visual artist

Looking for Freedom?

1989 — 2022

As I walked around Nicosia for the first time in the early hours of the morning, I was drawn to the barriers that weaved through the streets, slicing the city in half. A buffer zone dotted with military posts and lookouts separates the Greek Cypret side and the Turkish Cypret side of the city. I can't help but be reminded of the Berlin wall and the peace walls that separate parts of Belfast city. The border checkpoint which is situated on the main shopping street in Nicosia is closed to the public for the first time in years due to the onset of Covid-19 as most of the world goes into lockdown. The locals I talk to tell me it feels like stepping into the past, as it reminds them of the more conflicting times in Cyprus's recent history when it was impossible to cross the border.

I thought about the American actor David Hasselhoff as he sang from a bucket crane beside the Brandenburg Gate on New Year's Eve in 1989, just two months after the Berlin wall collapsed. His song ‘Looking for Freedom’ topped the charts in Germany in the lead up to the walls collapse, himself personifying Western Capitalist culture. His song would resonate with the German population at that moment in time. The song itself was actually written by a German song writer and released in the German charts in 1978 in both English and German, which Hasselhoff then re-appropriated eleven years later. His cover version illustrating how Capitalism absorbs / distorts / recodes everything over time, especially such magnetized and charged ideas as ‘freedom, ‘truth’, ‘love’, ‘care’ etc., to the extent that the shells of words are the same, but the meaning is radically different.

Looking for Freedom: The Online Buffering Zone, 6:07 mins

I decided to re-appropriate this song again as the notion of freedom was brought to the forefront of discussion globally due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions which continued around the world. The pandemic has laid bare the faults in the Neoliberal system, a system that has produced and reproduced inequality, instability and crisis over its forty-five-year history. During the pandemic, we have witnessed insufficient health care systems and the private sector buckle, civil unrest, and what Jack Ramus describes as ‘The Great Strike of 2021’, where millions of un-unionised workers in America (and beyond) are refusing to return to work and ‘withholding their labour’ due to poor pay and inhumane working conditions. I wanted to mark this shift in Western Capitalist culture with a version of ‘Looking for Freedom’, much like Hasselhoff had done thirty-two years ago, and question does this shift have similarities to the fall of the Berlin wall, is it the declension of an era? In order to reflect the current use of social media platforms for information and mis-information the first part of the work manifested in the form of an ASMR* video with the intention of it being consumed online by the individual.

Looking for ASMR Freedom, 3:21 mins

I returned to Cyprus for a second residency to develop this work further and investigate how Cyprus has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall and how this relates to Ireland in a global context. The work during this period manifested in a series of performative interventions in the city of Limassol, a city in which finance capitalism is thriving. On the road into Limassol, you are bombarded with billboards advertising a luxury lifestyle in Limassol. A host of massive apartment blocks both newly built and under construction tower over the city along the seafront, the majority, if not all, of them speculative investment properties. The scale of the gentrification is stark at the newly developed Marina, which is filled with luxury yachts, designer shops, cafes and eateries. The architecture has a Disneyland quality to it as it attempts to reference historical Cypriot architecture, instead ending up as Frankenstein mismatch of styles. There are no public seating areas or toilets, you have to consume to avail of these basic amities. Towards the end of the marina sits several gated communities with the main focal point being the Castle residency, a large castle like apartment block with fortified features, it seems to be empty, a monument to speculative investment in this late Capitalism era. To the rear of this gated community is what I would describe as a semi-private beach, sectioned off with a barbed wire fence, which strangely mirrors the barriers at the buffer zone in Nicosia. The imported sand on the beach gives it a synthetic feel as it looks alien compared to the shoreline further down the coast.

Referencing Hasselhoff’s Berlin Wall performance again, I asked some workers installing a Christmas tree at a closed trendy bar beside the semi-private beach to the rear of the marina if I could use their bucket crane. When we reached the maximum height myself and the worker accompanying me raised our fists in solidarity, gesturing towards the empty beach and the private Castle residency in the Marina. This re-staging of Hasselhoff’s gesture could not be addressed to the masses, as in Hasselhoff’s case, nor was it capitalistically charged, but rather critically discharged in contrast. 

This was followed by a trip to a new luxury tower block development towards the center of Limassol. Under the guise of an investment consortium, we were given a full tour which included a viewing of the show apartment, an apartment for sale and an unfinished floor still under construction where the gym, sauna and swimming pool are going to be situated. The price of these luxury apartments ranged from 1.3 million euro to 8.5 million euro with the majority of them already being sold to Russian and Chinese investors. Supplied with hard hats, high-vis vests, steel toe capped boots and complimentary socks we set about the building site documenting it as we went along, wondering if this is the freedom money buys in which Hasselhoff alludes to in his song? The final part of this work will be a film made from footage gathered during my time in Cyprus featuring footage from both the Nicosia buffer zone and the Limassol investment zone.

*Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a pleasant and euphoric tingling sensation the occurs on the back of the scalp, neck and upper spine. It is triggered in some people in response to a stimulus, such as a gentle whisper or the soft crinkling of paper, and has a calming effect. The term was first coined in 2010 and a genre of videos intended to induce ASMR has since emerged online with over fifteen million videos now published on YouTube