The Volunteers is a powerful new collaborative multimedia piece of public art and film, the first of a three-part series highlighting the importance of volunteerism in tackling some of Ireland’s most pressing issues: drug addiction, mental health, and direct provision. The project reflects upon Ireland’s century of progress, and asks us what battles we must fight in the present to remake the country for the better.
Caslin, known for his large-scale black and white drawings, has chosen to focus this piece and it’s accompanying short film on the theme of decriminalising drug addiction. ‘The Controlled Drugs and Harm Reduction Bill’ is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Both the Bill and this piece attempt to humanise the complex narratives around drug addiction, placing treatment as a health issue and not an offence to be punished within the criminal justice system.
This piece of cultural commentary features Rachael Keogh, an advocate in recovery from heroin addiction, Senator Lynn Ruane, author of the legislation, and Fiona O’Reilly, Managing Director of SafetyNet, a primary care service to people who are homeless. The male figure represents the doctor, a role which is frequently secondary in drug abuse intervention due to failed government policy and the mischaracterisation of drug addiction.
The Volunteers is about the preciousness of life, and the ways we betray it, as well as the ways that we honour it with our time, passion, and attention. Drawing from the example of the 1916 Volunteers, who made their lives offerings for a new world, this piece looks at those who offer themselves to transform their country in a different way, today.