A new multimedia collection of artworks exploring the experiences and issues affecting older gay men living in Ireland was unveiled in Cork.
‘Before The Rainbow… and After’ saw a group of more than 10 older GBTQI+++ men participating in a nine week collaborative process of shared conversation, exchange, action and dreaming with renowned UK artist and facilitator Mark Storor, and creative producer Claire Ryan from Cork. The group, including collage artist Silvio Severino and visual artist and designer Tadashi Kato further collaborated with musician and filmographer, Cathal MacGabhann, and photographer, Carolyn Collier who helped bring their stories to life through the creation of a beautifully tender and evocative collection of artwork that includes a 48 page art publication, collages, photography, and poetic film installation piece.
Commissioned by Gay Project in Cork and funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the project placed an emphasis on the participatory arts process and aimed to develop a creative language that would allow the stories and voices of older, often marginalised, GBTQI++++ men living in Ireland to be heard.
The project saw older gay men of differing ages, nationalities and ethnicities taking part in weekly practical workshops with Mark Storor who specialises in platforming marginalised voices to create beautiful and uplifting work in which community participants and professionals work side by side in genuine partnership. The resulting artworks emerged and evolved throughout the collaborative process during which issues pertinent to the participants, including ongoing societal homophobia, discrimination, isolation, concerns around HIV, the fragility of gay rights, as well as issues within the queer community were identified and explored.
With next year marking the 30th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland, the timely project has particular social significance, creating a platform of expression and providing a voice for this somewhat ‘lost generation’ of older gay men who have lived through challenging periods of personal and social change.
‘Before The Rainbow…and After’ is the creation of all of its collaborators and belongs to everyone: William Kennedy, Roland Baldwin, David J McCarthy (Bunty), Silvio Severino, Lindley Walsh, Will Knott, Tadashi Kato, Jeremy Coleman, William Maloney, Ron Horgan, Carlo Roberto Fulghesu, Ailsa Spindler, Konrad Im, Luke Barrett, Mark Storor, Claire Ryan, Ian Brown, Cathal MacGabhann, Carolyn Collier, Babis Alexiadis, Kate O’Shea, Mike Carney, Adam O’Brien, Michael Standen, Susan O’Shea, Mike Kinsman.
Commenting on the project’s meaning, Gay Project co-ordinator, Ailsa Spindler, said, “Coming out’ is a phrase often heard in the LGBTQI+ world, but it means many, different things. At its simplest, coming out’ involves telling someone that you are ‘gay’ or ‘queer’. ‘Coming out’ can also involve revealing one’s innermost feelings; this is a process which takes strength, courage and resolve.”
“The men who have participated in Before The Rainbow…and After have demonstrated their strength, their courage, and their resolve to show how it feels to be an older gay man living in Ireland in 2022. The result is a celebration of their lives, which acknowledges the struggles they faced growing up in a society which demonised and vilified them, and shows how they have flourished as Irish society has become more accepting and inclusive. We salute these men, and thousands like them. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that the rights they fought for are never taken away. The wonderful thing about Before The Rainbow…and After is that it’s by the men and for the men who participated in the project and it has been a transformative experience for many of them. We hope it will have a huge impact for thousands of other men who identify with the issues and experiences it explores and that it will open up new ways of expressing and releasing them.”
Speaking about the project’s creative process, artist Mark Storor said, “primarily, for me, art is about storytelling. Making a piece of work in collaboration with others allows us to look at, to examine, to question the things that maybe we can’t talk about so easily. The men who have been involved in this project have given generously of their time and their stories, some aspects of which were difficult to tell. However, the resulting artworks created are truly beautiful. Made from a particular viewpoint the work reflects the flesh and blood human experience of the men. The men deserve to be seen and celebrated for who they are, wonderful human beings in their own right but the work speaks to us all. It is universal.”
“Many of us, gay men of my, our age are sometimes called: ‘the lost generation’. We are the cohort who suffered the indignity of criminalisation due to our sexuality. Men who lived through the AIDS epidemic, lost friends, family and lovers to the disease, fought for gay rights and marriage equality and who have been instrumental in bringing about change that the entire community benefits from. Many of the younger generation don’t realise, don’t fully understand or are not aware of what LGBTQI+++ people of a certain age actually went through. Some people actually have given their lives. It is brilliant that the world appears to be changing, but It is important to pass the stories on, not as a burden but as power.”
“Despite all the progress that’s been made in Ireland and elsewhere in terms of gay rights and equality; discrimination, homophobia and attacks on gay/queer people continue. There’s also concern that the equality rights that have been achieved here in Ireland and in other countries around the world are fragile and could, with the growing political strength of the far right, be overturned. All of these issues were explored and brought to the fore through the arts process and are expressed to some degree in the work. The work now has a life beyond the time frame of the project, aspects of which can be utilised in other contexts. We hope that for people who encounter the work it may have relevance and lasting impact for the thousands of people both here in Ireland and elsewhere.”
‘Before the Rainbow…and After’ creative producer, Claire Ryan, said, “it has been a hugely uplifting and enriching experience to work alongside all the remarkable men who co-created Before The Rainbow… and After. Their dedication to the project, generosity, strength and courage is inspirational. The exquisite artwork that has emerged from the many joyful and often poignant moments shared throughout the arts process demonstrates the men’s determination to make their voices heard in a unique and beautiful way. Their stories need to be told and have the potential to empower all those who have been, or continue to be, stigmatised, marginalised or discriminated against within society.”