If It Is Anything Other Than The Law…

A little reminder; Dublin Project Arts Centre, Essex Street, Temple Bar. A mural commissioned by Hunreal Issues. Removed because of planning permission issues.

A few weeks ago, articles and tweets about Maser’s mural stormed my newsfeed, but (for once) I was reluctantly on the fence. Were they allowed to have it there? Why is everyone arguing?

The law is made up of cold, hard, facts. Rules, regulations, and guidelines, set out by paragraphs and articles with rationale, evidence, reason and logic. Emotive arguments and faith don’t hold up. They have no place in the law. Think of it like a Venn Diagram (the only maths terminology I know) – they are two separate circles.



Maser mural - HeadStuff.org
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If the mural fell outside of the boundary of the legal circle, then that is understandable, acceptable. It’s not legal, not allowed, and then of course it should be taken down. If the mural was not legally allowed to be there, then that’s fair enough.

Even though I found the mural both aesthetically and metaphorically pleasing, I couldn’t and wouldn’t argue with the law.

If it is anything other than the law that has allowed for a red heart with two words on it – for that’s all it is – to be removed, there lies a problem.  

Just like last year when we allowed discrimination to extend to age but not to sexual orientation, the bitter pill of disappointment was swallowed with dignity and acceptance. Just like last year when over one million people didn’t agree with prohibiting gay marriage, there was an acceptance of the freedom of expression – just because you didn’t agree with it, doesn’t mean they couldn’t say it. 

However, if it is anything other than the law that has allowed for a red heart with two words on it – for that’s all it is – to be removed, there lies a problem.  

If it is anything other than the law it is a perfidious irony. According to its website: “Project Arts Centre is Ireland’s leading centre for the development and presentation of contemporary art, dedicated to supporting artists and protecting the next generation of Irish artists across all forms of the performing and visual arts.” Visual arts? Check. Contemporary art? Check. Developing artists? Maser has been around since the 90s, but his graphic representation art we’re all familiar with is still relatively new to the scene. Check.

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If it is anything other than the law, it is cowing to a group of implacable people, (50 complaints in comparison to 200 messages of support) who evidently don’t understand the point of art, which is not to please or pacify but to provoke thought and conversation. A pugnacious mob who, no matter their age, are subscribers to the Snowflake Generation, a title usually shackled to the under thirties. “I don’t like it! Take it down.”  

 It is cowing to a group of implacable people who evidently don’t understand the point of art, which is not to please or pacify but to provoke thought and conversation.

If it is anything other than the law, it is a lugubrious, philistine attempt to continue to silence the women of Ireland, because apparently doing so within the confines of our Constitution isn’t enough. Women are not to be trusted with their bodies, why would we trust them with art? This wasn’t an act of wanton vandalism on a government building, the target market for this mural wasn’t the suited figures of the legislative, or the robed members of the judiciary, or the public figures of the executive. It was in Temple Bar, an area known as Dublin’s Cultural Quarter, where art and imagination run rampant. Commissioned on the wall of an arts centre, not a political one.

For a campaign whose very name arrogates and proclaims calumnies from the rooftops for all to hear, this silent declaration must unnerve the very people who brought about its demise. A side whose very name egregiously implies that if you aren’t on their side, you must be Anti Life; bloodthirsty, a baby killer. This expression of opinion enveloped in a red heart, traditionally a symbol of love, must boil the blood of the Pro-Life campaign. 

Repeal donut - HeadStuff.org
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Trying to gag the Pro-Choice movement by covering up the mural evidently hasn’t worked. The tape that attempted to silence the voices of the movement has been removed, and instead of being met with a scream, howl or a roar – which could be seen as fighting fire with fire – the once silenced person simply smiles, refusing to sink to their level. And when you have legitimate rationale arguments on your side, you can let the volume of your actions emphasise your point.

If it is anything other than the law, it is a lugubrious, philistine attempt to continue to silence the women of Ireland, because apparently doing so within the confines of our Constitution isn’t enough.

The actions have been irrefutably eloquent, diverse and quietly resolutely determined. Everything from doughnuts to tshirts and badges have gone on sale and sold out within minutes. The demand is there, it’s the supply that’s lacking.

Not one but two murals have been resurrected. They hang resiliently at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, this time legally, this time with an express aim to “respect, protect and fulfil the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity.”  I could delve into the metaphor of the temporary murals hanging inside the building of Ireland’s leading independent human rights watchdog (emphasis on the word ‘independent’ – again, not the State’s involvement) but like I said, actions speak louder than my words ever will.

Repeal replica murals - HeadStuff.org
Blackhall replica murals, image source

The tape that attempted to silence the voices of the movement has been removed, and instead of being met with a scream, howl or a roar, the once silenced person simply smiles, refusing to sink to their level

The implementation of these murals in Blackhall place is evidence of a stark reminder; this time we will not allow history to repeat itself. To paraphrase the venerable Dr Laureate Maya Angelou; up from a past that is rooted in pain, Ireland is trying to rise.  A societal, historical mistrust of women will not be swept under the rug this time, joining a precedent of institutional Irish failures – the Magdalene laundries, lack of access to contraception, marital rape being legal, and not being allowed to work after marriage, to name but a few. Ireland will not tolerate this passive acceptance of the oppression of women any longer.

What’s important to distinguish here is that the heart wasn’t removed. It was painted over, back to it’s original colour, covered with something that the public was used to, back to the way it originally was. It wasn’t replaced. It wasn’t engaged with. It was covered up, it didn’t take a step forward, it regressed.

If it was anything other than the law, it was a group of people who didn’t like it and demanded it be got rid of for everyone.

How very familiar.

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