SEWER LIGHTS, Belfast,  2002, part of FiX 02
SEWER LIGHTS, Limerick, 2003 part of ev+a 2003

A section of the Belfast sewer system was lit with high powered horticultural lighting, turning the underworld into a bright summers day. The lights where set on a timer providing an eighteen hour day for optimum plant growth and in a bid to improve living conditions for local subterranean wild life. The lights were powered by rodding armoured electrical cable through a maze of sewer pipes and ‘U’ bends into nearby buildings. The armoured cable became necessary because rats seem to find electrical wires delicious. From the above world the work was visible as rays of intense white light emanating from the underground through manhole covers, drains and cracks in the ground.

This work then evolved into ‘Sewer Disco’, Lisbon as part of Veneer | Folheado, a multi-disciplinary arts exchange project with Catalyst arts Belfast and ZDB Lisbon.

Collaborating with Paddy Bloomer this work required two weeks of intensive sewer exploration in the area, working from 04:00 to 08:00 each morning to avoid disrupting the traffic with blocked roads during the day. The locals rarely protested at the disruptions and when they did this was easily dealt with by remarking: ‘ask the boss’ with sombre tired faces, covered head to toe in their shit.

The Lisbon sewer hosted some interesting wild life. The layout of pipes was figured out by flushing ink down toilets from surrounding buildings and seeing where, or if, it came out in the street sewers. Rope was then rodded underground from manhole to manhole. Linking them up created one continuous line from the chosen manholes to the chosen building. Fishing line was the flushed down the chosen toilet of the chosen building and in the same way, linking point to point, a continuous line was established from toilet to first manhole, where the rope linking all the manholes was pulled up through the toilet.

The power leads and data leads were then pulled down through the toilet to the chosen manholes where the sewer disco was installed. A control centre and DJ booth was then set up in a comfortable part of the chosen building. The Sewer Disco ran throughout the night with people dancing around the manholes. Some people removed the manhole covers at times to get a better sound. A wide range of music and psychedelic lights came from the underworld for one night only, until the police came early in the morning.

We initially thought that the appearance of the police was because so many people where dancing in the street. The reason they arrived, and the reason so many people got upset, was because the surrounding houses were getting music including ‘Japanese Euro Beat’ through their toilets all night. We cut the control centre free of the wires. All the police found were the cut ends of lots of wires; all their sniffer dogs smelt was shit.

Sadly the only documentation that remains of this work depicts the local police/ bomb squad removing the work and a local newspaper article talking of ‘the mystery of the sewer’.

‘Sewer Lights’ and ‘Sewer Disco’ would not have been possible without the support of the Lawrence Street Workshops, Belfast.