Camera slung across his shoulder, David Flood strolls through the gallery space of the CHQ Building on Custom House Quay, the venue for his latest exhibition.
Light filters through the large glass windows. Outside, on either side of the river, global financial and tech companies occupy vast swathes of office space.
How these companies dictate the way space is used, managed, and presented to the public is the subject of the tech-worker-turned-artist’s latest show, he says, an examination of “the influences working within these spaces”.
Flood has lived in Pasila in Helsinki, a built-up urban district, for seven years.
As modern urban areas go Pasila is not unlike the Docklands, says Flood. Image has played a key role in how both are perceived by the public.
Flood previously worked as a software developer, before studying earning a master’s degree at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire.
This exhibition, A Place Like All Others, is the result of his two-year degree. As the title suggests, his work aims to capture both the homogeny of areas like Dublin’s Docklands and Pasila, and the close manner in which they are managed.
Through a series of photographs, videos, and audio, Flood’s work concentrates and riffs off “the constructed image”, he says, the manipulated photographs or computer-generated imagery often found on the hoardings wrapped around new developments or in online marketing brochures.
“When you look at these images, they always have people performing certain activities. One popular motif is the man in a business suit with his phone in his hand,” says Flood. “That tells us what space this going to be … defines what the space is for.”
Once these spaces are created, says Flood, the importance of image kicks in in a more insidious way, often in the form of the security camera, dictating the image of an area through managing the behaviour taking place there.
Fixing The Image
In areas like Dublin’s Docklands, the lines between public space and private space remain blurred as debate over the balance of development rolls on.
At times this has caused confusion and tension between private entities that own and control what people assume to be public areas, and people who want to use those areas.
Central to Flood’s images is the lone businessman, “the Keeper”, played by Flood himself.
In most of these images, Flood stands outside a nondescript office block, briefcase in hand, his phone held aloft in an attempt to receive signal.
This character, Flood says, was inspired by German philosopher Max Weber who coined the term “iron cage” to describe life in capitalist society, when behaviour becomes dominated by goal-oriented rationality. “The Keeper furnishes the cage with the ideology that keeps people inside,” says Flood.
Gathering interviews, snapshots and video footage of those who live, work and pass through such spaces, Flood say he aims to question what types of places we are creating, how these places are defined and by whom.
The gallery space at the CHQ Building is occupied by several large-format photographs, with smaller shots spliced throughout. Video and audio footage captures these interviews.
During his two years of research for the exhibition, Flood approached numerous property developers in Helsinki to gauge the success of Pasila, which was built in the 1970s and 1980s, and to tease out how the area has evolved over the years.
Over there, says Flood, “open days” for new developments are held to get feedback from the local community and workforce.
In Dublin, not so much. “The [developers] in the Docklands didn’t return my emails,” says Flood. “I think they’re a lot more open in Finland.”
A Place Like All Others runs until Friday 23 February.