Reflections at 150 – Michael John Gorman

Posted March 17, 2017 in Features

DDF 2022 – Desktop – part 3-3
BIMM may-june 22 – Desktop

Totally Dublin’s first issue hit the streets of our capital back in October 2004. It was a time of inflated rental prices, increasing consumer costs and erm, oh….

It was also a city with a proud creative spirit and in spite of challenges, this remains at the core of what excites us and fills these pages every month. Your passions, your projects, your hopes, your collaborations, your investigations.

Considering how best to celebrate this milestone for the publication proved quite the conundrum for as much as we like to look back, we’re also keen to move forward and not dwell upon past glories. As such we decided to dip into a few past issues and ask featured participants to revisit their associations with Totally Dublin and what’s unfolded in their lives since then.

We thank you for your support to date and sincerely hope you’ll stay pals with us as we continue to highlight the endeavours of people who brighten our days and nights.

We featured a slightly fresher-faced Michael John Gorman in issue #10 in July 2005 around his Save The Robots exhibition in The Ark. He reflects on that time and his life course since then.

The Summer of 2005 was an innocent time of creative experimentation where my life was dominated by robots.

After 17 years living away from Ireland I had just returned from San Francisco to Dublin with big plans to transform the Arthouse building in Temple Bar (now Filmbase) into a new centre for art and technology for teenagers in partnership with The Ark.


Our first big project was to stage a robot invasion of Dublin with the Save The Robots exhibition and festival. We had robot DJ performances in The Ark, with giant car-factory robot arms spinning vinyl. We had an eighteenth century clarinet-playing android, a defecating duck automaton, a bearded robot tramp shuffling down Henry Street pushing a shopping trollley, and even a cockroach-controlled robot browsing in the market in Meeting House Square.

After the robots left Dublin, reality hit. The project with the Arthouse fell through for complicated reasons, and I was left with a glossy business plan, but no life plan.

I was fortunate to get a job running Discover Science and Engineering’s Young People’s programmes nationally, and, with the help of some kindred spirits, founded a non-profit called SEED to bring together art and science, which used to hold artscience salons upstairs in the Odessa Club.

The big chance came when Trinity College wanted to create a new type of space to engage the public with science. My experience in developing exhibitions and festivals including Save The Robots turned out to be a good fit for the challenge of creating Science Gallery, and my shelved business plan for the Arthouse meant that I had thought through many of the challenges involved in creating such a centre – failure is a great teacher!

There was a breakneck schedule to open the gallery. It was an incredibly intense 12 months from being hired as Director to opening date but we made it. With the help of a wonderful and optimistic startup-team we launched Science Gallery with a bold vision of bringing science into creative collisions with the arts, opening our doors on Pearse Street with Lightwave, exploring the art and science of light, on February 1 2008.


It was seat-of-the-pants for the first months – Lightwave was meant to be followed by an exhibition which fell through at the last minute, so we had to extend it “by popular demand” and frantically create a substitute exhibition –in approximately two weeks. But then things began to settle down and the gallery quickly became one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions. Now Science Gallery is a global network of university-linked galleries bridging art and science, expanding to London, Melbourne, Bangalore and Venice, and something of which I am immensely proud.

After leaving Science Gallery in very capable hands, I moved to Munich last May. My big new challenge (aside from German grammar) is to create Biotopia a major new €100m space to inspire young people to tackle global environmental challenges at a spectacular site at Schloss Nymphenburg. All because of those robots.

Michael John Gorman



The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.


National Museum Exhibitions MPU #1
Music & Meditation


The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.