‹Property› is made of all the pictures of advertised houses from the weekly Property Supplement of the Irish Times. During a four months period, while staying on the Artists‘ Work programme at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1998, those pictures were cut out every thursday when the supplement appears, mounted on board and put together in a rectangular system. The result is a composition of an urban landscape which grew by the week by the number of properties for sale. While the shape is completely arbitrary the size of the sculpture is a materialization of our four months‘ residency. In theory however, it could grow endlessly, as long as the property market in its present form exists. ‹Property› is now in the collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.
1999 cut out pictures from the Irish Times, installation view in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2002
By Bernice Harrison SWISS artists Beat Klein and Hendrikje Khüne are probably The Irish Times Property supplement’s most avid readers. Well readers isn’t exactly accurate – they don’t actually read a single word of it. Instead, as soon as they can get the paper on Thursday, they take it back to their temporary studio at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and get busy with scissors and glue, cutting out the colour pictures of houses and mounting them on tiny bits of card.
In the past 12 weeks they have painstakingly assembled a threedimensional sculpture made entirely from these teeny Property supplement cut-outs. he oddly recognisable streetscape now takes up a sizeable part of the floor space of their Dublin studio.
The artists arrived in Ireland in September to take up their fourmonth studio residency at the museum and knew instantly they had found a subject to explore when they came face to face with the national obsession with property. „Everybody seemed to be talking about it,“ says Beat, who is a sculptor, „and we were a when we saw an entire section of a newspaper and colour pictures being used to advertise houses.“
In Switzerland, even the most lavish property gets only a couple of lines of basic text in the paper – but that’s because it’s nearly always in the „For rent“ column. „The whole idea of ownership was very interesting for us,“ says Hendrikje, who is a painter, „because in Switzerland so few people own their own homes.“ They went on to explain a little about the rentcontrolled, long-lease culture they come from, which is so tenant friendly that if there is a drop in interest rates, it has to be passed on by the landlord to the tenant in the form of reduced rent. They are amazed that young people here can even think of buying a house, because in their wealthy country, a down payment of 40 per cent of the purchase price is usually required, makin house purchase the province ol a small band of thrifty middle-aged people.
Far from being horrifled by the unstoppable national urge towards home ownership in Ireland, the pair can see the long-term logic in it. They say that even the Swiss government, which is now faced with a growing number of elderly people needing financial support to pay rent, is starting to think of ways of encouraging people to buy their own homes.
Their two-inch high Lilliputian streetscape is sprawling out in every direction on the floor of their studio as the weeks go on. „It struck us immediately that Dublin is arbitrarily out of control,“ says Beat, „and this is a response to that. “ While the piece, called pithily enough, „Property is not officially on display – its first public airing will be in Basle in the new year – it can be seen through the tell glass doors of their studio in IMMA’s grounds. „The response has been wonderful,“ says Hendrikje, „people, even schoolchildren, walk by, see it and tell us a story about one of the houses. It seems that everyone has a story about property.“
The pair have yet to venture inside a single one of the hundreds of houses they’ve cut out However, having surveyed three months worth of housing stock, they do have their favourite styles – bunplows for Beat and grand Georgian for Hendrikje.
The pair will be working on the piece for the next two weeks and bemoan the seasonal slimming down of the supplement. „It’s not so much three dimensional as four dimensional“ says Henrikje, „the fourth being time because the sculpture grows every Thursday.“
Irish Times – By Bernice Harrison