Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creativity, invention, surprise: The Political Process and the Arts? The Upstart Project


Creativity, invention, surprise, engagement. These aren't what comes to mind when we think of politics and the political process. We’re going to be facing a Federal election here in Canada very soon -- thank goodness -- and this reminded me of a fantastic public art / political action project in Dublin in  which I was invited to participate for last month’s Irish election.

The project known as Upstart wanted to engage the public in a discussion of the importance/role of the arts in public and to “highlight the importance of creativity and ingenuity when society is in need of direction and solutions.”

One of the things that they did was to place election-sized posters featuring creative work all around Dublin.

Here’s how they describe themselves:
UpStart is a non-profit arts collective which aims to put creativity at the centre of public consciousness during the Irish General Election Campaign in 2011. We plan to do this by reinterpreting the spaces commonly used for displaying election campaign posters in Dublin City….We believe that the futuredevelopment of the country requires a healthy cultivation of the Arts.

This is their video call, a great little video. There are other videos on their site of the actual work.


They created an interactive Google map detailing all of the work and where it was posted around Dublin:



They posted two copies of my poem Brick (from my recent The Porcupinity of the Stars.) What a thrill to discover that my poem was posted on a poster near Argillan Castle. They also posted one of Calgarian poet derek beaulieu's visual poems. Here's my poster and one of its locations on a map of Dublin:




This is a brilliant way to “highlight the importance of creativity and ingenuity when society is in need of direction and solutions, and to emphasize the value of the arts to public life.” As we in Canada enter an election, I am inspired by how this project found a way to re-energize the political discourse, to inject something other than a sense of the inevitable & predictable slow moving train of the political process. As I said: Creativity, invention, surprise, engagement. These should (could?) be what we think of when we think of politics and the political process.

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