Repeal the Eighth campaign enlists sculpture for weighty symbol

#TheWeightOfTheEighth: Light projection cast onto sculpture a chain and figure of eight

A temporary light projection was added to the Aspiration sculpture on the side of Dublin’s Treasury Building in support of the Yes campaign in the forthcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Video: The Public House


She scales the side of the Treasury Building by Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock, a slinky, naked figure, straining upwards, her fibreglass form a moment frozen in time.

She takes a sculptural form akin to Robert Browning’s Andrea del Sarto, who asks: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp/or what’s a heaven for?”

But she is Aspiration, a 1995 Rowan Gillespie sculpture commissioned by builder Johnny Ronan, and for many symbolising women’s struggles for equal rights and treatment.

Her outstretched arm tries to pull her further up the facade, her head is looking back at the distance already achieved, but her right leg trails behind her.

And briefly on Thursday night, the arresting sculpture was given an addition – a projection in light, casting onto the ankle of the right leg a chain bolted onto her, a great weight holding her back and seeming to sway slightly in the breeze.

At the end of the chain, like a giant barbell, was the figure 8 – acting as a drag on her progress, and known as #TheWeightOfTheEighth.

“We feel the [referendum] campaign has been noisy and aggressive, particularly from the No campaign,” said Catriona Campbell, managing director of The Public House, the Dublin advertising agency that created the image.

‘Incredible burden’

The agency said the temporary addition to the sculpture (it lasted just two hours) is “a stark reminder of the fight for reproductive rights for the women of Ireland, and the incredible burden of the Eighth Amendment”.

“The original intention of the sculpture was to represent the country’s struggle for freedom, and this remix continues that narrative with a shift toward the struggle of Irish women to gain reproductive freedom.”

The projection is part of the Repeat Art campaign, that includes the Repeal jumpers, the Project Arts Centre mural (since painted over on the orders of the Charity Regulator) and a similar one on the side of Amnesty International’s building in Temple Bar.

Campbell said staff at the agency wanted to make a contribution to the Yes campaign, and that for them, the “subtlety” of the light projection addition to Aspiration was important, in contrast to shrill voices and stark imagery.

“This was a collective of people applying their creativity to something they cared deeply about, who wanted to do something rather than nothing. We are proud of what we did and hope that it will make some sort of impact in the coming weeks and add another element to the debate.

“Irish women are still being weighed down,” she said, adding that there might be other light projections supporting the Yes proposition before polling day.