Sheebeen Apocalypto

Artist Name(s) Carl Giffney
Artwork title Sheebeen Apocalypto
Context/Background Sheebeen Apocalypto took place within the Arigna Fuels Plant in Arigna, Co. Roscommon. The factory produces smokeless coal from imported coal slack and employs an all male labour force that comprises of approximately sixty men. The work took place in their environment. This environment is a very industrial setting, yet it is also a social one. Physically it is made up of soot blackened machines and buildings, discarded mechanical parts, heaps of coal, sheds and cabins. Geographically it is near the Leitrim border and surrounded by a picturesque landscape of mountains and lake lands. It is quite isolated from any inhabited areas.

The work was commissioned by Roscommon Arts Office, as part of their Art@Work programme. This project saw five artists working within five different businesses, all in Co. Roscommon.

The factory is situated below high hills that were once mined by many of the Arigna workers. The labour force wear bright orange overalls and move about among the mounds of black coal slack, clad in steel cap boots and bright hard hats. Arigna offered a fascinating, and highly charged, social context comprised solely of working men. This context is not a unique one, a fact that made it an intriguing and meaningful one to work within.


The work that took place at Arigna Fuels was proposed to be a process orientated one, and had no end point in mind when it was proposed or when it commenced. A methodology was outlined. Its objectives were to interact with the factory's work force and to use the outcomes of this interaction as the main source of the projects direction and progress.

Truck loads of unwanted timber arrived on site on a daily basis. The wood is fed into a machine that shreds it, removes the nails it contains with magnets, before delivering it to a storage hold. This shredded timber fuels a furnace that dries the various loads of coal slack that are imported into the factory from all over the world. It is this dried coal slack that is blended and baked into the smokeless coal pellets that Arigna manufactures. Timber was hand picked from this supply before it was converted into furnace fuel. This timber was used as the main building material when constructing Sheebeen Apocalypto.

In such an industrial and industrious environment, it became necessary to build on a large and visible scale. This activity had no preconceived outcome. It was intended as a performative action that attempted to infiltrate the overtly male atmosphere that permeated the site. The construction took place in an uncompleted concrete shed situated on the side of a road that was used as a parking space by Arigna employees and a thoroughfare for tourists venturing to the Arigna Mining Museum. The shed provided an amount of privacy from the workings of the factory but also acted as an approachable stage to its labourers. These men would walk into the open shed and inquire about the building that was going on. Advice was given, questions were asked, and conversations easily took place. The men were friendly, helpful and visited regularly. This building process intentionally involved activities that were considered stereotypical to sculpture making and was carried out in an effort to interact with the plants workers.

The talks that took place in the concrete shed were used to dictate the evolution of the construction. Drinking, foreign employment, Egyptian pyramids, "motor madness syndrome", farming and religion were among the subjects that they brought up amidst many cigarettes and frequent sunshine. None of these conversations were every recorded in any way. It would have been inappropriate.

Gorse flowers and hawthorn flowers were picked from the bushes that grew in the fields circling the shed. The flowers were collected and made into an alcoholic drink very similar to meade. Due to the timescale, genetically modified yeast were employed which sped up the process four or five fold. At the same time the construction was becoming more and more futuristic, taking influences from sources like Red Dwarf and Eco Building.

After twenty days a possible end point of the project was becoming clear. Its form and function were becoming more solid. A bar was emerging. This bar, it would be claimed, was excavated in the surrounding foothills 1,200 years in the future, and is believed to originally date from between 2005 and 2015. It represents a very important time in Irish history. After a complete collapse of the country's economy, the inhabitants of the area were forced to rely on that which surrounds them. They were forced to reinvent their most essential of social needs. Using the materials that remained after a period of great industrial success in Ireland they built many things.

Signs were made explaining where, how and when the sheebeen had been excavated before the bar was officially opened. It served Arigna workers and misguided tourists free meade for a period of nine days.

For the workers Sheebeen Apocalypto acted as an interactive installation, a bar, a possible vision of recession and an influence on the conversations that took place within it. To the misguided tourists it posed as a historical finding that could be taken at face value or not. Often the two would intertwine.


An exhibition/ documentation of the work was presented in Roscommon Arts Centre.

A catalogue was published

Press reviews may be read at the link below:


In 2007 Carl Giffney graduated from Ireland's National College of Art and Design (NCAD) with a first class honours degree. In 2005 he co-founded Bluebricks, a public interventionist group based in Dublin and in 2007 he co-founded The Good Hatchery. The Good Hatchery is an artist led initiative that is homed in a building sourced for free via the internet. He has been involved in many public projects both internationally and in Ireland. Recent residencies have seen him work in disparate locations from Westport to Berlin and in eclectic settings from the coal mines of Roscommon to the roundabouts of Limerick. He states:

'I am fascinated by belief structures, methods of explaining our surroundings, taxonomy and history.'

With his art practice, Giffney tries to negotiate these thematic concerns in the public domain - the outcomes of which often involve large scale physicality, public interactivity and bewildering mistruths. His practice is focused on direct audience engagement. Recent works include N-7th, a public work for Kildare's Transitopia project, La Breithla Shona Duit a sculpture that was developed in the Behind Smoke and Mirrors residency at Limerick City Gallery and Supreme Court / Imperial Measurements a large scale outdoor work commissioned by Dublin City Council and Temple Bar Gallery for St. Annes Park, Dublin.

Commission Type Local Authority
Commissioner Name Art@Work programme
Commissioning process Open submission
Project commission dates May 20, 2008 - June 27, 2008
Public Presentation dates July 11, 2008 - August 22, 2008
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Funded By Roscommon County Council
Budget Range 0 - 10000 euro
Project commission start date 20/05/2008
Project commission end date 27/06/2008
Location Concrete shed, Arigna Fuels Plant
County Roscommon
Town Arigna
Street Address
Google Map Insert View this projects location
Content contributor(s) Carl Giffney
Relationship to project Artist
Public engagement

The all male work force of Arigna Fuels, its management staff, tourists searching for the Arigna mining experience, people living in the locality and passers-by.

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Philip Delamere, Art@Work Project Coordinator



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