Education is not the only way to teach; lessons are often hard-fought, messy and unclear.
Finding clarity -or a way of guiding you to a clearer understanding- may come from a friendship, a guardian, understanding a loss or the adoption of a technique that helps you express what you are feeling. The majority of this seems to be true for photographer Oisín Askin. At just 22, Oisín has already found his medium; written, curated and released his own book; moved country (and returned); battled his demons and found a way to communicate what he feels about his psychosocial and environmental experience. Having sent us his book Saol, we felt Oisín’s voice needed to be heard. It echoes those of others we have met, in Derry and in Cork, in Liverpool and Manchester. Whilst each is unique, they share senses of loss and longing; of hankering for a ‘thing’ that we know causes us pain and of the liminal (in betweenness) status ‘belonging’ can inspire when at home or away.
Trigger warning: Oisín’s writing and images refer to drug use, criminality and concepts of pain. Please be mindful of this if reading on. We have kept his rhythm and language to maintain the authenticity of Oisín’s voice. This incorporates some (infrequent) strong language.
“Saol” meaning ‘life’ in Irish. I live ‘life in Irish’. The Irish life means many things; one of the most life changing things that we do is move. When you think of a move you usually associate it with positives. Many Irish moves are reaches for positivity, but start with the opposite.
My move was trying to escape and was part of an escapism culture.
Everyone knows that our culture has a deep-rooted history with mind-numbing.
There’s something about the environment in Ireland that makes it perfect for getting pished. Aye, I’ll get pished at any time, if its sunny or if it’s not. It’s probably not.
I feel -coming from what was once a wild nation- we don’t do well with being trapped within the sedate modern society. It’s all fun and games now, but I believe this culture comes from a place of hurt. You put on your mask and go somewhere that ain’t here, putting all your problems into a pint glass and washing them away.
Over the years these mind-numbers have changed with the time.
Where I grew up its what we done. Because I wasn’t [old] enough to work, I ran about the streets all day looking to be ‘elsewhere’. [I’d be] out of my head… or going back into my head to find the back door. This was during the week. At the weekend you scranned your Ma for [dough] and instead of ‘elsewhere’ you went ‘somewhere’. Space.
Grannies or Mammies?
[It] didn’t matter where it was. I’ll do it your kitchen; your Granny’s or your Mammy’s. “We’ll go out will we?”. Doesn’t really matter. I didn’t care what the situation was as long I was ‘nowhere’ looking for ‘somewhere’ with my muckers.
As I aged this changed. For me, it wasn’t something I was doing for enjoyment; [I was] looking for something I still haven’t found. The more I took drugs the good effects of them also found somewhere to go and I got lost. It’s like having your favourite song stuck on replay. At the start, you don’t want to do anything else but listen. Then, after a while, it’s just like you’re going through the motions. Eventually you’ll start to hate certain sections of the song until every word drives ye fucking mad, but you like music too much to stop listening.
My situation was changing. I wasn’t a wain anymore. I had become a stain on a sofa.
You see, nothing mattered at the time. I didn’t give a fuck about anything. School didn’t get my time, at the time. Instead, I was killing my time, smoking mind-numbers, until I woke up again.
The problems started when the money was low. I needed money to make the most of nothing, ye see. So, my mates and me got involved in making money. I done it here and there but wasn’t really too good at it. My mates, on the other hand, were good at numbing minds, but also good at turning heads.
In Derry, drugs are outlawed by splinter groups of what was once the IRA. Claiming they’re stopping the poisoning of their community by shooting those who provide drugs (even though they sell on these drugs or tax them), the once freedom fighters are interning* what it means to be free.
You see where this was going… and where it went. People got shot or battered and this wasn’t even the real motivator for selling drugs. No, not me. I was seeing the wall getting higher around me.
I had to get gone.
Nothing seemed right anymore.
A lot of people that I thought were mates weren’t. They were just on the same boat to nowhere as I was.
I scraped my grades together; in spite of those above me in age telling me I could do nothing with them. I offered myself to anyone until someone in Liverpool answered.
This book is about who and what moulded me. How I see life. What this life means to me now and what I’ve learned; doing nothing.
* Interment has happened to people (young men, especially), all over Ireland, throughout history. This means being put in jail, without fair trial. It often happened to members of the IRA or associates. Contextually, Oisín believes the duplicity of the use of drugs by these groups (acting outside of the law) is hurting people -without a fair trial, knowledge or systems of support- in turn resulting in greater harm.
As an early careerist, Oisín doesn’t have a substantial web-presence. The Festival is working with Oisín to develop more projects and, hopefully, exhibitions in the future. We believe he is ‘one to watch.
For drugs support in the UK visit talktofrank.com or call +44 (0) 300 123 6600 (24 hour-7 day a week service).
For Irish welfare support services in the North West, please visit Irish Community Care irishcc.net or call +44 (0)151 237 3987 (standard office hours). You may also try Irish in Britain at irishinbritain.org or on +44 (0) 20 3903 0994.