Here in Cork, as in an increasing portion of the western world, housing is gradually turning into a privilege, instead of a right. For the Ardu Street Art Festival in this city of 190,000, the second largest in Ireland, street artist Asbestos posed himself with a box on his head to symbolize our need for a roof.
“As a country we are currently in an existential crisis over housing,” he tells us. “There’s a fear and uncertainly about finding a safe space, and the system seems to be stacked in favor of the landlords.”
A short roster of artists are here this year for the festival – and hometown talent Conor Harrington is currently working on his first mural for the city. The other participants this year include Friz and Shane O’Malley. Of course, being in your hometown doesn’t mean much if you don’t actually have a home.
“Home isn’t simply about where you were born, it’s where you feel you belong, where you feel safe, where you’re welcomed, where you can come back to and feel accepted, loved and part of a community,” says Asbestos as he discusses rents and mortgages. He tells us that it took over a week to paint this new mural, and during that time he had many conversations with people on the street who feel the economic anxiety and insecurity that is pushing more people closer to the door – here and elsewhere.
“It was wonderful to speak to so many curious Corkonians about the mural. The support has been amazing from the public and my friends and family here, Cork definitely felt like my home for a week.”