Dublin City Arts Office
The LAB, Foley Street, Dublin 1

+353 1 222 5455

Past Exhibition

O, To have a little house

Michelle Malone

September 09 - November 05 2022

The LAB Gallery is pleased to present the first major solo show by recent graduate Michelle Malone

O, To have little house.

Michelle’s work is rooted in a desire to materially explore working class histories through personal experience. This exhibition considers her childhood experience of home and most particularly her
grandmother’s house and experience of moving from flat 1A in Fatima Mansions to new social housing in the suburbs. Through sculpture, installation, textile and film, the exhibition celebrates her grandmother’s pride in her home, recalling specific details and drawing on the material nature of memories. Michelle’s research considers where personal narratives fill gaps in collective histories through the material nature of objects and physical retelling through large scale sculpture and installation. She is interested in creating affected meaning through working-class materials and objects. In this large scale installation, we are invited to consider the nature of specific elements that were brand new in her grandmother’s home. The gallery is filled with the smell of freshly laid carpet. The pattern is synonymous with the ‘sitting room’ or good room in Irish homes in the 70s and 80s. Here it moves from the ground to become a floor to ceiling dramatic call to the street, where tenements once stood. Bold yellow and soft sage walls seem to question the colour choices of the carpet pattern as they are pitted side by side. Bare soil presents the viewer with a hint at the excitement and potential this garden provided the new homeowner, while the tapestry gives a reverence to the reproduced photograph of her grandmother’s favourite seat in the more mature
garden with her beloved rosebush

There is a strong play between public and private space throughout the exhibition. Expanding out the domestic space into this large scale exhibition in a public gallery. A focal point of the exhibition, again visible from the street, is a staircase. Having originally grown up in the tenements, the staircase held a particular significance for Michelle’s grandmother. Despite the stairwell being a place for public access, it provided the space to have private chats outside the one room home of overcrowded tenements. In the ‘own door’ house, where in theory the whole home is private, the staircase continued to hold this significance and its inclusion here references the artist’s memory of where the special conversations might happen with her grandmother.

Continuing to bring us on a fluid journey back and forth in times past and present, between the personal memories of the artist and the shared experience of visitors, the dark room includes RTE Archive footage of Dublin’s inner city residents preparing or aspiring to move to the new social housing provided by Dublin Corporation in suburbs like Finglas where Michelle’s grandmother lived. Upstairs we find another familiar material, creating an unexpected dreamlike quality through its unfamiliar use. The small shining white and grey gravel of pebbledash, used to coat the exterior walls of houses, creates a pathway across the floor. The effect, alongside the brilliant white net curtains, is to take elements of a proud home owner’s personal choice additions, again somewhat ubiquitous in working class suburbs, and present them as the new surfaces of the white cube. On these new walls hang more tapestries depicting not the epic battles we come to expect from this medium, but rather a captured moment of a domestic space in transition. Michelle takes us on a journey through familiar and near forgotten aspects of suburban Dublin’s domestic working class interiors, through the perspective of lived experience, eliciting memories and holding a space for a deeper look at stories often marginalised from the visual arts.

The exhibition will be part of our Culture Night events programme on September 23 rd and also the conference Streets Ahead: Post-Pandemic Civic Spaces, organised by The Irish Humanities Alliance (IHA) in collaboration with Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and The LAB Gallery.

Artist Biography

Michelle Malone’s practice is based on her experience growing up in a variety of social housing systems in inner city Dublin, mainly Oliver Bond flats. Her multi- disciplinary installations are comprised of sculpture, image-making, oral histories, audio and text. Her practice seeks to give material voice to working-class histories from the perspective of lived experience. It is her belief that it is much needed in the art industry to let marginalised people tell their own story. She believes that all materials are biased and that objects have a collectively known cultural value. It is her intention to instrumentalise and weaponise the shared meaning of materials and objects to visually tell working-class histories and to create embodied empathy/ identity for the subject matter. She is interested in creating affected meaning of working-class materials and objects. The ultimate goal of her practice is to enter authentic working-class symbolism into the canon.

Curated by Sheena Barrett

This event takes place as part of Dublin Festival of History 2022.
Dublin Festival of History is brought to you by Dublin City Council and organised by
Dublin City Libraries, in partnership with Dublin City Council Culture Company.
For the full programme please visit www.dublinfestivalofhistory.ie


An Old Woman of the Roads, by Pádraic Colum

O, to have a little house!

To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods upon the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I'm weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there's never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house - house of my own -
Out of the wind's and the rain's way.


To view the archive footage that is a part of this exhibition, please see the following link


Critical Conversation -  Book Launches and Panel Discussion

Common Ground, Create and The LAB hosted a Critical Conversation event and the publication launch of ‘O To Have a Little House’ & ‘How Much is Enough?’ on Thursday April 13th at 5.30pm sharp to 7pm in the LAB. 

The Critical Conversation event celebrated and marked the launch of two publications; artist Michelle Malone’s O To Have a Little House and artist Kate O’Shea’s How Much is Enough? which traces Kate’s Just City residency 2020 -2022. 

Kate and Michelle were in the conversation with community worker and sociologist John Bissett who has recently published, It’s Not Where you Live, It’s How You Live: Class and Gender struggles in a Dublin Estate.   At the heart of the conversation, was the connection between the materiality of their combined writing, their critical reflection, art and activist practices.  Chaired by Common Ground, they explored their personal and public connections to social housing in Dublin 8 and the changing landscape of the city.  

The evening also included readings from Michelle of a poem co-written with her father and music from The Peoples Shed, artist Evelyn Broderick. 


Streets Ahead: Post-Pandemic Civic Spaces

The Irish Humanities Alliance (IHA), in collaboration with Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and The LAB, is delighted to present Streets Ahead: Post-Pandemic Civic Spaces. Today, as we plan for post-pandemic landscapes, with greater awareness and appreciation of the outdoors, the open-air spaces of our common world have renewed significance. Public places now need to function more effectively as truly shared spaces.Presenting current research from the fields of design, visual and material culture, public history, cultural history, architecture, urban planning, sonic studies, public art and heritage studies, this conference attempts to provide a critical lens through which to focus this newly enhanced attention. The conference will take place in hybrid form on 9-10 September 2022 in Dublin, at TU Dublin, Grangegorman, and The LAB, Foley Street.

Gallery opening times:
Monday to Saturday, 10AM – 6PM
Admission Free


























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