Artist, writer and lecturer at NCAD Fiona Whelan introduces the new project Multi-Story – Creative Engagement for Housing Change, a 'unique collaborative arts process exploring diverse experiences of the housing crisis through visual and performative storytelling'. Watch The Apology above.
In 2020, myself and fellow artist Feidlim Cannon were invited by Housing Action Now (HAN) to engage with their members and associates, to explore the potential of creative processes in the fight for housing justice in Ireland.
HAN is a collective of community workers, researchers, activists and artists concerned with the growing housing crisis in Ireland. What followed was an 18 month engagement, supported by Create (the national development agency for collaborative arts) which saw artists, activists, community workers and tenants – public and private, engage in a unique collaborative arts process exploring diverse experiences of the housing crisis through visual and performative storytelling. This project is called Multi-Story – Creative Engagement for Housing Change.
The arts have the power to tell stories, make hidden realities visible, and move and connect people emotionally...
As the project’s development coincided with the Covid pandemic, myself and Feidlim developed monthly writing workshops online, with prompts and questions designed to tap into the knowledge of those in the online space, both experienced activists with strong analyses on housing policy, and people directly affected by the crisis who had lived experience to draw upon. It became an experimental space for collaboration and the development of innovative ways of connecting and creating solidarity with dispersed publics affected by the crisis.
As a visual artist and writer, my practice has always been committed to exploring and responding to systemic power relations and inequalities, through long-term collaborations with diverse individuals, groups and organisations. Feidlim's work as a theatre maker (and a founding member of theatre company Brokentalkers) sees him devise original, accessible live performance that challenges traditional ideologies. Having worked together previously, we had a strong working relationship and we knew the potential of collaborating across our disciplines. But what’s of central importance for the Multi-Story project, is the further meeting of arts and activism.
The arts have the power to tell stories, make hidden realities visible, and move and connect people emotionally. Add activism to that, with all its networks and strategies for social change, and you create the potential for large numbers of people to collectively reimagine our current reality, and visualise alternative realities. The Apology, the first public act presented from the Multi-Story project, is part of that reimagining, taking the form of a performative apology, which publicly acknowledges the failures of the State with regards to housing policy and provision in this country.
On Tuesday, this performance is being presented publicly over Zoom, as part of a significant online gathering of housing activists, people affected by the crisis, community groups, public representatives, artists and other interested parties. Housing is one of the greatest human rights and equality challenges of our times and there are many groups active in this area.
The Multi-Story project is committed to creating alliances between diverse housing campaigns and building a network of solidarity between those affected by the crisis. All are welcome to the online event, and we are inviting diverse groups to share the filmed performance with their networks and local politicians, to further the fight for housing justice in Ireland.
Join the Multi-Story team online on Tuesday the 22nd of February at 6pm to experience The Apology - find out more here.
Multi-Story Act 1: The Apology is supported by Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts, through the Arts Council's Commissions Award 2020.