Temporal Rendering: The Orpheus Building, 2016
Temporal Rendering: The Orpheus Building, 2016
Installation with 54 min audio piece, FM transmission, portable radios

In March 2012, the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland unveiled plans for the expansion of its Belfast campus, plans that included the demolition of the Orpheus Building: former home of the Co-Op department store, Belfast's celebrated Orpheus ballroom, and latterly the University's Fine Art department.

The decision was controversial, the Orpheus having strong social and cultural links across the generations in Belfast; several attempts to seek listing protection for the building failed, its architectural merits falling just under the bar of what is considered 'architecturally and historically significant' by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

During 2015, as the building's demolition loomed, I made a number of audio recordings and interviews at the Orpheus in the company of a range of people who had used the building over the years, including former Co-Op shoppers and staff, showband musicians, architectural historians, and art students and tutors. The recordings were edited together into a layered audio documentary that foregrounds the building as conduit of time and memory and explores some of the contentious questions of heritage and regeneration surrounding its loss.

During the School of Art's Festival of Art & Design 2016, the edited piece was presented as an FM transmission from an antenna mounted on the roof of the main University building across the street from the Orpheus; FM Walkman headsets were made available for visitors to listen to the audio as they moved around the campus, while the demolition of the building progressed before them.

The work addresses an absence, its radio waves reflecting off the site where the building once stood; nevertheless, it invites us to consider a path from the physical to the immaterial and back again, the interviews and recordings constituting a tool kit of sorts with which the building may speculatively be reconstituted in sound.