mechanised
[beneath the rule a country hides]

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Time:12:36 pm.
...................

........#5 – Bleachworks - Ireland [Summer 2009 – visited 2008]


___________________________________________________________________________________________

...................



...................


In Ireland to visit family, we found ourselves stationed on the edge of B_______ – a characterless village near the River Faughan. Claustrophobic, several times each day we would embark on a extended walk - though with our minds elsewhere, and with little sense of our surroundings, would set off merely in search of distraction (drawn across a field by the sight of livestock, or into a housing estate by the sound of laughter).

...................



...................
...................



...................



..The gravel road ran adjacent to a narrow gulley, a waste-strewn strip of water flowing around rusted debris (everything from plastic bags and toys, to an overturned, moss-engulfed hatchback, unmoved from where it had obviously been dumped (or crashed) years earlier, saplings sprouting in its wake. Like the skin itself, capable of subsuming foreign objects pressed too long into its surface, this is a riverbed used to dumping: its gewgaws seem like insignia embossed in the earth - glittering through the rubble like prized, unnatural stones.



...................



...................
...................



...................


On our second day, a boarded-up lodge piqued our interest, and so we started down a nearby dirt track. Alongside ran a tributary of the river; and our initial intention was to follow the stream as it meandered down to the confluence. We had already started our descent – squeezing through a barbed wire fence - when suddenly in the distance there loomed some kind of cooling tower. As we edged closer a series of derelict buildings hove into view, an entire complex soon revealing itself. Ringfenced in steel, the site was comprised of dozens of low rise structures, though only the walls remained intact. Everywhere roofs had collapsed, trusses scattered on the floor like a child’s playset. Again, nature was in the ascendency – walls veined with river-gorged ivy, the floors blanketed in weeds and ragwort.

...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................



This was evidently an old factory, although so long emptied it was equally the shelter of its subsequent squatters. It had little to say for its old life: flues, funnels, a toilet suspended in the middle of a wall. Its most ominous features were the channels sunk into the ground to siphon liquids into the river - dark conduits coursing with imagined run-offs of bleach, caustic soda, and sulphur.



...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................


Subsequent research has revealed the complex to be a derelict bleachworks – a branch of the textile industry of which there are now few traces, the majority having closed by the 1960s. An inevitable casualty of the declining cotton industry, they quickly followed the mills into extinction; and most have long since been demolished.

...................



...................
...................



...................



There is something about its architraves and collapsed corners which welcomes our imaginative additions, the personal touch of exploration. The way vines curl around debris are like a child's endearing revisions (before the age when they comprehend scrawls as mistakes and correct themselves with a blank page). I love these buildings as architectural scribbles, ink-spills; for their slagheap marginalia, the crashed-down beams like hastily interposed pages...



...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................


As with any trade, bleaching developed its own peculiar lexicon; and through my reading I have since learned; of beetling frames, blueing houses and hacking machines; of jobs such as crofter, maker up and blaterdown. Few traces of this work remain, however – a gear wheel affixed to a wall, the remnants of a mangle, half a roller. Instead the debris is mostly structural (window frames, cladding, concrete pillars)...

...................



...................
...................



...................



These empty places are liminal because they point to the degree of maintenance necessary simply to keep a building serviceable. Living in a house is a balancing act – wresting it from other forces – proving that a structure is not complete upon completion, but merely works for a while, so long as it is attended to.. [There must be some calculation of the exact pressure exerted upon a building – from the continual opening of doors, to weather and gravity: a sum consisting of its visitors and sleepers (even the slow scraping of its cleaners, bringing ammonia and mops to surfaces every night)....]



...................



...................


In its ruined antechambers and preternatural quiet, the complex recalled the terrain of Tarkovsky’s Stalker. As if to underline the comparisons, the zone was visited by constant drizzle (water “sluicing, streaming, coursing and dripping” being a leitmotif of all Tarkovsky’s films). Here a network of aqueducts, troughs and rivulets funnelled rain quietly around the site (feeding a vast subterranean world, glimpsed only through small inlets, of vaults, catchbasins and sump pools).

...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................



On our left, a wall rutted through stunted growth, its arched entrance a pile of rubble. [If you think too long on it, the tenuous nature of the glue, cement and other adhesives cause collapsings in the mind. From rain to hail to biting sleet, the abrasions of falling ice and water serrate and dissolve the bond between things – a grand process of unpatterning.



...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................


Within this drowned world, plants flourished – submerged beams coated in green sludge, clumps of algae circuiting small puddles. In the larger pools, rushes, reeds and sedges lined the perimeter, while beneath the surface, strange macrophytes swayed gently with the current (“exquisite marine wraiths that fluttered together like the spirits of a sacred neptunian grove”). Animals were more furtive – birds nestled silently between wall and beam; damselflies and water beetles rarely breaking cover.

...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................
...................



...................



At one point we were fifty feet above where the stream meets the river at its raging bend, and could see what looked like a dead animal beneath (something with its feet caught in the stones, and its paws or hoofs reaching forth, streaming with the current). Perhaps it will stay that way until its bones show, ...until the rapids tear it limb from limb, and send its piecemeal carcass downstream..



...................



...................
...................



...................


In what remained of our holiday, we returned frequently. At first taking photographs – drawn towards textures, details, the verdigris overlay of a copper pipe- we eventually settled into a pattern of dispersal and drift. In Tarkovsky’s film, the characters venture in search of a secret room (in which it is rumoured people’s innermost desires are fulfilled ) though for us, our routes were circuitous, repetitive (and increasingly sensitive to changing configurations of light, rainfall, sound – all that was transient and fluid).

...................



...................
...................



...................



What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire? ……...the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe) numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90% of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon. (Ulysses, James Joyce, pp 783-785)

...................
________________________________________________________________

home


...................