art form. Since 2014 she has worked collaboratively with scientists, communities, government bodies and others to co-create plans for the sustainable management of local environments. Through this work, an approach to drawing has developed that merges aspects of the built and natural environment with the social and the political.

In 2019, her research Caring For Place, Constructing Common Worlds was commended in the RIAI Architecture Awards and she is a 2021 recipient of an Arts Council of Ireland Architecture Bursary Award. At University of Limerick, she works with Limerick City and County Council and other partners on a cross-European, Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation project called +CityxChange (Positive City Exchange). The project is exploring how cities can decarbonise through the creation of Positive Energy Districts and is initiating a Citizen Innovation Lab, a new space for collaboration in Limerick city.

[1] https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2021/39/

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