‘How can you be an artist, and not reflect the times?’
– Nina Simone
An Artist’s Vision for Ireland National Symposium, 2-6pm,
Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, 21 April 2016
Smashing Times held a day-long event Echoes of 1916, consisting of an Artist’s Vision for Ireland national symposium with key note speakers including Deirdre Kinahan, playwright, Mary Moynihan, Theatre and Film Maker and Dr Eric Weitz, Associate Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin, and a live performance of The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of 1916 by writers Pom Boyd, Mary Moynihan and Peter Sheridan, both events taking place at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, main space, on Thursday 21 April 2016. The events were presented as part of a project called Women, War and Peace co-funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund.
Artist’s Vision for Ireland National Symposium
Poets, dreamers, visionaries and women were amongst those who advocated or fought for Irish freedom in the Easter Rising of 1916. Today women are still campaigning for full equal rights. In the context of the Decade of Commemorations and the recent ‘Waking the Feminists’ debate, the Artist’s Vision for Ireland National Symposium asked what would an artist’s vision for Ireland today look like, one that is based on a genuine need for social justice, gender equality and human rights and is sustainable, ethical and inclusive, enabling ‘creativity to flow’. Or is the vision of a nation state redundant and rather than looking at a state of place are we seeking a state of rights? The aim of the symposium was to bring artists and all those interested in the arts together to imaginatively explore what vision and possibility we would like to see for Ireland today and what role an artist can play to bring that vision into existence.
Manifesto and Vox Pop
To start the debate Smashing Times asked seven artists associated with Smashing Times to create their own individual manifesto for Ireland in 2016, based on their response to ‘An Artist’s Vision for Ireland’ to be put on display on the Smashing Times website. The Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal wrote that:
‘Night is falling on the world. So what are we to do? Remain silent? I have sincere respect for those artists who dedicate their lives exclusively to their art – it is their right or their condition but I prefer those who dedicate their art to life . . . Our taking of a theoretical position and our concrete actions should arise not because we are artists but because we are human beings’.
Prior to the symposium the company conducted a Vox Pop collecting a broad range of comments from young people and adults, gathered in writing and on camera and uploaded, asking what does 1916 means to you? Contributions were gathered from the general public and from artists such as Ger Ryan, Peter Sheridan and Margaret Toomey. A selection of quotes were be put up on the Smashing Times website prior to the symposium and displayed on a screen at the actual symposium for participants to view to as they came in. After the panel discussions at the symposium, the audiences were allowed to record their own responses to 1916.
The symposium began with presentations by invited guest speakers – Emer O’Boyle, Ray Yeates, Mary Moynihan, Dr. Eric Weitz and Deirdre Kinahan to inspire and provoke debate. The individual artist spoke about their response to the theme as they reflected on society at present and subsequently expressing their wishes for the future. Followed by a discussion session moderated by Chrissie Poulter Head of Drama at Trinity College Dublin
Following the discussion the participants were then divided into two groups
Group One Image Theatre Workshop facilitated by Jenny Macdonald
Group Two Creative Discussion group facilitated by Emer O’Boyle visual artist and director of UCD Parity Studios and Ray Yeats Dublin City Arts Officer
The aim of each workshop was to explore:
- What vision, change, wish and possibility do artists hope to see for Ireland now and into the future?
- How can the arts promote equality?
- What role can or should an artist play to bring that vision into existence?
- Ways forward for An Artist’s Vision for Ireland?
Each group presented their images on the Smock Alley stage to the full gathering of the symposium. Again, people commented on what they saw. The audience were able to see and feel and experience our artistic vision for Ireland.
Feedback from Group Two Creative Discussion
Following much debate the main points from the discussion were:
- Drama and movement should be part of the national education curriculum
- Quality art experiences for all; importance of age integration
- Family friendly House of Theatre
- Salaries for artists
- Theatre taken to the streets
- A universal wage
Audience Feedback from the Symposium
‘Informative, provocative, stimulating and enjoyable!’ – Arnold Thomas Flanning
‘I hope discussions of a better Ireland continue for years to come.’ – Sean O Maoilriain
‘I now feel hopeful for the future of artists in Ireland.’ – Participant
‘Today the idea of co-operation was planted and shall continue to grow if we continue to not just discuss but take action.’ – Antoine Gorman
‘It is fantastic to get together with people who believe another world, a better world is possible.’ – Karine Dalsin
‘Thank you for creating a space for artists to come together. To be able to talk and share is so important.’ – Emma Lame
‘I found the symposium inspiring. Thank you for doing the practical work to bring the space and format.’ – Nitai Heksiewiez