ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 5, Number 1 (January, 2008).

Engaging Baudrillard – Papers from Swansea

Minding the Gaps (Epistemological and Modern) On Dublin’s New Light-Rail System

David Slattery
(Head, Faculty of Arts, Griffith College, Dublin, Ireland)

I. Introduction
            A new tram system (the Luas)1 has opened in Dublin, Ireland separately linking the suburbs of Tallaght (predominantly working class) and Dundrum (middle-class) to the city centre. Crucially, the Luas does not link these contrasting socio-economic areas together but maintains a gap between the two lines.  In a manner inspired by my reading of Baudrillard, I trace the origin of this gap, not to the popular and ever-present theory of incompetent local government planning (incompetence based theorizing remains the most well-liked causal account in Irish post-colonial consciousness), but to a form of resistance on the part of the city itself, to post-modern consciousness and, perhaps, modernity itself. This gap has become the focus of much fashionable discourse on contemporary light rail transport in Dublin and has even developed fantastic plans to go underground or through or over Trinity College.  Dublin however, remains a determinedly two-dimensional city going neither down nor up.  By attributing the motivation for this gap to the city itself (through its deployment of a specific manifestation of a simulated transport system) I deconstruct contemporary planning discourse through animations of the tram system.  I do this principally to evade the ubiquitous tyranny of psycho-centricism by applying it everywhere. The idea that we actually know what we are doing strikes me as manifestly absurd. Psychology helps us to maintain such mythologies especially when it comes to building cities.  Ultimately I believe, Dublin is toying with its inhabitants by way of a train set.
            By focussing on the Luas, I argue that Dublin attempts to retain its “large-town” designation through the deployment of a systemthat simulates transport in a way that prioritises Space over Time.2 Such prioritization marks the presence of the operation of post-modern consciousness.  The post-modern experience of the Luas as a device for negotiating space in Dublin prioritizes the simulation of the negotiation of space on the Dundrum (Green) line – while the Tallaght (Red) line remains stubbornly modern.  I argue that the gap between the two lines is epistemological as well as material and cannot be overcome simply by laying more tracks.
            Dublin represents an interesting example of a town that has moved in part from the pre-modern to the post-modern without experiencing any coherent form of modernity. The post-modern experience of the Green Line Luas, as a device for negotiating space in Dublin, prioritises the simulation of the negotiation of space over space. Fortunately, the Luas may have a consciousness of its own (it does speak) and as such I try to “psychoanalyse” its mentality.

II. An Animated History of the Luas: the machine in the Ghost
            The Luas seems to have a mind of its own. The idea behind it was first presented to the public imagination by CIÉ3 in the early 1990s and this proposal was immediately appropriated by politicians (or perhaps it appropriated them).  In any case, it became a central thread in the fabric of political discourse on the city focusing on an increasingly pressurized non-transport system as the Celtic Tiger4 brought exponentially increasing numbers of commuters into the centre.  At the time it was described in the media as a "watered down" and "cheaper" version of CIE's original Rail Transit Plan drawn up in the 1970s.  By 1997, stage one of the project crystallized into a line to Tallaght and a line to Sandyford that were supposed to meet in the City Centre.  However, everyone in Dublin knows that Tallaght (the locus of dense social housing, historical unemployment and low cultural value) could never be linked to Sandyford and the South (with its High Cultural sign-value and expensive housing and hair styles5).  Something had to happen to keep these two significant opposites in opposition and to maintain some basic social distinctions – and something did happen: the Luas.  Finding its animation on the drawing boards, it conspired to eradicate the connection between the two ends of this proposed revolutionary link.  This is where the popular but fictional agency of politics is useful and the Luas called on the convenience of a political upheaval to disguise its own agenda.  The Luas does not simply maintain this hirsute opposition at the root of Irish society – it promotes uneven epistemological development.
            A serendipitous change of Government saw the plan stall while an argument ensued, obligingly stirred up by the New Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat administration, on whether the line should run under or over ground in the City Centre.  Dublin is a flat city without either significant high-rise buildings or sub-ways so this debate was simultaneously hugely significant and irrelevant. It eventually resulted in an exhausted stand-off.  The result was a line that neither ran above nor below ground but, importantly, exists only in the imagination.  This was an impossible dream of an epistemic bridge that could not be built on the streets of Dublin without the city’s consent.  This crucial debate caused necessary major delays to the project, lead to a loss of EU funding and diverted both money and enthusiasm into consultants reports that are the best examples of simulated solutions we know.  From the drawing boards the Luas watched and waited. Just as we can imagine the Luas having hoped, political interference produced two separate lines – one that runs from Stephens Green to Sandyford and one that runs from Connolly Station to Tallaght.  However, the politicians are not defeated yet in their sinister attempts to undermine the social deconstructions of the city and eventually join all of the structurally incompatible parts of Dublin city together in an undifferentiated postmodern meaninglessness. A 1999 plan proposed that the Stephens Green to Sandyford line would eventually be upgraded to a Metro to connect with the Connolly Station to Tallaght line in or around O'Connell/Abbey Street.  As I write, there is an advanced study under way into how the lines should be joined, even though a route was chosen and a light rail order granted in 1996.  My favourite plan is the proposal to route the connecting line over-ground through the front of Trinity College.  Perhaps such a route will allow the Enlightenment (which is alive and well at Trinity) to rescue us from our post-modern malaise.
            Another effect that the nascent Luas enjoyed was the formation of the RPA (Rail Procurement Agency) under a change to the Transport Act in 2000.  No rational (or political) justification has been offered as to why this agency was created to oversee the development of both the Luasand the Metro, and you might appreciate that none would be offered by the Luasitself: Rail Systems are notorious for letting others do their talking for them.  Some speculate that the Government did not trust the CIE to construct and operate joined-up projects.  I speculate that the Luas did not trust CIE not to fail.  However the RPA's performance in managing the construction of the current Luas lines has been a reassuring if not comforting shambles.
            The two new lines began operations in 2004, with over two months between each launch to off-set any speculation that they may be connected in anything other than name.  Predictably, the fact that they were not connected at any point was popularly regarded as a failing.  The carriages that operate between Connolly Station and the Square in Tallaght (on the Red Line) are 30 metres in length – while the Trams on the Sandyford line (the Green Line) are 40 metres in length.  Platform 11, a light rail train lobby group, measured the platforms on the Red Line and determined that they are long enough to handle a 40 metre carriage and produced a press release in April 2004 to highlight this finding.  In media statements the RPA claimed that Platform 11’s belief that shorter carriages on the Tallaght line would create unnecessary over crowding, was "nonsense".6 Platform 11 responded with a second press release contradicting the RPA. Within a year the crush of passengers on the Tallaght line were causing problems. Tom Manning from the RPA confessed that his organization were looking at the possibility of making the Trams longer on the Tallaght line.7 The debate ignored the nature of the trams as anything other than mere transport and served to promote the one-dimensional notion that the 40 metre trams can carry more people.
            Platform 11 is an organization that has been hi-jacked by modernists and rationalists.  The length of the carriages is related to their cultural function and not their role as transport because we will see that the Green Line to Sandyford simulates transport while the Tallaght line does not.  Therefore, the actual length of the Green Line carriage is irrelevant.  The longer carriages are required for the larger shopping bags that are a feature of travel on the Green Line and its shopping centre called the Dundrum Town Centre.  In the funereal solemnity of this temple of consumption each purchase is laid like an economic corpse in a branded bag casket swathed in a tissue shroud.  These sign coffins are carried in state on the Green Line while all on board jealously imagine what might lie ensigned and mourn a lost sign opportunity: the meaning of the consumable sign begins to expire at the moment of purchase and the power of the sign is lost at its exact moment of consummation.  Of course these aristocratic bags need more room than those smaller common bags of less sign-value that travel on the Red Line.  TheLuas, like Dublin the city,understands this perfectly.
            The fact that the two lines do not meet is neither due to a planning oversight nor to a political failure of will.  The proposal to join the lines was changed by direct political intervention.  A joined-up system would have allowed the residents of Tallaght direct access to Dundrum.  The Luas represents a refusal of the city to become a fully integrated urban space, if such a hetherotopia8  is possible.  Dublin city space represents an epistemic movement from the uniform Big-Town-Ireland to the fractured post-modern consciousness of the Celtic Tiger.  The Luas as a transport text easily evades its obvious duties to transport.

III. The Green Line to “Humdrum”9
            Anyone sceptical about the sentient nature of the Luas need only purchase a ticket at the touch-screen machines which talk to the commuters reminding them of the potential presence of pick-pockets, and other hazards (especially on the Red Line). The ticket machine does not provide conversation at levels valued in Dublin pubs, but it definitely talks and Dubliners are famous for their chat.  A capacity for sympathic listening is a valued service in the Celtic Tiger economy and something for which many are willing to pay.  That the ticket machine does not exhibit such a nature makes it quite contemporary.  On the Green line to Sandyford the Luas announces each approaching stop in English and displays its name an electronic strip in both English and Irish.  Apparently it does not trust itself to speak the words in Irish and, in any case, the meanings of the Irish named destinations are heurestically complex.
            For the original Ordinance Survey mappings of the nineteenth century, Irish place names were phonetically translated into English-sounding equivalents.  Following the elevation of Irish to the redundant role of the National Language after independence in 1922, there exists an intriguing practice of translating place names back into Irish regardless of whether or not the original name is Irish.  This practice of double translation produces many Irish signs that simulate Irish signs and are indistinguishable from real Irish signs.  A striking example of this is Tallaght itself. “Tallaght” is Middle Irish for "plague grave", and the origin of the name seems to indicate the burial site for victims of the Black Death.  However, in contemporary Dublin, “Tallaght” is translated from Irish into simulated Irish as the homonymous Tamhlachta (which sounds more Irish).10
            The names of destinations running south towards the suburbs act as significations of ahistorical spaces removed from any historical or social specificity.  The first “Harcourt” thankfully survives translation but the next – “Ranelagh” is rendered Raghnallach in a concession to phonetics only; the decidedly English Beechwood, placename of many contemporary ahistorical housing estates becomes the literal Coill na Fea and we remain in English until Baile an Mhuilinn which again is a literal translation of Milltown. The Wind-in-the-Willows-style Windy Arbour becomes the unexpected Na Glaísan.  At Dún Droma we are back to the homonymous Dundrum. At the Anglicised Balally we arrive at the decidedly more Gaelic Baile Amhlaoibh. The meaningless Kilmacud is rendered back into Cill Mocuda and Stillorgan is translated unconvincingly as Stigh Lorgan for Stillorgan.11 At the end of the line we arrive at Sandyford Industrial Estate or Áth an Ghainimh.  The majority of this journey takes place on a dedicated off-street rail-line, is largely unhurried and allows for polite chatting with one’s blonde fellows. There is no rush and, if a tram is missed because the ticket machine proves far too talkative, there is always another tram along in a few minutes.
            The Green Line conjurs up signs of times past and as heritage transport has the museum-like capacity to hoard time.  In this case, time that can be spent shopping.12 The Green Line is a space that ignores space and accumulates time.  On the Green Line, space is as embarrasing as a stray dark root.  The tram simply moves space aside to be dealt with some other way rather than overcoming it. The Green Line thus fulfills the mathematical requirements of linearity in that it has at least two points: it has two beginnings and ends in the middle at Dundrum – its central focus.  At Balally, the stop for Dundrum Town Centre, though not the town of Dundrum, newly constructed buildings straddle the line – purposfully built with and for the Luas.  At the Dundrum stop there is a sign for the Dundrum Town Centre, which one begins to suspect is a simulation of the town centre, which itself has no sign.  Outside the station there is a sign for the Dundrum Shopping Centre, which is not the shopping centre as Town Centre nor indeed is it the town centre itself.  The new signs, redundant signs and non-signs of the signs themselves, together with the absent signs, jostle with each other for both the attention and over-sight of the simulated commuter.  Dundrum Town Centre and Dundrum Shopping Centre are both shopping centres and neither is the town centre. However, The Town Centre is now the shopping centre while the original, but unreal Shopping Centre slides into an ungracious decay.  It seems likely that it will eventually be refurbished and re-designated as The Real Shopping Centre.
            The actual town centre does not call attention to itself as a centre of town and may not even exist as such.  The street as village is sandwiched between the modern shopping centre that has not overcome time – but has itself been overcome by it – and the post-modern space of the Dundrum Town Centre.  In fact, the Town Centre is planning an annex of itself under the designation “village” where a village is a natural sub-set of a town. The shopping mall as Town Centre has appropriated the centre of town to become the central space of the village, something that the modern-era Shopping Centre failed to do.  The Shopping Centre has now fallen victim to its own ally, time.  The liberation of the signs of the town from the town itself has facilitated this free-floating sign to signify the new space as the town itself.  It is easy to imagine that the original town (or village) will disappear as has already begun to happen.

IV. From Shitting to Shopping
            Inside the simulated Town Centre, at the epistemological centre of the centre, is the corridor leading to the toilets; the area dedicated to shitting because all spaces in here must have a dedication.  Along the walls of this boulevard leading from shitting to shopping are illustrated panels providing a narrative of the 400 years that lead to the founding of the Town Centre.  This story is exclusively for the distraction of the just-relieved flaneur because it is reasonable to assume that those hastening to the toilets will not be distracted by the walls.  Here the plotless narrative is driven by the evolutionary necessity of this development where all obstacles, both social and natural, are overcome so that the Town Centre is made possible: this teleology is manifest in consumption.  The narrative is presented as an ahistorical evolution from pond to mill to village to town square.
            In the beginning of the Dundrum Universe (which occurred in 1602) there was a pond, the Millpond, and in the slime of this pond, the consumption anmoeba was spawned.  This evolutionary history legitimizes the ineluctable growth of the phenomenon of consumption demonstrating a continuity between its contemporary sophistication and that of its fragile past with its first tottering steps in the form of a laundry.  This ahistorical history is centred on named individuals.  It is both romantic and non-controversial.  It carefully omits want, need or labour or any embarrassing ideological struggles.  Data on the numbers, sizes and frequencies of explosions and the volume of rocks moved present the idea of progress that involves painless super-human effort.  There is no account of fatalities, mainings, or pre-mature detonations in the manufacture of this consumer paradise.  Nature itself was overcome of its deficiencies to provide us with (not just any opportunity) but “high-quality opportunities” to spend. 
            These ahistorical history boards that lead away from the toilets, where one has presumably deposited the excreta of modernity, lead us to the excitement of the post-modern space: the evolutionary plot takes us from excrement to excitement.  The story takes us from a village, which may ultimately become a village again in the future, to a Millpond in 1800 with papermill and ironworks.  This journey is undisturbed by any Dickensian elaborations.  The owners of these early manifestations of Capital are innocuously named as Mrs. Hall and Mr. Stokes whom we are to assume were credible industrialists and modernists.  Our evolutionary transition is smoothed by the absence of social detail depicting work and living conditions.  The products of modernity, and ultimately post-modern consumption, arrive on the shop shelves without any embarassing or inconvenient social interventions.  Where environmental impacts occur these can be dealt with through appropriately innocuous narratives that can be printed on re-cycleable panels.  The dates of note in the inexorable rise of post-modernism are not epochrophal but are arbitrarily linked to named individuals.  This is a retrospective history of named individuals.  Any anxiety about how the villagers got through the Great Famine of 1845/46 are dispelled by the note from the Census of 1901 that tells us Joseph Edmondson was the owner of a laundry and he was married to June and had a son Theodore aged two.  All is well then.  Such  information, simulating knowledge, resists any modernising synthesis.  It is an appropriate simulation of a knowledge of the Town Centre because it is the sign of knowledge as historical knowledge.13

V. Show me the label!
            In its appropriately vertiginous halls, this heaven produces the anxiety associated with all excess: the anxiety originating in choice.  The array of eating opportunities produces a worry about which sandwich may hold the best possible expereince. Consumption here is not driven by need or greed or even excess.  It is driven by the fear of missed opportunity.  A sandwich is immediately famous because it is labelled famous and is thereby made famous.  There is celebrity associated with it.  But world cuisine competes with Pizza Plus so one should have all of them: one can gorge on all of them.  But gorging is not encouraged because it destroys the idealised figure required for the most fashionable labels.  There is a dialectical relationship at work in the centre that opposes excess and anxiety.  If I consume the food I will not fit into the clothes.  Restraint in one makes the other possible.  If consumers lose this balance they can seek help from the in-house counsellors.  The Dundrum Medical Clinic addresses the anxieties of consumption by offering counselling as well as general medical practice, lazer treatment, dental treatment, physiotherapy and chiropody.
            Freud posited desire, a desire that lies in the subject, as the engine of modern man.  In the post-modern experience of homo consumeris, the Freudian psycho-centric desire is replaced by the socio-centric anxiety that some opportunity for consumption may be missed.  Dundrum Town Square addresses this anxiety by both promoting it and temporarily aleviating it at one and the same time.  Unlike Freudian desire, the origin of the consuming motivation lies outside the subject in the media: it represents a new form of alienation.  There is a dialectical interplay between consuming and anxiety: an anxiety that the consumption of one thing will reduce other consuming opportunities.  The contemporary Irish consumer wants it all and wants it all now.  Any delay or incompatibility must be immediately overcome through a consumption which in turn gives rise to further delays and incompatibilities.  When the cycle over-heats help is at hand through psychological support, the hand-maiden of consumer society. 
            The shopping area described as the Fashion District (as if there was an unfashionable district at Dundrum), houses dozens of the world’s most exclusive retailers to the extent that the Town Square is described by its own publicity as rivalling London’s Bond Street.  Bond Street is apparantly the sign of signs.  There is also notification of a plan to develop specialised niche boutiques in original (whatever the term may mean in this context) historical cottages that will form the village as a subset of the town.  The village will be distinguished from the town through its ability to simulate history and even greater levels of exclusivity than the centre itself.  The village will simulate history through heritage by deploying the signs of originality in this ahistorical space. 
            The Town Centre simulates its status as town by promoting a cosmopolitanism found only in the ideal Irish town.14 There is a twelve screen cinema, a 200 seat community theatre that simulates community, a 300 square metre Adult Education Centre and two Radio Stations.  Thus, the consumer makes a return to the invisible non-consuming townspeople.  The town only contains consumers who simulate citizenship.  When a simulated citizen searches for the theatre and other community facilities on the computerized Information Points, the simulated citizens cannot find them because the computer maps display spaces only through categories of named retail outlets.  If it is not a label then it cannot persist in this label menagerie.
            In the simulated Square of the Town Centre there is a large video screen that provides information about the opening times of the town recalling the concerns of the gated cities of the Middle Ages.  In the place of the town cryer there is a pop video loop.  In Dundrum, the end of history is consumption, the end of society is pop music, and the end of transport is the Luas. 
            This is a town seemlessly evolved from pre-modern times to post-modern that carries the transformed signs of a model heritage town complete with its own train set in the form of the Luas.  On the Green Line, passengers play on, rather than travel on, their fantastic post-modern train set – a life-size toy.  However, as the Red Line is the same size this has led some, like Platform 11, to promote the joining of the two in the middle.  On the Green Line most of the stops are pretend stops with pretend names.  On this route, there is a beginning at Stephens Green, a middle at Dundrum, and another beginning at Sandyford. 

VI. The Red Line to “Tallaght-fornia”
            The Tallaght (or Red) line signifies the inherent dangers associated with travelling into the realm of proletarian culture.  On boarding, commuters are advised by the train – because such are the entities who travel in the red – that pick-pockets may be operating on this line.  Do pick-pockets not frequent the Green Line?  Is it a condition of a transport system that it has its own pick-pockets?  Do simulated transport systems have simulated pick-pockets?   As on the Green Line, it is the machine itself that articulates all the warnings. 
            The nominations on the Red Line are more robustly and resolutely Gaelic.  Conghaile is the first followed by the only original Irish designation, Busáras.  There is the direct translation Na Ceithre Cúirteanna for The Four Courts; the poetic Margath na Féirme for Smithfield; Ard Mhúaem for the Museum stop; Oispidéal san Séamas at Saint James’ Hospital  After these, as the tram moves further from the safety of the city, place names have no convincing Gaelic translations until the literal An Capal Dubh for The Black Horse, An Cloigín Gorm for Bluebell and An Bhó Dhearg for the Red Cow. The final stop, Tallaght is rendered Thamhlachta which may be a phonetic translation of the original Irish name, Tallaght .15
            There are no signs that direct the commuter from the train to the Tallaght shopping centre, called The Square: the two are not epistemologically connected.  There is a separation between The Square as destination and the Luas as vehicle.  Their shared space is coincidental rather than coextensive.  Likewise, within The Square itself there are no significant acknowledgements of the Luas’ existence outside.  Guide-maps to the centre and beyond do not recognise its presence; these maps have not been updated.  In contrast to Dundrum, Tallaght is not historically self-conscious – no historical narrative is in store.
            The Square as shopping centre presents a blank exterior typical of many such modern versions – it is robustly modern.  Within, spaces are more confined than their Dundrum counter-parts.  Shops are significantly less prestigious and their locations are ad-hoc and appear more spontaneous. While the spaces are relatively smaller, as on The Red Line, there are more people in these confines.  However, despite the semblance of the spontaneity of the street, it is just as difficult to do the practical or the simple street-based shopping here such as buy a newspaper.   There is an equally extensive, though significantly less attractive, multi-levelled array of food options. However eating is not presented as entertainment; or at least if it is, it is a failing distraction.  The restaurant Nurture is half closed and offers only a limited range of sandwich fillings.  Most food outlets present the same kinds of menu and none offer the opportunity to experience the culinary world – chips are available with everything.  In Dundrum, crisps, that genteel chip, is the ubiquitous garnish.  In Tallaght its more prosaic cousin holds sway.  The crisp produces a more subtly blocked artery.  In Tallaght, meat-and-two-veg-meals constitute the popular lunch; pizza is a snack before going home for dinner. 
            In The Square there is a conspicuous symbiotic relationship between the availability of a noxious diet and health outlets.  Dominos Pizza reported the highest pizza sales in the world in their outlet in The Square. 16 The discourse of health (with its embedded counter-point illness) is omnipresent through the popular hypochondria of measurement: cholesterol, waistlines, stress, blood pressure, and fitness (Chinese and alternative numbers can all be accessed here).  The juxtapositioning of greasy food and exotic medical interventions forms a modern dialectical expression of a class-based identity grounded in a self-sustaining hypochondria – an opposition between anxious medical measurements and greasy defiance that constitutes a psychoanalysis for the masses.  In Tallaght, health discourse is manifest in obesity and failed dieting.  In Dundrum it is present as dieting and failed obesity.  To fit into a designer dress one must be simultaneously both an avid consumer and a resistor of consumption.  This is a source of post-modern anxiety.  Dundrum makes counselling available on the top floor for any consumers who temporarily lose this delicate balance in contemporary Being and non-Being where Being is not-being an un-acceptable size.  Today the most desirable size is zero. 
            While Dundrum Town Centre has consumers, The Square retains a notion of citizenship.  A significant difference between Tallaght and Dundrum is that a large minority of the citizens of The Square are young children often confined to buggies.  As there are practically no children on the Luas this reinforces the separation between the train and the centre.  In The Square, the child is the primary sign: the principle fashion accessory.   In Tallaght the child is a socio-economic sign whose value is doubled by its absence in Dundrum. 
            As a modern centre, The Square retains much of the spontaneity of the street.  It is less a centre for consumption and more street for the flâneur of Benjamin: it is more crèche for the display of child as a flâneur accessory.  There are several elements that undermine pure consumption.  There are no clear maps and the signs are poor and discreet.  The spaces are narrow and emphasise function over form and are less precisely planned than Dundrum.
            The prevailing signs of The Square are: children, dyed hair, track-suits, health (and sickness), buggies, shopping trolleys, grease and chips.  While Dundrum has its own significance, it gains much of its meaning through the absence of the Tallaght signification within its gleaming space; it is made meaningful through opposition and negation.
            The Red Line transports people from one stop to another in a typically modern manner.  There is use of all stops along the line and passengers move through space on time. 

VII. Mind the Gap!
            It is believed by many that, as a back-up strategy, the gauges on the two lines are fractionally (immeasurably) different.  We know this despite reported public measuring ceremonies and claims that carriages have been run on both lines allegedly under the cover of darkness.  We know this because public incompetence is always a more credible idea than efficacy and it is always more rational to dismiss rumors of spectral Red Line carriages running in the dead of night on Green Line tracks.  Furthermore, as there are no connecting tracks in the first place how would the carriages get from one side to the other side?  Everyone in Dublin suspects the lie that the gauges are the same – ask anyone. 
The Luas has been propagating the urban myth that the gauge of the track of the two lines is different and thereby, all efforts to join them are futile.  The width of the gauge is a metaphor for an equally insurmountable difference.  The Red Line runs on a unique measure as a modern system that transports citizens, in a timely manner, to and from work, otherwise trapping them in the concrete of the modern space of Tallaght.  The Green Line is a post-modern simulation of transport that carries consumers through the idealized spaces of consumption suspended in the amber light of ahistorical time.  How could these two be joined and how can there separation be viewed as mere oversight or incompetence? Incompetence has attained the status of a curiously teleological historiography in Dublin discourse on itself.  The gap does not yield to mere empirical investigation.  No, this is the sentience of the machine in the ghost!

           Can a simulated line that literally carries a higher sign-value, ultimately be joined to a real line that carries people home from work?  It is reminiscent of Baudrilard’s warning of the catastrophe which can take place when the virtual economy meets the real one (as he believes happened in 1929).17 Can a life-size train-set be joined to a set of trains?  Can the cortège to just dead fashion be fashioned to the carriage of the just dyed?  Not without a seismic epistemological upheaval the likes of which Dublin, the city, has long resisted.


1 The Luas opened in 2004.

2 The writer Brendan Behan defined a city as a place where one was unlikely to be attacked by a wild goat. This criterion for measuring urban development is still relevant in the context of debating whether Dublin is a big town or a modern city.  The quote was originally used with respect to New York: “New York is my Lourdes, where I go for spiritual refreshment... a place where you're least likely to be bitten by a wild goat”.

3 CIÉ is the Irish national transport authority.  The first railway reached Dublin in 1834 when a line to Kingsbridge was built.  Horse drawn buses began running in Dublin in 1840 and these were  followed by horse drawn trams in 1872.

4 This is the name given to the Irish economy after 1994 to describe unprecedented growth.

5 In Dublin hair possesses a primary sign-value.  Tallaght and Dundrum are separated by non-traversable degrees of conviction toward blondness: unconvincing blonds, or poorly simulated blondes, and brunettes (simulated or not) live in Tallaght.  Dundrum is dominated by blonde simulations.

6 This remark was made on Dublin radio Newstalk 106 by Ger Hannon of the RPA.

7 Again, on Newstalk 106.

8 From Foucault.  Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias. This text was originally entitled "Des Espace Autres," and was published by the French journal Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in October, 1984. This text was the basis of a lecture given by Michel Foucault in March 1967. Although not reviewed for publication by the author and thus not part of the official corpus of his work, the manuscript was released into the public domain for an exhibition in Berlin shortly before  Foucault's death.

9 Most Dublin names of note are deformed through slang.  Where a name resists this process it usually means it has little parochial engagement.  Hence “Humdrum” to capture the monotony of this suburb.

10 This is equivalent to appending “ski”to English words to make such words sound more Russian. The complexities of naming apply also to the name Luas itself.  In Irish the word “luas” means going at speed.  The name “The Luas” is an example of a contemporary marrying of the English definite article to an Irish word with apposite onomatopoeic attributes to produce a name for the tram system that signifies its position trapped between a generalized national amnesia about a Gaelic past that preceded all technology and an alienating material present that demands we ransack our forgotten past for names. This form of naming represents an attempt to reconcile an ahistorical present with an exclusively nostalgic past, to recapture a missed technological opportunity from modern Ireland.

11 Many prominent designations migrate from the original under the inventiveness of Dublin folk labelling.  Hence we get Tallaghtfornia, Humdrum and Mickey Morbh.  Mickey is Dublin slang for Penis.  Morbh is the Irish word for dead and thus Mickey Morbh is a combination of Hiberno English slang for organ and Irish word substitution for still (not moving) giving us the very humorous and apt name for this Dublin suburb as literally, Dead Penis or Mickey Morbh.

12 This idea of the temporal accumulation in museums first appears in Foucault.

13 More information is available for consumption: 100,000 cubic metres of concrete were poured; 27,000 metres of steel welded together; 30 lifts built; 1000 doors hung; 100 metres of river suspended; 13 Mega Watts of electricity needed; 3,400 car-parking spaces; five major anchor stores; 130 shops; 15 restaurants/cafes; 12 million visitors per annum [12]; Î500 million spent to provide the “best example of mixed shopping and entertainment in Europe”.

14 Historical Irish towns are peculiarly lacking in civic amenities.

15 Tallaght (Middle Irish for "plague grave") is mentioned in Lebor Gabála Érenn (or Book Of Invasions) as being the burial place of thousands of Partholonians who died from the Black Death. Saint Maelruain established a monastic settlement in Tallaght in 796.

16 RTE Television news report 2006.

17 Jean Baudrillard. “The Viral Economy” In Screened Out. New York: Verso, 2002:26-32.




©International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2006)