Just Saying ...
"C a r r y"
June 2018: A collective of 10 women artists from the North West of Ireland (a cross-border initiative) came together to create an exhibition themed to the word “Carry”, shown in the Void Gallery, Derry.
1 A person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.
2 (in the Bible) a goat sent into the wilderness after the Jewish chief priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it (Lev. 16).
"The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.” Leviticus 16:2
When thinking about the word “carry” in the context of N Ireland, it’s pretty obvious that communities carry so much from the past, weighed down by history sometimes; this work was conceived at a time when leading political parties were at loggerheads and Stormont had been suspended for over a year.
Thinking about the ostensible “triggers” for this collapse of government drew me to the image of a “scapegoat”.
In 2018-19 politically we were “scapegoating” the Irish Language Act and Gay marriage as reasons not to move forward together – and so we had no elected officials making critical decisions on health, welfare, education, investment… and then there was Brexit. But, as always, there is so much more behind these headline issues.
So this work – Monotony (Stormont’s Scapegoat) – was a way of representing the wearying, “scapegoating” our political governance indulges in, ritualistically, year in year out.
I sought inspiration from two powerful works; firstly Robert Rauschenberg’s seminal piece, “Monogram” , and secondly Holman Hunt’s painting, “The Scapegoat”.
The work is an assemblage that is evocative of Rauschenberg’s “Monogram”; like Rauschenberg’s long-haired angora goat, this scapegoat is encircled with a tyre. In N Ireland, pallets and tyres are the essential component parts of the bonfires that are – like the original scapegoats of Biblical times – an annual, community ritual. The bonfire also references the RHI (renewable heat incentive) scandal which was at the time unresolved.
It has been suggested that Rauschenberg’s goat and tyre assemblage was alluding to his homosexuality, which in America in the late 1950s was illegal. In Northern Ireland, the DUP opposed gay marriage with a ‘petition of concern’ against an Assembly majority vote, and it was cited as one of the reasons why Stormont collapsed…. so yet again homosexuality is scapegoated. In addition, my “scapegoat” carries a sign in the Irish Language - the Irish Language Act was also cited as a cause for the impasse, even though legal status for the Irish language was written into the Good Friday Agreement all those years ago. Surely it’s time to move on as a society of equals.
Unlike Rauschenberg’s “Monogram”, I am drawing a direct line to the tradition of the Biblical Scapegoat as church and state are still intertwined in the politics of N Ireland; I have recreated the image of the goat’s head with the red scarf attached to its horns, as depicted in Holman Hunt’s painting.
I hoped that this work would speak to those elected to represent us, whichever community they belonged to, to make them aware of the frustration felt after 2 years of no representation at Stormont. We needed engagement and progress, not endless scapegoating.