Mark Curran's photographs and videos examine the aesthetics of high-tech "clean room" industry and simultaneously probe the cascading effects of globalization and economic swings in a Hewlett-Packard plant in Ireland. Acutely calibrated to the market, the factory takes in and lays off workers on a need basis. The resulting instability in personal lives is made visible in Curran's pristine yet emotionally charged images: an inside view of the so-called Celtic Tiger.
THE BREATHING FACTORY
The South of Ireland never experienced the Industrial Revolution, yet in 2005 it was the most globalized economy in the world and could boast full employment. Global companies, primarily North American, outsourced operations there, attracted by a highly skilled and flexible workforce, a low direct cost of employment, and the lowest rate of corporate tax in Europe. Global industrial practices are characterized by fleeting alliances—transient spaces as capital moves when and as required. The Breathing Factory takes its title from a concept by Peter Hartz, former CEO of Volkswagen, of an economic management model compliant to the needs and demands of the global market and implemented from the factory floor to the nation state. Completed in 2006 following nine months of negotiation regarding access, this project addresses the role and representation of labor and global labor practices in the newly industrialized landscape, focusing on the Hewlett-Packard Manufacturing and Technology Campus, part of a multinational industrial complex in Leixlip in the east of Ireland.
In 2010 the unemployment rate in the South of Ireland is expected to reach fifteen per cent.