Good Luck and Good Riddance.

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Conor McCabe and others lay the Celtic Tiger to rest…

From the Celtic Tiger wake that happened a few weeks ago. We had a few words with the event organiser, Tommy Soro where he gave some background to the event before it took place.

So you are having a wake for the Celtic Tiger. Why in heaven? Has the nail not been firmly hammered into that fuckers casket for half a decade now?

As a symbol of our economy he certainly bit the biscuit but I doubt heaven would have him! The reality is the cultural legacy of the Tiger lives on in many ways. The value system which underpins the consumerist behaviour we adopted during the boom still dominates the mainstream culture. The spectre of the Tiger also lingers on as the dominant narritive for Ireland, replacing older narratives such as hibernianism, religion and nationalism as a reference by which Ireland’s identity is presented and imagined. Although the money has left for most, the hyper-consumerist behaviour adopted in the glory days is still socially aspired to and respected!

It’s all fine and good to hold a symbolic end to the era of avarice, but surely its roots go much deeper than mere signs. Have you any evidence of a shift in perception in Ireland?

I believe that the crisis has shone light on some of the negative aspects of consumer culture and more and more people are recognising the efforts of people and institutions which promote alternative social and political perspectives. These efforts are themselves symbols which strengthen their legitimacy though the visibility of their successes. Upstart, Ten fourteen restaurant and the occupy movement are good examples of this.

The radio waves and TV screens are still full of the same gombeen faces and there’s not much of a social movement challenging the system from what we can see.

Well, I’d have to agree with you for the most part! Mainstream media in Ireland has never been keen to challenge the status quo! Luckily television and radio no longer have a monopoly on the representation of society. Social media and the internet in general have allowed alternative ideologies to be represented to the public, communicating their ideas and facilitating a more democratic production of history. I wouldn’t say there is a social movement cohesive and popular enough to truly challenge existing hegemonies but you have to start somewhere!

You speak about new narratives having to come to the fore, what are you hedging your bets on here?

I don’t know. It’s hard to guess. There will always be competing narratives. Some of the states at the bottom of the European pyramid of prosperity and austerity, such as Greece, are experiencing such violent social and political unrest that massive changes seem inevitable. The Arab spring stands as an imperfect but compelling incitement to this kind of revolution. I sometimes think that people here won’t really face the demons of corruption and social injustice until they hit absolute bottom. Perhaps when then years of cuts and austerity start to reveal the inequalities, people may finally decide to actively resist!

Smile signs. We see them everywhere – what was your idea with them?

It’s strange because what I think they say changes all the time. I wanted to make a work that employed the power of symbols and knowledge of aesthetics that has allowed advertising to capture the hearts and minds of the public. I also wanted to make an intervention into public space, as it is completely dominated by commercial media. The private world of companies owns the visual space we inhabit, that seems crazy to me. Surely that space belongs to the public and should be utilised with the public’s interest at heart, advertisements do not make you happier, they are not trying to. If anything they are trying to sow seeds of discontent in people about what they have and who they are! I wanted to make a sign for people, which asked them only to smile, and perhaps to realise the power of signs in public space!

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