GREY AREA

 

    

Our first project was Stormzy. We weren't paid to do it. We admire him and we wanted to spark conversation. The project gave us a platform to build our collective. A platform we use to highlight issues that we feel need to be addressed. One of these issues is the legislation which governs the production of large format artwork in the outdoor realm, i.e. the rules for painting exterior walls. 
 
 
We won't get into specifics now, but essentially you need permission from your City Council to paint an outdoor art piece. We believe elements of this legislation are both necessary and understandable but others are archaic and suppressive. 

We were contacted by Dublin City Council eight months after we had finished Stormzy. We were informed that because the artwork had not been granted planning permission it must be removed or we would face enforcement proceedings, i.e. the threat of legal action and potential fines / imprisonment for not complying with the order. 

A few days later we were contacted by DCC again, this time being told that Gracie had to be removed for the same reasons. But one additional reason in this instance was the building we had painted is a protected structure. We believe the list of protected structures is, again, both necessary and understandable but is, again, archaic and suppressive. Although the building in question was "protected", before we painted the wall it was in rag order. 
 
 
We agreed a date to remove the artworks as we didn't have the time, money or desire to be embroiled in a legal battle. But we decided that before removing the artworks we would make a statement on the situation. We painted half of Gracie grey and left the other half untouched. On Stormzy we painted a council worker removing the artwork. Our main aim being to highlight the implications of the legislation. The additions received a positive and supportive response so we decided to respond in kind and paint Donald Trump in a "Make Dublin Grey Again" cap (we were told to remove this too).
 
Around this time Una Mullally had mentioned us in a piece she had written. We reached out to see if she would be interested in hearing more about us and the issue with legislation. Over the course of several weeks we met on various occasions and gave updates on how the matter was progressing. The article Una wrote after this drew further attention to the subject which resulted in more articles, interviews, support and interest. Sound Una.

After the artworks were 
removed we were contacted by the architecture firm GOKU. They offered to help us communicate with DCC. We let them know we already had plans and asked if they could assist. They've done a lot for us and even more for the arts, if it wasn't for them there wouldn't be a Grey Area. So we met, laid out our initial plans for Grey Area and they have been part of the project ever since. 

Once we had a better suss on the legal aspect of this whole situation ourselves and GOKU put together a framework for the licensing of public artworks. This was essentially a simplified, yet comprehensive, version of the existing approval process - planning permission. We presented this to DCC. They weren't feeling it. We were told that this was a matter for the Minister For Housing and / or the Minister For Arts. And that the Minister For Housing had a housing crisis to deal with, so this wouldn't be a priority. That was completely fair and that is when we decided to link up with ICHH. 

DCC ordered us to "cease and desist" with the Grey Area project directly after this meeting. This was off the record, and in fairness to the DCC representative they were just giving us the heads up - stop now or else we will be "forced" to pursue you. But one of the issues here is that there is a lack of clarity on the regulation and off the record conversations don't help, they just confuse the matter further. But on that point, DCC is a decent organisation filled with decent people, but shit moves slowly in there and they are "risk" averse. We're just trying to speed things up. 

We moved ahead with Grey Area and we reached out to two government 
ministers. No interest from Department Of Housing. We met with the Minister For Arts. Josepha was sound but basically told us there was nothing she could do to help. She let us know there would be a DCC forum in six months where we could discuss the situation with the various stakeholders and she suggested we speak to DCC in advance of it. She was confused when we told her we had already spoken with them and they had actually told us we should discuss the matter with her. She told us to "keep up the good work". 
 

Grey Area I:
30 Artists.
70 Artworks.
--
1 Documentary.
1 Screening / Exhibition. 
--
€2,500.00 raised for ICHH.

 
The project was going well but we weren't happy with the money we had raised for ICHH. So we decided we'd pretty much do the whole thing again but better. The subject of several of our pieces for this were the Yes campaign and the Take Back The City Movement, issues we felt were important to highlight for other communities whilst highlighting the issue for the artist community. Take Back The City eventually lead us to the Vultures Ireland project. 
  
 
During this time we only heard from DCC once, they asked us to remove a portrait of Michael D. Higgins and Mrs. Doyle. Regardless we were still concerned the situation wasn't being addressed and a friend of ours (sound Luke) put us in touch with a generous and formidable planning consultant, her professional opinion on artwork in the public realm is outlined in the Grey Area Magazine. Between this and GOKU's advice we set out our long term plan.
 
 
Shortly before the exhibition we were invited to speak at the forum which the Minister For Arts had mentioned to us previously. We used it as an opportunity to withdraw the framework which we had previously submitted to DCC, on the basis that a framework was not in fact required as planning permission was not required for artwork. We explained that to the best of our knowledge we were operating within the confines of the law and that we would be continuing where we had left off. We explained we would continue to produce artworks and remove them as DCC requested, until we painted a piece we felt shouldn't be removed.
 

 

Grey Area II:
45 Artists.
80 Artworks.
--
1 Exhibition.
1 Magazine.
--
€20,500.00 raised for ICHH. 

Since the exhibition multiple artists have painted additional artworks for Grey Area. Several of which have highlighted Climate Change, Mental Health and the Housing Crisis. We're currently refining the project and are in the process of planning a mural festival. We've also set up a Patreon with the aim of trying to raise funds to cover the costs associated with projects and events likes this. 

We recently painted a piece in homage to David Attenborough to raise awareness regarding Climate Change. DCC have written to us to outline that they have received a complaint regarding the artwork and that they are currently investigating it. We have responded explaining that planning permission is not required, amongst other things. We're awaiting their response but like we said at the forum - we're going to choose an artwork that we don't remove at their request. And if it comes to it, and a judge finds us guilty of an offence, if they want to send us to prison for making art so be it. Maybe this will be the one. 

 

 

The end of August is our deadline.