Emer O’Boyle speech from An Artist’s Vision for Ireland National Symposium panel discussion:
Emer: And admittedly that title is actually more aspirational than it is reflective of my day to day reality and I think that’s the thing for a lot of artists. Multitasking. Mutli jobbing. I’d like to begin very briefly with the image. I have worked with scientists a bit in the past six years and I’ll tell you a little bit more about that. In first being asked to respond to this notion for Ireland, an artist’s vision for Ireland, I thought immediately of this image that was taken on the 14th of February in 1990 by voyager one, which is a spacecraft that was just edging out towards the fringes of our solar system and it turned back and looked down, and I’m sure some of you have seen this image. You know this pale, blue dot? And what we have in this image of the earth as like one or two little pixels trapped in the sun beams. The sun. Our nearest star.
I wanted to read this quote, an excerpt from Carl Sagan in terms of thinking about Ireland and perhaps the development and a lead for an expansive vision.
“So look again at that dot. Look, that’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you’ve ever heard of, every human being who ever was lived out their lives. The word joy and suffering. Thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines. Every hunter and forager. Every hero and coward. Every creator and destroyer of civilization. Every king and peasant. Every young couple in love. Every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer. Every teacher of morals. Every corrupt politician. Every superstar. Every supreme leader. Every saint and sinner. The history of our species lived there. On a mote of dust, suspended in a sun beam. The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those general and emperors, so that in glory and triumph, they can become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings. How eager they are to kill one and another. How fervent their hatreds. Our posturings are imagined importance. The delusion that we have some privileged positions in the universe are challenged by the point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping, cosmic dark. In our obscurities, in all this vastness, there is no hint that will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The earth is the only world known so far to harbour life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species can migrate. Visit? Yes. Settle? No, not yet. Like it or not for the moment here is where we make our stand. It is said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstrations of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to reserve and cherish the pale blue dot. The only home we’ve ever known.”
So just thinking around this, obviously, our ability to share perspectives is becoming more and more important and the arts sector has a very vital role to play in creating the conditions for these necessary dialogues, which can allow these exchanges to take place. In being asked this, my first, I don’t have a vision, an artist’s vision for Ireland. My mother, who is in her seventies, and she’s most politically active in terms of party politics in our family. You know if you asked ‘what’s your vision for Ireland?’ She’d have to think about it, but I got back to her and she said she had a vision for Ireland and she didn’t know exactly what it looked like, but she was convinced it had something to do with educating the children together and I felt really assured by that because it’s not too far from the work that I do and the project I’m working on in the past 6 years to develop out of UCD.
So the project is to bring artists and researchers to create the conditions for dialogue among artists and researchers across all disciplines. So what we have now, myself and professor of astronomy, is if we have two laboratories into artists’ studios, professional artists come and spend a year collaborating or working in parallel or at least finding out what it is that other researchers are doing. And the strength that characterizes the type of dialogue that we’re talking about and is absolutely necessary now, is one that’s characterized by a genuine and sincere willingness to learn about each other.
It’s a question really, when the question of the artist vision for Ireland was posed to me, it came up with afterwards, like an Ireland based on gender equality, based on social justice, based on sustainability, ethical and inclusive. And I thought well that’s old. They’ve already figured out what kind of Ireland we want. Why are they asking the artists? But that’s not the question. The question then is, if given when we take this global vision of our current situation, these values of our inclusivity and sustainability and all these, and of course these are incredibly important values to be worked from. These are not global values and it’s because of this not everyone on our earth shares these values and I think we need to, in one way it’s possible that what we need to do is protect our artists and say please become impervious to the contemporary values of today and dig deep and continue to dig deep in the way that is natural to our artists. Because I believe that is it from this form of creative inquiry and digging deep that a profound respect for what it means to be human arises. And it is from this profound respect that, for what it is to be alive in this world, that these wonderful values of inclusivity, gender equality, that these will emerge, but we’ve got to get there first and really find out and through our creative work, how do we engender a culture of profound respect for all living beings regardless of what their ideologies are.