Anger over Punk Rock art at 5,000 years old dolmen
By Jim GrayAn outraged archaeological expert has formally complained to both the council and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that the Labby Rock monument near Castlebaldwin resembled a baked potato or a space ship when she visited the site last month but the authorities have decided the land-owner has acted within his rights.And in a
Sligo County Council will not be taking any action against a land-owner who wrapped an historic dolmen situated on his lands in tin foil and silver plastic.
By Jim Gray
An outraged archaeological expert has formally complained to both the council and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that the Labby Rock monument near Castlebaldwin resembled a baked potato or a space ship when she visited the site last month — but the authorities have decided the land-owner has acted within his rights.
And in an exclusive interview with The Sligo Champion, the land-owner and artist, Mr. Turlough Moore, has hit out at “self-righteous fools” who destroyed his work by ripping away the foil covering which he had placed around the historic rock.
The row erupted last month when a tour group came upon Labby Rock covered in foil. They accused those responsible of vandalising an ancient monument, but Mr. Moore retaliated by claiming they had sabotaged his research.
Mr. Moore explained that his installation was recording solstice sunlight across the Labby Rock and was the culmination of seven years research.
He said he was incensed by the “reckless destruction” when he discovered the tour group ripping apart the installation. When he asked what gave them the right to destroy days of work, they responded that somebody had vandalised the rock.
“No vandal would have endured weeks of driving rain and gale force winds while individually wrapping each of the seven Labby stones”, Mr. Moore told The Sligo Champion.
However, Dublin anthropologist, Mary Quinlan, who lodged formal complaints with both the Department of the Environment and Sligo County Council, got the shock of her life when she visited the 70-ton dolmen last month.
“I was upset to see this 5,000 year old monument looking so ridiculous. It was covered in what looked like tin foil/silver paper”, she said.
However, she became more concerned when closer inspection revealed that grass and heather from the top of the monument had been cut.
“The orthostats (the stones on which the roofstone sits) looked for all the world liked baked potatoes”, Ms. McQuillan said.
Her interpretation of what she saw is fiercely contested by Mr. Moore, whose wife’s family have title to the rock and surrounding lands for the past 200 years.
He explains that his installation, known as “Punk Rock”, was recording solstice sunlight across the Labby Rock and was the culmination of seven years research.
He explains: “The concept ‘Punk Rock’ is an art installation, covering a Neolithic object with foil to obscure the texture and highlight the form, challenges any antiquated references within the postmodern context, by an organo surrealist. Augmenting the rock with material discloses its intended function and reveals, the original idea juxtaposed to confront the audience with paradoxes arising from unlikely choices of material, or from allusions to discrepant periods in art history, or from cultural contradictions instigating flexibility of form. Unlike Titian, Vermeer and Witkin whose works attempt to imitate the perfect order of external existence mine is of an internal order of things.
“What is being done here is also scientific, the foil was acting as a densiometer to extrapolate data from the reflective light patterns and determine how the sunlight travels around the surface of the Labby during the solstice. By analyzing sequential still and video images I may determine if the Labby is in alignment with the solstices. However, I’ll not be able to glean the data I was hoping to collect. Ultimately, I would prefer to study the rock with sophisticated telemetric detecting devices to pinpoint hot spots, as well as using thermographic photography, heat detectors, even a rhizotron to sample gaseous exchange of the plants.
“I figured it must have reflected light in the summer and absorbed the most light possible on the winter solstice possibly providing warmth to a fleeing couple”.
Meanwhile, Sligo County Council has confirmed that it received a formal complaint and had investigated the matter.
“We found on investigation that no damage has been done to the monument and we won’t be taking the matter any further. An archaeologist from the Department also visited the site and carried out an examination and agreed with our course of action”, the council’s Heritage Officer, Ms. Siobhan Ryan told THE SLIGO CHAMPION.
The 5,000 year old Labby Rock is one of the country’s largest dolmens and is steeped in mythology. It was said to have been used as a bed by Diarmaid and Grainne when fleeing Fionn MacCumhaill. The word ‘Labby’ comes from the belief that it was used as a bed - leaba.
The vast majority of the 6,500 national monuments in Co. Sligo are located on privately-owned land; in fact, there are only 26 in the county which are owned or in the guardianship of the State.
Siobhan Ryan explains that access to monuments on private land is dependent on the goodwill of land-owners, who effectively own the monuments.
“People don’t have the right to roam, and it is only with the goodwill and permission of land-owners that people can access these sites.
“Generally, we have found that land-owners have been very accommodating. There’s rarely any problem”, she said.