I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked


Last week, Irish thoughts were distracted from the economic recession by the rugby team’s Grand Slam success. This week, Irish minds have been occupied by a couple of paintings of Brian Cowen that depict the Taoiseach in a less than flattering light. This “controversy”, which will surely be dubbed Cowengate, arose on Monday. RTE News carried a report about the erection of two different portraits of Mr Cowen that mysteriously appeared in two Dublin art galleries earlier that day. Apparently, both had been put up by an individual who simply entered each gallery and nailed the paintings to the walls. Neither painting stayed up too long and it is not known whether or not they were well-hung. On the next night’s news, RTE apologised to the Taoiseach and his family for the manner of their reporting of the incident. It has since emerged that the person behind this prank is a teacher and artist named Conor Casby.

Now, I’m all for constructive criticism of the government and its leadership. I’m glad that we live in a country where we can criticise and make fun of those in charge and not fear the consequences. I’m only too aware that for many years art, literature, film and music had been subject to censorship because the State did not want to subject impressionable minds to what it perceived as pornography. The long arm of the mass media means that content that would have previously been unavailable is now easily accessible. The internet has also made it easier for the public to get its voice heard without the assistance of regular media outlets.

Nevertheless, I disagree that Casby’s paintings could be construed as satire. I fail to see the satire in Casby’s paintings. In my opinion, both of them exhibit crudeness and toilet humour at the expense of anything remotely witty or humorous. In one of the paintings, a caricature of Cowen is seen with a large pot-belly, holding a pair of underpants in his hand. In the other, he is seen naked on a toilet bowl, holding a roll of toilet paper in his hand. How is this satirical? What deeper meaning can be construed from these images? I believe that the current government should have the piss taken out of it. But, I’d like to see it done with a bit of wit and intelligence. In the meantime, here are a few tunes for your perusal

I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked – Ida Maria

Naked, If I Want To (Moby Grape cover) – Cat Power

Naked As We Came (Iron Wine cover) – Katherine Donovan

9 thoughts on “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked

  1. Pingback: The Joke’s On Me « Town Full of Losers

  2. I’m afraid that my belief that it was the galleries that brought in the gardaí was one that I read in one of our newspapers. Unfortunatley, you can’t believe everything you read in the papers and I have been unable to find any evidence that it was the galleries that contacted the guards.
    What we do know is that the Today FM producer was told that by the guard who visited his radio studio was serving “the powers that be”. The art galleries are certainly not “the powers that be” and it is unlikely that he would refer to his own superiors in this manner. Therefore, it is most likely that he is, indeed, referring to the government. If this is the case, then it’s a very worrying sign. Normally, the wheels of the law move at a very slow pace and it takes ages to bring real criminals to justice, if at all. If they have acted swiftly because our Taoiseach’s feathers were ruffled, then this is quite worrying and a complete waste of garda resources.
    Additionally, it appears that detectives requested to look at other works by Mr Casby. This is even more worrying and is surely a violation of his civil rights. It could set a worrying trend and seems like something that would have happened in more draconian times.
    I have also come across a statement that the artist made last week. According to The Irish Times he stated that the paintings “were intended to be an anonymous and non-profit comment on the use of modern media “rather than an attempt to use the media to comment”. He said that he wished to bring the project to an end “by offering the portraits to the highest bidder and donat[ing] the proceeds to charity”. ” Now that I have learned of his intention, I accept that he was quite successful in his attempt. I also commend his desire not to directly benefit from it financially.
    Tomorrow is April Fools Day, but it looks like the government (and RTE) are the real fools here. Now, isn’t that a surprise?

  3. “Okay, but it would appear that it wasn’t the government that called in the Gardaí, but the two art galleries.”

    Where did you get that info? The two art galleries have denied calling the Gardai, and one of the gardai in question demanded access to the Today FM’s email system saying that “the powers that be want action taken”. That statement only makes sense if the “powers that be” called the gardai.


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  5. Pingback: cearta.ie » Cowengate follow-on: a question, and more pictures at the exhibitions

  6. Okay, but it would appear that it wasn’t the government that called in the Gardaí, but the two art galleries. And I think that RTE’s decision to issue an apology was reached internally and not as a consequence of any outside pressure.

    A person, presumably the artist of the paintings, hung two paintings in two separate galleries. Now, I’m not completely familiar with the workings of the art world, but surely there is a certain process involved when an artist wishes to have a painting displayed in a gallery. I’m sure it would involve letters and phone calls and meetings and decisions made by the director of the gallery. Perhaps, Mr Casby was only too aware of the merits of his work and had an inkling that it would not be accepted through normal channels.

    What’s next? Instead of submitting a demo to a radio station, a band will hijack a radio show and play their new song on air. In such a situation, I’m sure that the radio station would call the gardaí. Nothing may arise of the matter, but the band would receive a lot of free publicity and it wouldn’t do subsequent sales any harm. Surely, the art galleries had a right to report this incident. And the artist is not completely innocent as his act was provocative. And he’s also got a nice bit of free publicity out of it.

    I admire pranksters and people with a sense of fun. I think that Mr Casby’s greatest achievement was his conception and implementation of the prank. It’s worked so well because the subject of his doodlings was the leader of the government. Like the majority of this country, I am disillusioned by the lousy job that this government has done and I do not think that Brian Cowen and his party are the ones to get us out of it. I’m all for commentators using satire and humour to show their criticism of our politicians. But, creating such a caricature using toilet humour seems to be a cheap way of achieving this goal. Surely, none of us would be too happy to be the subject of such a prank?

  7. You’re missing the point. The point is not whether the painting are satire or not. The point is not whether or not they’re funny. The point is that the government has used the state police force to harass an artist because of a painting he did, and has muzzled the state broadcaster on the issue.


  8. That’s a good point. I guess the artist would not have been as successful if he had tried to get the paintings displayed through regular channels. He’s certainly got people talking and maybe even more interested in art

  9. I’d argue that the act of their placing in the galleries is the satire including the descriptive labels that accompanied them rather just the images themselves.

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