Elements of Exploitation

Shortlisted for the National Art Competition (UK) 2010.

This research began with an investigation as a visual artist, into the history of ‘Monto’ a notorious Red light district (in its prime in the 19th century) located in the heart of Dublin. Through discussion and research at my open studio in a gallery within a bookshop. I invited the public to contribute to my research (Open source approach) and many people including historians, the informed, the uninformed, the misinformed etc. etc. attended.

After six months of open research I came to the conclusion, that this district was not what had been originally perceived by the public, a red light district. Interestingly most Irish writers from the 19th and 20th century, record ‘Monto’ as a jovial exciting and taboo place.  It was in fact more like an illegal, disreputable den of iniquity a `black-economic zone ‘where the police found it hard to keep control. Not only prostitution existed but smuggling, dealing in contraband goods, child trafficking, wheeling and dealing in illicit goods, including anything illegal, should one desired. The authorities more or less turned a blind eye to the activities in this area even though they did raid it from time to time as a token gesture of concern and to raise and generate a substantial income from fines raised from the prostitutes. (Luddy, 2007)

I believe these illegal, black economic zones existed all over the British Empire and were an integral part of the colonial ´machine`. The Roman Empire and even USA’s activities during the 2nd world war (Catch 22 scenario) and its presence in Vietnam and other parts of the world show evidence that these ‘black-economic zones’ exist and were used to accumulate wealth.


Fagin terry, Monto: Madams, Murder and Black Coddle, Dublin, North Inner City Folklore Project, 2000.

Luddy, M. (2007). Prostitution and Irish Society 1800 – 1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Prunty Jacinta, Dublin Slums 1800 – 1925 – A Study in Urban Geography, Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 1998.

Walsh John Edward, Rakes and Ruffians – The Underworld of Georgian Dublin, 1979 (4th edition).

Wren Jimmy, Crinan – Dublin, A History of 13 North Inner City Streets, Dublin, The North Inner City Folklore Project and Alliance for Work Forum, 1993.