The Breathing Factory

Mark Curran

Related Exhibition: The Breathing Factory

ISBN: 3-89904-216-6

Publisher: Edition Braus and Belfast Exposed

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The Breathing Factory critically surveys the working environment of the multinational corporation Hewlett-Packard (HP), located on the former site of a meatpacking factory in Leixlip, County Kildare. The site is 2 million square feet in size with almost 2,500 workers and is HP’s only inkjet manufacturing plant in Europe and one of the only 3 such global locations. HP is the largest Information and Communication Technology employer in Ireland and is one of a number of American high tech companies (Microsoft, Intel) whose low-corporation-tax presence in Ireland contributed to the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom of the 1990s. Without going through a process of significant industrialisation (IDA Ireland), the Irish (agriculture-based) economy has been transformed into a highly globalised, ‘post-industrial’ model. In his catalogue essay for The Breathing Factory, Sean O’Riain describes how Curran’s photographs give us unusual insight into what are ‘surprisingly obscure workplaces – the modern manufacturing plants that circle Dublin city, the icons within the new cathedrals of high tech industrial parks’. The Breathing Factory allows us to see beyond the smooth images of corporate working life that emanate from centralised branding systems, into a world governed by the market. A world where ‘working hours and working conditions must become flexible. Not only at the factory level. The new “breathing rhythm” must also make headway at the social level: the time rhythm in society, the labour market, the educational system and the remaining institutions of the welfare state’. (Hartz, 1996)