Activism plays a fundamental role in creating awareness around, and subsequently combating social injustice and has been instrumental in the abolishment of slavery, promoting women’s rights and gender equality, unionising and fighting worker exploitation, protesting wars and empires, protecting the planet, ameliorating archaic legislation, campaigning for better solutions to homelessness, challenging various dictatorships over the course of history, opposing racism, and many more salient issues.
Inspired by the 2018 solitary school strikes outside the Swedish parliament by Greta Thunberg, a 16 year-old Swedish climate change activist, over 11,000 people took to the streets of Dublin on the 15th March 2019. They were accoutred with voice-boxes filling the urban expanse with chants, morbidly humorous signage, fear, passion and a healthy dose of political-frustration. They marched to Dail Eireann to announce a collective rage against climate inaction and demand that the Irish government declare a state of climate emergency, inform the public about the seriousness of the environmental crisis and immediately implement recommendations of the Citizens Assembly report on tackling climate change as a first step towards the implementation of policies that will reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.
From all corners of the island, across all demographics, from novices to veterans, and on a myriad of issues, grassroots activism in Ireland is growing. With the increased visibility of previous groups and the inauguration of new umbrella organisations, people are finding it easier to mobilise around issues they feel passionate about. These groups provide an accessible reformation vehicle upon which one can enter into the world of political activism.
Science Gallery Dublin’s latest exhibition OPEN LABS showcases work from communities of artists, researchers and activists inspired by political convictions, personal obsessions, or just a sense of fun and wonder. This DIY culture across art, science, technology and activism explores what can happen when individuals and collectives work actively against disciplinary boundaries, instead of within them. In the wake of information blackouts, closed research and political unrest, these groups have taken knowledge and skill acquisition into their own hands, by co-creating art and technologies inspired by their own fervour for change and have created low-cost, open-source DIY techniques as solutions to problems.
For those who have never been involved in activism, it can seem daunting and sometimes futile against the backdrop of a cacophonous and turbulent society. OPEN LABS features an event space which can act as a platform for many groups, a space we hope can nurture and assist novice curious could-be activists who wish to be the change they wish to see in the world, but perhaps don’t know where to begin. Find out more at dublin.sciencegallery.com/events
Eleanor Martha Hulm is a Lead Mediator for OPEN LABS and an activist. The views expressed here are her own.