The Day in Question (2009)
Having gathered a substantial collection of anonymous personal stories of power and powerlessness over time, the collective recognised a prominent theme. Nearly one third of the stories gathered communicated an extreme sense of powerlessness in relation to the police, a common feeling of being judged and unjustly treated by Gardai. A proposal was made to the Chief Superintendant of Dublin South Central District and following months of negotiation, the collective’s second participatory reading event ‘The Day in Question’ was held in The Irish Museum of Modern Art with 26 members of An Garda Siochana (the Irish Police force).
The Day in Question event was staged in a triangle arrangement bringing together What’s the Story? Collective on one side, facing a large group of Gardai on the second side and an invited group of witnesses on the third. The event had two parts. It firstly involved the re-telling of a series of personal but anonymous stories from young people in Rialto Youth Project by individual Gardai. The selected Gardai stood up one after another, in the presnece of young people and read aloud young people’s personal accounts detailing mostly negative experiences with Gardai. Having filmed the readings, the cameras were turned off and an hour long discussion ensued between the collective and the Gardai on the issues arising. To conclude, a group of invited ‘witnesses’ were invited to respond, which included community workers, sociologists, artists and young people who had actively watched and listened to the readings and dialogue.
For further information about this project, see: ‘TEN: Territory, Encounter & Negotiation’, a critical memoir by Fiona Whelan, 2014.
For further reflection and analyses of this event, see: ‘Beating the Bounds of Socially Engaged Art? A Transdisciplinary Dialogue on a Collaborative Art Project with Youth in Dublin’, Fiona Whelan & Kevin Ryan, Field Journal, Spring 2016.