ART BURSTS OUT
Written and performed by Tara Flynn at LINGO Festival - Oct 23rd 2016
I used to think politics happened on TV, over there, “up in Dublin”. Old lads driving around in cars with loud hailers on the top, telling us to “rise and follow” whoever. You’d have to be quite fast to rise and follow them: even though they were driving quite slowly, they were still in a car and you were not.
I used to think politics was for people in ill-fitting suits, with big beer bellies and some kind of inexplicable charisma that kept them in the public consciousness, even when they seemed to do little in the public interest. I used to think politics was posters, polling booths, parish pumps and potholes.
One voice. One voice, reaching the ear of another. That’s what politics can be. That’s where real change lies. “This happened to me and I don’t want it to happen to you.” Your voice counts, so use it however the fuck you want.
Art bursts out.
When no one will listen. When you can contain it no longer. Art bursts out, instead of sending up a flare. Instead of setting things on fire. So you don’t hurt someone else the way you’re hurting.
It’s a scream.
It’s an ideal to strive for.
It’s an expression we can wear on our bodies, paint on walls, sing at the top of our lungs.
In the marriage equality referendum campaign, I was one of those with all the rights; a cis-gendered straight woman, I had the privilege there. (Except for the fact that I’m from Cork.) Married to an African American man, I’m learning, becoming aware of my whiteness and the unearned privilege that comes with that. I’m able-bodied, educated, middle class. I have a lot. I want to be a good ally. I can only express that how it comes out – sometimes it comes out funny. Turning anger at unfairness into sketches was the best way I could think of to say “I may not be at the centre of this fight, but I want to help you to fight it. I think those who oppose you are ridiculous: here’s a scene about how ridiculous they are. “
But when it comes to the 8th amendment and my reproductive rights, it is my fight. It is much harder to step back enough to filter that through a lens. Now my very body is my work in progress. They have politicised my flesh. Everything I say measured against one journey I took at one time in my life. Simple conversation no longer possible – I’m deemed to be attempting to persuade, enlist, affect.
Now more than ever, the right place for me to put it is into my work. I purge myself of poison there, put myself on show so others are aware. Some of it is just for me. Art makes things digestible, even if it causes indigestion first. It doesn’t have to be pastoral, it should not be pleasant and we’ve always known that in this country.
Art is the way in to the discussions governments won’t have. Our rebels have all been poets and painters too. It doesn’t matter if some of them were shit. And today, direct provision, traveller rights, disability rights, women in general – our fights are taking place in work we make. Theatrical experiences are so much more than mere entertainment, and there is nothing mere about entertainment. Laughter is where the soul lies, if souls are what you’re having yourself. Laughter pierces pain, it unifies. It heals. If you can make them laugh, you know at least they’re listening. They don’t have to agree. That’s not the important part. They only have to hear. The rest comes later.
We know that Art’s important when it draws the hatred out, shines light on dark corners where hate lives and hides and snipes. Some threaten us with harm – even shallow graves – for words we’ve written, filmed or sung. We do not realise our power til then. They do. They see our power. So we should use it. Hard.
Art bursts out and makes the invisible visible, makes us harder to ignore. When the beer-bellied suit lads look away we try to make it so they can’t. And they love to look away from women. It’s a tradition here – unless we’re mammies or whores, ingenues or hags, we are tropes – but not anymore. We are bursting out. In a good way. Waking the feminists – not just women now – an army saying “Look, look at her there, not a holy show, not a nag, an artist.” Sculpting her own life. Visible, beautiful, angry, proud, disturbing. Through our work we’ll grab for stars and wrestle them to earth, let them shine where it was dark. We will remember that Art bursts out best from attempts to silence us. The time for the podium has passed: Irish women are sending up flares. We hope someone will see them, from the air.
Our work can live and breathe and scream. Can help to ease our pain. One day, it might become a document. For now, it is the history, unfolding. They’ll see it, when they look back. They’ll say they got it, then.
For now, the ill-fitting suits nod at us and patronise and say they understand. That they love an opening night. Front row centre, they’ll say that they were there. Appreciating. Critiquing. Over there. They think Art is decoration, the bit around the edges. They do not know: it is our beating heart. We do not make the work as-well-as; the work bursts out because it can’t stay in.
And we burst out. We burst. Shrill and glorious and hurt, we burst.
A Terrible Beauty is Born. You said it, Bill. You said it.
Tara Flynn is an actress, comedian and writer. She’s also a bit of a legend, lending her voice to a host of vital causes focused on equality and social justice, most recently the Repeal the 8th movement.