Joe Caslin: Is Street Art Capable of Advancing a Society?

Welcome, everyone to the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series. Well, welcome, folks, to the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series. And thank you Andrew Rogers on the Barton organ Some of you may have missed it. He started with some Irish tunes I really enjoyed your opening, Danny Boy. So Happy Halloween We most certainly are at the edge of falling into the pit of darkness. To help matters along, don’t forget to set your clocks back on Sunday. And yes, we can do this together. We are gonna make it through this dark period and we will come out in the light again We have a wonderful person from light to help us today Today we present the Irish artist, teacher, and activist, Joe Caslin Interestingly enough, I did a little looking back and thinking about the statistics of this, because everybody’s into data analyzing everything nowadays And so, I thought, “Wow, an Irishman in this Speaker Series This has only ever happened once before.” You know, we have folks from all over the world that come and grace our stage and join us all the time. But interesting that somehow in all the years of the Penny Stamp Series, this is only the second Irish person to be with us. And very interesting is that the first Irish person that joined us was David O’Reilly, back a number of years ago, and the date on which his visit and presentation fell was on Saint Patrick’s Day. And here, our second Irishman is with us on Halloween Both festival days and both Irish festival days. So here we are, you know, always trying to make it work So thank you to our partners for their support. Today, the Institute for the Humanities series partner ArtsEngine and Michigan Radio 91.7 FM. Just a couple quick announcements before we get moving along The Gratitude Campaign table is in the lobby again this week This is their student Sky Kristoff and Miles Hones are helping facilitate today They had wonderful hats on. If you didn’t see them on your way in, do check them out on your way out Really lovely. We’re taking this fall season to gather our thoughts and ideas about the series impact and we ask that if you have anything to share about the series, to please express yourself by sharing reflections in a written letter, which will be shared with the Stamps Family We only have three dates proper in our fall season left So if you’ve been thinking about what you’re gonna write, just remember that. So we’ll be taking letters for the next three weeks, we all… Well, it’s actually more than that. But anyway, the next three moments happening at the Michigan Theater. We also invite you to become a friend of the Penny Stamp Series by joining us with your financial support to help us continue this legacy of what Penny has built here, and that information is also available in the lobby. And a big thank you to those of you who have already joined us Wonderful. A reminder. We are hosting a special event, not one of the three that I mentioned, tomorrow evening, November 1st, 7:00 PM at the Bethlehem United Church, which is just a few short blocks from here This is on Fourth Street between William and Packard, an easy stroll, a wonderful interesting space, and we’re featuring John Cameron Mitchell And we will also have an organist there. There’s an organ in the space, so you can enjoy that. Also, you’re encouraged to come in costume John Cameron Mitchell himself is going to be awarding the best dressed, and he’s got two pairs of tickets to his one man show, Origin Of Love, to give away tomorrow evening, 7:00 PM Bethlehem United Church. Next Thursday… Just a note about next Thursday. We are presenting Marilyn… Sorry. Marina Willer. She’s a graphic designer extraordinaire, but she’s also a filmmaker, and she has a feature film which we are going to be hosting after she gives her talk here Her feature film called Red Trees. This is a personal story of her family’s survival and escaped to Brazil, during the Nazi occupation of Prague Her father was one of the last people to get out of Prague during World War II. This is gonna be screened at 7:30 PM, following the talk. And because if you are here today, or you’re a regular Penny Stamps patron, you get a big deal on the ticket to go see the show. We worked out a deal with the Michigan Theater So tickets are only $6, but you have to buy… And there’s no

fees. No service fee even, but you have to buy it online, not at the door, and you use the code “Willer”, that’s Marina’s last name. Marina Willer. “Willer” is the code. So you can purchase your tickets online for that screening And now, do silence your cellphones. We are going to have our regular Q and A, as per usual in the screening room, out the doors, to the left, down in the smaller theater, directly following the presentation here. And now a few words to foreground our guest today I had the great fortune to run into Joe Caslin, and his work, for the first time, last April. And I immediately, upon finding out about what he was doing, asked him to join us here And I trust that he will inspire you today to realize your own potential power to influence a tangible change in the world through finding understanding and empathy for all peoples around you. He’s known for his beautifully rendered pencil drawings which manifest as street art. Designboom magazine has described Caslin’s work as, “Towering works of art that appear like massive sketchbooks across the architecture of Ireland’s cities.” He is the recipient of the 2013 Association of Illustrators award for new talent, in the public realm He creates highly accessible work that engages directly with the social issues of modern Ireland. He confronts the subjects of suicide, drug addiction, economic marginalization, marriage equality, stigma, and mental health, the Irish asylum system, institutional power, and most recently sexual consent Devoid of text and realized in stark monochrome, these figures of Caslin’s murals both complement and change the world around them, compelling passers by to stop and stare. Holding up a mirror to the kind of society that we are, while asking us individually what kind of society do we want to be part of? The figures that populate his murals are ordinary folks, regular individuals, and they become spokespeople for their own experience, reminding viewers of the challenges they as a population must face together, that we as a population, I should say His project, Our Nation’s Sons aims to persuade entire communities to address the very real problem of young males’ apathy and their mental well being And the title of one of his recent projects, which was installed in the National Gallery of Ireland was an installation called Finding Power And I find this title is so apt to Joe and to his work because recently someone pointed out to me either one… There’s only really two ways that you can gain power. You can gain power through the leverage of having a lot of money, or you can gain power by connecting and inspiring people and that power is very squarely possessed by Joe. Please welcome Joe Caslin My grandfather was a remarkable seanchaí. In Ireland, the word seanchaí means great storyteller or narrator And my grandfather had a nickname for everyone, he used to call me “Black Jack” Now, there were three main reasons to this name. The first was after the ghost of my great great great uncle Jacob Caslin who continues to haunt our family home 200 years later. The second was to simply highlight my jet black hair and eyes But my favorite reason has to do with the connection to the card game blackjack As you know, if you score 21, you win. Now small children in Ireland when they’re getting potty trained, they are encouraged to use the words, “I’m using… Having a number one or a number two.” I’m sort of guessing it might be the same on this side of the world So as a child, I had a desperate habit. Anyone that went to change my diaper, or wipe my arse, suffered an almighty soaking. I was like a piss fountain Number two, followed by number one whenever I was changed, hence the name Black Jack Now, as a hormonal teenager, I once told my grandfather, I hated that name and he stopped using it. These words I deeply regret now, I would do anything to hear that name just once more

So to honor him, I will tell you seven stories The first, when you think of Ireland, you think of leprechauns, ginger hair, lucky charms, pints of Guinness, and of course, Saint Patrick’s Day But I want to speak to you today of another Irish festival, one with a deeper and more ancient history Do you know the history of Halloween lies in ancient Ireland? The 31st of October marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the darker half of the year This pagan celebration is called Samhain in Ireland. It was believed that the boundary between this world and the other world became thin and so could more easily be crossed on this day Large fires were lit as flames held protective and cleansing powers Wood was becoming wet so it hissed and cracked and sparked, giving us the culture of fire crackers and bonfires Slaughter was celebrated as cattle, and other livestock were brought down from the summer pastures. The meat was cured, fermented and smoked for the winter months ahead. Knives, axes, blood, animal skin, large pots of bones, meat, salt, herbs, and fat stirred mainly by women were all part of this process, giving us the idea of potions and witches The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. It was said that if a demon soul were to encounter something as gruesome looking as themselves, they would run away in terror, so people carved gruesome faces in vegetables to protect their homes, giving us pumpkin carving. Poems and tales were part of the festival and involved people going door to door in animal skins, and carcasses often reciting verses in exchange for food, thus trick or treat Feasts and processions of people took place, at which the souls of our dead kin were beckoned to attend. And we continue this tradition in many of our towns Our second story, trauma 2011 was a turbulent year The London riots began when a young life was taken, it sparked a fire and unleashed a ferocious energy of the downtrodden poor The racially motivated killing of an unarmed African American 17 year old called Trayvon Martin took place This could have been my son, stage of President Obama in speech days after Trayvon’s killing. Ultimately, the killer would profit by selling the gun for $250,000, five years after shooting this boy In 2011, Ireland was hit by recession We have a small population, but 10% of our people emigrated in just one year If you took the population of Michigan and multiply it by three and you began to leave tomorrow from the US That is what it was like An entire generation missing. We lost our brightest and our best and those left behind were bereft and found it very hard to cope

So I undertook a project called Our Nation’s Sons In essence, I ran away And I ran away because 2011 was a very traumatic period for me I had been a teacher for five years, and in those five years, I lost five of my students to suicide That is an incredible number Those are five faces of kids I will never see again And being a teacher, you are in a strange sort of a place You occupy a role that is both parent and both friend As I said, I ran away. I left Ireland and went to Edinburgh in Scotland. I went back to academia and went on to study a master’s in illustration. And through that master’s, I began to install large drawings with no words right across the city These drawings were very, very personal. I recruited young men from the city and we went about installing these large works This is one of my favorites. This is in a town on the west of Ireland called Galway Now, where it is positioned, the position of this building is really, really important. I don’t just come along and decide, “Oh, I’m gonna stick up a drawing on the wall there and that’s good enough.” This building itself was an old museum. It had fallen out of use, and just in the back corner, you can see just the edge of the new museum building that was built So this building had fallen out of use. It was smack bang right in the middle of a gathering point. Over along this side, just out of shot of the photograph, a river runs. It’s one of the fastest flowing rivers that’s in Europe in a city. But it was really important that this piece went here. Over on this side, there was huge, big towering residential buildings. So the VISTA, the view of the people, and the view of the locality had moved from that quite low level and people had forgotten about this building because there was other important structures that was around. And it was the perfect metaphor for what was happening for our young men in Ireland. They were being left behind, pushed to the periphery of society, and there was a sense of apathy amongst them. So when this drawing went on the building, it began a conversation that was in that city, a conversation that was vitally needed because we were losing large numbers of our young men This is one of the largest pieces that we installed. And this was down in another city, down in the south of Ireland in Limerick This piece was seven stories tall And you can get a sense of the scale of the piece with the ship and the ducks in the background As I said, I work with young men, and in this city, I had worked with a group of nine young men And these two lads were best mates. And it was really, really important that both of them occupied a space where one could mind to the other And looking back on the story previous of Halloween. So here is one of those gruesome characters as they went by this piece that was in Galway Story number three, equality. In 2015, the Irish government decided it was going to ask the people of Ireland whether they would allow same sex marriage. Now, this was the first such vote given to the public and in the world. It was the first time that any country would ask its people to decide on whether same sex couples will be allowed to marry In all previous countries, they had allowed that law to come in through the voting of judges So it was maybe, the referendum was due to take place in May, and it was around Christmas time and I was sitting at home and some of the lads have come up to the house and they were going, “What are you doing, Joe? What’s your next project?” And I said, “I wanna make a piece for the referendum that’s about to take place.” I was teaching history of art because I’m a secondary school teacher

And this is one of the pieces that I was teaching my kids at the time It is called “Meeting on the Turret Stairs” and it’s by a really famous Irish artist called Frederic William Burton. This painting was actually voted Ireland’s most famous painting a number of years ago And it’s a story, a Danish ballad, where there is a princess, Hellelil. She falls in love with her bodyguard, a soldier that is in the castle called Hildebrand. Now, her father, who was the king at the time, forbade that union, or that marriage from taking place, because she was of a higher social standing than he was So you can see on the steps that are over here, she stands on a higher step than he does Now, this story, or this ballad, ended in complete carnage He was killed by one of her five brothers. He killed four of them and her father, so it didn’t really end well But it was the perfect analogy, or the perfect starting point for what was happening in Ireland at the exact same time We had a higher power, the Stage, who was forbidding love, same sex love from taking place So I decided I was going to make this piece So the drawing is quintessentially Ireland, and I got two mates of mine who were in a relationship at the time, and we photographed them and drew them. This piece, it’s held in the National Gallery, and for some ironic reason it’s held behind a closet, so it was like the… Another great analogy in the story. And it’s only opened twice a week for two hours at a time And I also put in the… I don’t know, can you see the pointer that’s there? I also put in the Claddagh ring. Now the Claddagh ring was really, really important to Barry at the time. Barry had lost his dad in the weeks previous to this piece being made His dad had been married to his mum for 27 years, and 27 years when they were together, Barry’s mum handed him, Barry’s dad, the ring And the symbol of the ring, it’s a very goal way, a very quintessentially Irish ring. If you turn the heart in to your body, that means your love has been taken And it can be taken through a family member or can be taken through your partner. But it was really important that Barry had the ring on at that time So the drawing was made I had picked a place in Dublin that I wanted to put it up. It was on a crossroads, the busiest crossroads in the whole of Dublin City, and it was right across from a really well established gay bar that was in town So this is it when it went up Now, we started at 12:00 at night and we finished at 7:00 in the morning. Now, the night before I put this up. Dublin City Council, the corporation, the people who were in charge of the city, they rang me and they told me, “If you put that up, we’re going to bring you to the High Court So I was going, “Okay.” I didn’t tell anybody, until about 6:00 in the morning, and I roared down and I told dad and my best mate who were on the job with me at the time, and I said, “Do you know what? We might end up in the high court.” So we said, in a way I was looking forward to secretly of meeting the judge that was going to give me time So yeah, it went up. I was wrecked, because I was working on this for days previous, and all of a sudden it went viral. We have a great drag artist in Ireland called Panti Bliss, and Panti Bliss had come to notoriety in the months before the marriage equality referendum took place And she put up a post of the piece and within 24 hours it got a million clicks Other artists started to recreate it. The image went on the front of the International New York Times. Every time people, new sites, wanted to talk about the subject, this image was used. So it became the image of the referendum which was remarkable But it wasn’t good enough that I just put the image up in the city, because in all cities by their very nature they’re progressive The pace of life is a much quicker pace than down in the country And it was the country vote, it was the vote outside of those urban spaces that were the most important

So I decided that I was going to install a piece that was in a really, really rural and remote place So we found this castle that was nearly 600 years old I convinced the man that bought it and renovated it, “Could I put this piece on the wall?” Now, I also want to know or to mention that all of the work that I put up, is put up using paper, and an adhesive that is made from potatoes. That’s the most Irish thing that you could possibly That you could possibly use. Paper and potatoes. But it’s true So when these pieces go up, they’re quite vivid, but when it’s time for them to come down and that they wear off, they don’t ’cause any lasting damage to the sites, because these are monuments of national significance So we put the piece up, and this piece went on the front cover of the biggest newspaper that’s in Ireland, The Irish Times And it was important that it went on the front cover of that newspaper in the days before hand, because it might have just swayed the vote for certain people. And thankfully, four days after this piece was up, Ireland voted yes, and we got equality. Now, with this, up until this point, I had been making quite a lot of static images, but with this piece, it was quite important that we made a moving image that went with it to tell the story So I’d like to show you that piece now Whenever I get to this point in the talk or the lecture,

the nerves kind of dissipate, that song is stunning and it kind of relaxes me into things so, I’m ready to go now Ireland has two parts: There’s the Republic of Ireland and there is Northern Ireland. We have 32 counties in the whole island, but six of them are in a space of their own, known as Northern Ireland In Northern Ireland, until just 10 days ago, same sex marriage was illegal. So we had better rights in the south than our friends, our sisters, our brothers, our cousins, our nieces, our nephews who lived just miles away Now, I’m lucky enough that I’m here with my boyfriend tonight, and that is incredible, but also with that, because he is from the North, he had less rights than I had in the South And I found that disgraceful. So I decided I was gonna bring the stuff North and bring the images North after we had won our referendum for same sex rights And I installed this piece right smack bang in the middle of Belfast. Now, Northern Ireland is this strange place for a lot of reasons. Sorry, Jonathan And in the north, there is a war that has raged called The Troubles, and that war has raged with two groups: A Republican group, and a loyalist group, a group that want Ireland to be a whole island and a group that wants the north to stay a part of the union, and with Great Britain But with that, murals became part and parcel of communities, and it was how communities spoke about kind of what side of the line that they were on. There was Republican murals and there was loyalist or unionist murals. For me to push a drawing of two women kissing was quite soft in comparison to these, but you might have these kind of websites that’s over in that kind of take the piss out of stuff that when it goes on, what do you call that, like kind of… Satire, that’s the word C’mon. So, they amended it, so they changed it, so a controversial Northern Ireland mural amended to make it more socially acceptable for the people at the north. They stuck on a balaclava and an AK 47 and things were fine, there was no problem, we were ready to go As I said, 10 days ago, Ireland moved from a place of segregation to a place of whole and a place of entire equality Story number four. The volunteers In 1916, a rebellion led by writers, artists, and poets took place in Dublin The small force they led were known as the Irish volunteers and took up arms to end British rule and create an Irish republic A group comprising of over 200 women formed an intrinsic part of this army. The rebellion took place on Easter Monday 1916, and lasted just six days Each of the seven signatories who signed the proclamation were executed by the British Army 100 years on, I wanted to honor the idea of volunteerism and the importance of volunteerism in contemporary society I looked at Ireland and where it was at the time, and I looked at a lot of the social issues that had come to the fore I decided I was gonna look at three main issues for volunteers are incredibly useful. The first one is in mental health The second one was in drug addiction. And the third one is direct

provision. That’s what we call the process or what we do with asylum seekers when they come to Ireland The first piece that I’m going to look at is mental health. Now, one of the biggest hurdles for anyone with mental health seeking help for their mental health difficulties is stigma Stigma, by far, is the biggest wall that those that need help have to climb I found two young men This is Eanna over on this side, and this is Cormac. Eanna was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about three years previous to this piece being installed. And he went through a space where he was being watched constantly. Was he too high, was he too low? Every part of his life was watched, and he hated it because he couldn’t live in the way that he wanted Cormac, on the other side, was and is an incredible volunteer He does huge work in his community, and I wanted to honor him in the piece This was the piece that looked at the question of stigma, and I’d ask you to look at Eanna. Eanna is on his hunkers with his fist, that is right in the middle of the floor, so he’s in a kind of a tripod formation. But if you took Cormac who was supporting him and Eanna is kind of in that support, he’s taking on that support. But if you remove, push Cormac completely from that image, Eanna will still be in the same place. He’s not gonna topple over, he’s not gonna fall to the ground So this piece was really important to kind of question, can those with a mental health difficulty, can they survive? Do we suffocate them? How do we go about giving them help? The second part of the volunteer question that I wanted to look at was drug addiction Unfortunately, addiction has played a role in my life and in my family And drug addiction in Ireland is dealt with in the criminal justice system rather than in what I believe should be the health system I went about recruiting a number of people that were in the world that was around drug addiction. I recruited Lynn Ruane who is an Irish senator Now, if you take on any word that I say of today, please have a look at this lady. She is mesmerisingly brilliant She is a young woman who comes from the outskirts of the city who fell into use of drugs, who had her first child at the age of 15, and now who has two beautiful kids, but didn’t use her struggles and the place in which she was born, her postal code, to dictate her life She now sits in government and is a phenomenal force The second person is Fiona. Now, Fiona is a nurse and has been a nurse in the streets for about 25 years She runs a mobile ambulance, which travels around Dublin City and offers medical intervention to those on the streets Rachel, who is in the top right hand corner, is that your right? I’m brutal bad on left and right, sorry Rachel is in the top right. Now, Rachel 11 years ago, was a heroin addict and she has been clean and became one of the Internet sensations when the Internet kind of hit Ireland She was a beautiful 15 year old girl, but had suffered so much with injections in her forearms that she had two big, black rotted sores. And that video kind of went, or that photograph went right across Ireland as a 15 year old young girl who was injecting so much that the flesh on her forearms started to rot off She asked, pleaded for a bed in a recovery center and took years even kind of after going public, to get that attention Now in Ireland, we have 20,000 drug addicts, and at present, we have 36 treatment beds And 76 percent of our population in the prisons are

from drug addiction or drug criminality. Where better to put up a drawing about drug addiction than Trinity College, an institution that is 427 years old? I remember walking in the door and having a meeting with the Provost or the President’s Council, and they said, “We’d love to work with you, Joe. What would you like to do?” And I said, “I wanna put up a piece on drug addiction.” Well, it took maybe 10 minutes to lift their jaws from the floor, but it was important that the conversation and that the image was willing to talk about addiction. What you have here is Rachel, can you see her? That’s there Rachel is looking out, she is the only one that is looking out at the viewer. She’s looking up to each and every person that confronts this piece, and is there questioning. What do you believe the value and the worth of her life? Here is Lynn. Now, Lynn was dressed, we found this old… To commemorate the rebellion of 100 years ago, we found this old bomb carrier. Now, as I said, there was 200 women that were part of the revolutionary army, and what they used to do was transport bombs in their undergarments. And they used to wear these big skirts. So this was a bomb carrier. Lynn carries that bomb, but we took the bomb out of it and we put in a bill, a piece of legislation Up in the back corner, we can see it a little bit clearly here. Is Fiona. Now, Fiona is a nurse, and it turns out that she did a bit of digging into her family history, and it was actually her great granny that used to make bombs for the rebellion, which is great. She wears one of the pins that her grandmother had. And she is pulling the character that is the doctor. Or that kind of perceived static old fashioned Health System and pulling him into the conversation I’d like to show you again, previous, we made a film for the equality piece, and I’d like to show you a short film on this drug addiction piece There is a prologue to each of us My history is a drawn line that stretches behind me endlessly In front of me, unwritten possibility. The volunteers, mostly in their 20s, from all the various walks, laden with the burden of their centuries, the tall pillars still hold the scars of their battles as they hold up the roof, those elemental arms of survival In the face of all this sorrow, we offer our work as our proof I saw addiction grow in the soil of trauma, a neighborhood inheritance, poverty and circumstance, a gnawing of loneliness, an ache clawed of holiness Only some howling chemistry lightened It was angry and bottomless and it wrapped like a lover, then tightened and strangled, it smothered. And to others, that fearsome illness turned me criminal Here, the ill are shamed as though their illness is earned Marched through halls of justice as though we haven’t learned that they are already in a prison of their own pain And treatment is a domain of another neighborhood. St Christopher, the burden bearer did as he could, he crossed the river carrying a weight heavy as the world He said, “Go your way in safety. Go on reassured.” The ink is stark and black and white. The words all seem dry at a glance, but their truth is a chance, what they mean is a life. These stones hold the echo of old explosions, but they hold sounds of us stacking them, too. We will mix mortar with sweat and dust from the rubble of sorrow See what we can do There are bombs we can make with ink and with paper, a bill, a voice articulated, a truth as plain as a picture on a wall. They hammer out a proclamation for us all, and in every

cross hatched line, the message, life, in all its walks is precious A country reworked for the better, a path drawn in line and in letter A prophecy that’s built on our presence and made of our time A life we can look in the eye as we rise. We inhale possibility, we exhale it as hope. Grateful to the last, for the breath, as it goes Our great cause is to cause an effect We will let no life be worthless. We will let no life be worth less The new volunteers, a nation reflected, its warrior creed: Be fierce in compassion, and believe Story number five: Consent Now, I want to introduce you to three of my kids I’m a secondary school teacher and I’m in school generally Monday to Friday, half ish until 5 o’clock. Generally, not half ish cause I’m very late in the mornings And these are my favorites. You’re not meant to have favorite children, and please, block this on the recordings, but this is Doc Shakira Shakira and Nicole. And they are both the best part of my day and the worst part of my day They come into my art room at break time and lunch time, I have a microwave and a fridge that’s in the corner, and they’ve taken it over. I actually have no space in the fridge anymore. The microwave is full of pot noodle and whatever other random stuff that they use But they inform like a lot of my students, inform the work that I produce They arrived into my class like three of the most angriest entities that you could imagine It came up on their phones in the morning that there was a young girl down in Cork who had been raped And the lawyer in the case had taken her knickers, her black laced knickers, and held them in front of the entire courtroom, and insinuated that because they were black, and because it was laced on the front of it, that she was asking for it. Now, my kids, them three girls came running into the room, and there was a gang of lads. Now, God bless them, they were over in the corner. And they came in and they demanded that the lads take off their jocks or their boxers, and laid them out on the table and that they were going to decide who was the gamiest one of them because of what they were wearing Now, when you pick people and friends to hang around with, these three women are the best that I could pick Now, they came to me, and it’s important that I get this right Consent should be freely given, enthusiastic, clearly communicated, and ongoing throughout. Never assume consent. And that is what they taught me I was sitting there and I was watching and going, “Okay, how do I take part in this conversation with them?” I looked online and we had a great member of parliament who walked in, in the days afterwards, into our House of Parliament, and held up a similar pair of knickers and questioned our Prime Minister, our Taoiseach, as to why this was good enough. We had huge rallies in Dublin City where women held up their knickers and said, “Am I asking for it because this is what I wear?” So I looked at myself and I was going “Okay, well, how do I take part in this conversation?” I have never

been raped What I have on two occasions, been the first person the two young ladies have told that they had been raped And I hid that away, and I put it in the back of my head and I was like, “Okay, well, that’s how I deal with it,” but that wasn’t good enough So I decided I was gonna help my kids and we started to create something that was to go on social media Silence means no, crying means no, passed out means no, “I’m not ready” means no, pushing you away means no, “Don’t” means no, screaming means no, “I don’t feel like it” means no, “I don’t want to” means no, turning away means no, “Leave me alone” means no, “Stop” means no As you may have seen very little if any text permeates my drawing, but my drawings were not strong enough to not have a piece of text that went with them So I worked with a feminist writer in Ireland and we decided if you looked at consent, it broke down into two separate categories The idea that the person is not able, they couldn’t say no And the idea that they said “No” through words or through action So, we installed this piece down in Waterford during a street art festival And a number of weeks later, we installed the same piece with the additional writing that was on it in a really famous and a really important gallery in Dublin city And this is a former student of mine the actual girl that is in the image, who helped me install the piece. So, it was quite important, that I made this piece for the young women that were in my classroom but it was always… Also extremely important that I used a young woman to be part of the image that I knew, a female photographer, and then a feminist writer when we were deciding what the text was going to be Story number six: Finding Power Now, I am in the street art world and by its very nature, it’s subversive. So when I got a message from the National Gallery of Ireland going, “We’d like you to put some up in our space, in a building that has been closed for the past seven years as it undergone renovation, and we want you to be one of the first contemporary Irish artists that installed work in here.” As you can imagine, I didn’t believe the email or the contact when it came through And when it came through, I was kind of blindsided When a big institution asks you to make work I panicked and I didn’t know what I was doing So I took out my sketchbook and I was asked to make work in response to a great artist called Frederic William Burton So I went into the gallery on many, many days and drew for hours, but didn’t have a clue what I was drawing, didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t understand the man, didn’t understand his work And it wasn’t until one of my friends, Sinead Burke, who is a little person, came into the gallery and I was talking to her about the undertaking that I had been given and the weeks and weeks of drawing that was going no place So we looked at the man, and Burton had a strange sort of a gathering of people that was around him. His work was real straight laced and him in his place, in his position, he was quite kind of regular. But the people that he had around him were really alternative and others, and I thought that was really interesting. I thought that was the position that I was really interested in and that’s where I wanted to go with the project, rather than who… What he produced as artwork, more so, who he was as a man and the type of people that he had around him. Now, he came or was around in the era of maybe the late 1880s, so to have a collection of women that was around him, who he saw as equal was quite pioneering for him. So I decided, “Okay well, if I was to take Ireland, at present,

and I was to take seven individuals from every breadth of the Irish landscape, who would I take? So the first person was obviously my friend, Sinead Burke, who is a little person, and in her work as an advocate for disability, she talks of access to the ATM in Dublin city. She can’t access the ATM because it’s too high. And how design has inhibited her world Fashion is not made for her. If she goes to use a toilet, she can’t use a disabled toilet because at such a height, so she has to climb on the side or she can’t lock the door. When she goes to the airport and they ask her to put her bag up, the security lads, she’s there, looking and going, “I can’t do that,” because the design of the space doesn’t fit for her So when Sinead came in, we went running around the gallery as you do, with your mate, and we got into all these little cubbyholes and security we’re going like crazy going, “Get out of there.” And we found this great pedestal. And the pedestal was the perfect symbol for what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about power, and who deserved that power and who could get on to that pedestal. Who was given that pedestal So I looked at other pedestals. If you have ever been to Trafalgar Square, there is the Fourth plinth, that there’s nothing on it. And a lot of artists have put their own understanding of things onto it. So I decided to draw out different characters and went with Steven in the end. So this was the drawing of Steven and we omitted the pedestal from it. And then this is Ish as it’s installed. Now, from the gallery, this is the old section of the gallery, this is the new section of the gallery Previous, before the refurbishments, they used to drive a truck in the middle in there, and that was just a loading bay So it’s this beautiful, quiet space, as you move from one gallery into the next gallery, and you can sit down and have a look Now, finding power was a really interesting project, and the gallery have acquired it subsequently. Now, it was a really important project for a number of reasons. As I said, this is Sinead Burke. There is no little person in the gallery’s collection. And it was important that she stood on the pedestal with an access, little kind of step up, and in the doors of a large lift so she could get access to the top floors This is Jad. Jad came to Ireland from Syria as a refugee. He came on his own He knew nobody that was here. He was put in a single bedroom house, and he was told, “Get on with life.” So that’s him, kind of looking for community, looking for his own power, looking for his place within society. That’s the first time a refugee has come or has been in the national collection This is Davina Devine. Davina Devine is a great mate of mine. Davina is a drag artist, and this is a jewel portrait of a single person It’s the first time a drag artist has been in the national collection And this is Chidi Mujekay. Chidi is the mother of two boys that I have taught. Chidi came to Ireland 11 years ago and has eked out a living. And when this photograph was taken, she was looking for refugee status in Ireland. So she is the first refugee that has come from Africa that has been in the national collection So there was a lot of firsts in this piece, and I’m really, really thankful for the National Gallery that four of the first and four of the types of people that should be in our collection in our state owned collection is now in the gallery Story number seven, and our last story: Save Nonso. Nonso Muojeke is Chidi’s youngest boy And Nonso Muojeke came to Ireland when he was two and a half and lived in Ireland for 11 years. After 11 years as a 14 year old boy, the Department of Justice issued him with a deportation order They wanted to send him back to his home country, to a country that he had forgotten or did not know the language, the culture. He could speak better Irish than I could

So as a community and as a school, led by the children in the school, we mounted a campaign We got 22,000 signatories on our petition, we haunted every government minister that you could possibly get to and we changed his future So here was a boy that was due to be deported, due to be sent back to a place that he did not know and through the interaction of young people within his community, Nonso now lives with his family, with his mother and father, and get to stay in Ireland and make my life in Ireland a much better place So I’d like you to show you the video in my classroom of my kids as they found out that Nonso was staying. Please listen to their words and listen to their wisdom, but most importantly, listen to their empathy Joy and relief at Tullamore College this morning and a big welcome from classmates for 14 year old, Nonso Muojeke. It was a campaign by these students and the whole of the school that galvanized the community in support of Nonso and his family. Petitions, protests and political support. Yesterday, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan confirmed that he had granted Nonso and his family “Leave to Remain” I don’t think I could ask for better friends than you guys are You guys were with me throughout everything and you didn’t turn your backs on me in anything. You were there, supportful, helping me and my family the whole way. And I’m really thankful for you guys for that His classmates’ campaign is now at an end We love Nonso and it’s important for us that he stays. Yeah And you’re happy? Even though you don’t look it. Nonso’s mother fled Nigeria with her two sons after her husband died in 2006. Nonso was just two. She said in her asylum application that her husband’s death had placed her and her children in danger. But that application was rejected, a deportation order was served, subsequent appeals failed and a last deportation order came last June. I feel like it doesn’t matter who it is We all have to stick together and we all have to fight for our rights. I feel like it was unfair what they were doing to Nonso, so we all grouped together and we fought for our rights. And you won. Yeah I’m not just happy for Nonso, Victor and his mother. I’m happy for me, I’m happy for my friends, I’m happy for the school and I’m happy for our entire community. Nonso is such a vital part of us and I just couldn’t imagine life without him. Emer O’Kelly, RTÉ News, Tellumore College In the weeks after, Nonso was given “Leave to Remain” that he was allowed to stay in the country and those students won the Red Cross Award for young people in Ireland. And we teach a subject called Civil, Political, Social Education and they brought out a new book this year And this case and Nonso and the work that the students did is in that book, which is staggering. So I’d like to finish off on a last slide. I’ve talked about seven stories, some with a deep meaning, some with a social issue that I felt needed a different vista, a different view point and maybe needed to change So I’d ask you what fucks you off? What gets into every nuance of your body? What do you look at and know deep down is wrong? What can you do to change that? And again, I came with the premise that I was going to say is street art capable of advancing a society? And I hope in some way,

I have aided you in answering that question Thank you