Monday, 21 February 2011


I have some work featured in an Irish arts project called UpStart. The goal of the project is to encourage a debate about the role of the arts in public life in the run-up to the Irish general election. To do this the organizers have produced a series of posters featuring poetry and visual art which have been stuck up all over Dublin in the spaces normally reserved for political propaganda. Good luck to them. Ireland has a long tradition of artists engaging in public life - think of Yeats - and a long tradition of using satire to do so - think of Swift, with his Modest Proposal. But it also has a long tradition of boorishness that has forced many of its finest artists to emigrate, and is clearly alive and well if this "article" from the Evening Herald is anything to go by.

I was in Reykjavik this weekend, a city whose new mayor, Jon Gnarr, is a former comedian who was elected along with an assortment of punk musicians, actors and housewives, on a campaign ticket of anarcho-surrealism. Some people dismissed Gnarr as a joker but his party won the elections because of a feeling of disgust with the established order. This is what the foul-mouthed journalist from the Herald fails to understand - it is precisely because Ireland (like Iceland) is on the brink of financial collapse that the arts have a role to play in the political process. Business as usual is no longer an option.

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