Down the crooked roads which trail off Camden street, I find myself passing an endless stream of quaint brick houses, remnants of Dublin’s Georgian past. The area which surrounds the Copper House Gallery is authentic, antiquated one could say. Smoke hangs in the air, belched from the mouths of a sea of chimneys straight from the backdrop to Mary Poppins.
However, it is in this quiet quarter of Dublin City that something daring, challenging and undeniably important has taken root. The spirit, the anger and the deafening cry of the Repeal The 8th movement has manifested itself into that which has long expressed society’s latent unrest; art.
‘Someone You Love’ is the pro-choice campaign made physical, tangible and unapologetically visceral. Organised by Gary Grimes and Aifric Ní Chríodáin, last year’s Communications Officer with the Students’ Union, this exhibition of pro-choice art takes place in aid of Abortion Support Network, showcasing over twenty of Ireland’s emerging and established artists for one night only.
The queue snakes out the door and down the alley where the gallery resides. There is discussion, there is passion and it is clear that this exhibition is so much more than cheap wine and idle chatter – it is relevant and daringly political.
The art itself ranges from that which has come to be expected, to the haunting and the subtle. There are stark images of coat hangers, there is a hand drawn uterus shackled in chains which are held in place by a crucifix shaped lock, and of course there are the slogans we’ve all heard many times before, printed both in bold and in defiance. What proves most thought-provoking and indeed shocking is the silence which accompanies these works.
Four blurred images greet those who arrive, muted in palate and their focus shaken. Each depicts a world seen through a lens that is in motion. The first is taken at dawn in a familiar midlands countryside, silhouetted and non-descript flashes-by, viewed from a car window. The second shows a midday sun beating down upon an urban motorway, a clear transition from the sleepy country fields seen moments before. The third is perhaps the most heartbreaking. The shadows are deep, with black dominating the canvas, a sliver of orange light bursting through to reveal that which at first seems puzzling and abstract. The seat of a polyester chair, ugly and marine blue, the seat of a London tube train, a seat occupied by many a victim of this country’s constitution forced to fly beyond the Irish Sea to seek help elsewhere.
The final image, taken at dusk, returns to the same midlands countryside flying past the car window, the same day, a different light, a darker evening as our view turns back to the land seen at dawn, a land that bit colder and painfully apathetic.
Where one could despair and rage at such inequality and injustice, there are those who choose to wear their bravest face and their dancing shoes. The DJ plays Missy Elliot, Beyoncé, and a myriad of tunes and bops meant for more than just the girls they praise and empower. People dance, cake is served and above the reception area a single denim jacket hangs emblazoned with the defiant image of a courageous Lisa Simpson, standing forthright below the word “REPEAL”.
There is humour amidst this outrage, there is awareness from those who are all too familiar with being ridiculed for being nothing more than “loud”, “bossy” and “feminists”. They are, in fact, so much more; they are human, they are men and they are women alike, they are young and they are old and together they are a spirit. In the words of Rosemary Gibbons, UCD student, that spirit “has not broken or subsided since the swell that rose at the march three weeks ago. [It] has prevailed and survived where legislation has stalled and delayed. It is a community, it is growing and right now it is art”.
Call it what you want and oppose it how you may, but for all the hate and bitter criticism there is for those who merely want what’s long due, I’ll take five art prints and a Lisa jacket please.