[Performing] Dwelling Thinking

by EL Putnam

Our cities are awash in spectacle. Walking along urban streets tends to mean being bombarded with images and actions competing for attention, over saturating the senses. The question arises:  how to cultivate a provocation in the midst of oceanic stimulation? Such propositions becomes further complex when the artists producing the work are foreign to the context, where the space of execution is already strange and unfamiliar to the creators — though such a stipulation can act as a benefit since the everyday has yet to become mundane. Seven artists from the Mobius artists group (Marilyn Arsem, Daniel DeLuca, Anna Wexler, Sandrine Schaefer, Mari Novotny-Jones, Milan Kohout, and Jimena Bermejo with her collaborator Chris Brokaw) recently traveled from Boston to Belfast in order to create new performance works in public spaces around the Cathedral Quarter area of the city as part of Transactions, an international exchange between Mobius and Bbeyond. Over the course of two weekends, the artists infiltrated different alleys, benches, walkways, intersections, and other thoroughfares, cultivating experiences within the energy of life that flows throughout the city.

Each artist utilized a particular tactic for navigating the social terrain, at times presenting an action that was enough out of the ordinary to invite a pause, as Marilyn Arsem did as she meticulously sewed parts of different stuffed animals together to make new creatures next to a bus stop at Castle Court Shopping Centre. Inviting passersby to sit alongside her and converse as she undertook her task, Arsem’s nonchalant demeanor while performing made the out of the ordinary actions seem in sync with the scene around her, despite their obvious strangeness; evoking a sort of emotional navigation where human interaction becomes a medium skillfully crafted and molded by the artist.

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Marilyn Arsem

What struck me when witnessing these performances is how each artist introduced a framing of experience within public life, in absence of the physical and mental parameters that a gallery introduces. This was accomplished through the purveyance of an attitude that allowed the artist to claim presence in a space, which Anna Wexler managed to do in an effective yet unobtrusive manner as she paced the Queen’s Bridge area of the city. Dressed in a blue cloak, Wexler shared the story Mary Ann McCracken, a 19th century abolitionist who distributed anti-slavery leaflets well into her eighties along the Belfast docks area to passengers on their way to the United States. Evoking the spectre of this activist, Wexler drew connections to current acts of systemic and explicit racism through the distribution of pamphlets that combined excerpts of McCracken’s texts with those from Angela Davis, Patrice Cullors of Black Lives Matter, and others in order to emphasize how the need for abolition and anti-racist activism continues. Like Arsem, her gestures invited prolonged conversations along the bridge, where social activism and aesthetic intervention are cultivated on a human-to-human level. Along these lines, Daniel DeLuca sublimated his presence into the urban milieu through the invitation to physically distribute written messages from one place to another, guiding his navigation of the city in unanticipated ways.

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Anna Wexler
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Daniel DeLuca

The ability of an artist to claim a presence in a foreign public place — to dwell within it (thank you to Siobhan Mullen for drawing this to my attention) — was accomplished by Sandrine Schaefer in her new iteration of the Pace Investigations series. Over the course of 15 hours, Schaefer inhabited Exchange Place, engaging in a series of actions and gestures with objects that made her presence, while subdued, just strange enough to disrupt the transitory energy of the walkway. The nuances of her performance became strikingly apparent when the Belfast May Day Parade marched along Donegal Avenue, creating a juxtaposition of public performance with each highlighting the particularities of the other. Schaefer was spending this time sitting in a chair reading a book, though in the middle of walkway — breaking the customs of stasis in public space, where such occupations are usually shifted to the side. Against the backdrop of the parade, people walking through the alley would make exaggerated efforts to not notice her presence, making their acknowledgement all the more apparent. Schaefer’s actions tended to be subtle and carefully enunciated, which gave their seeming non-purpose an overwhelming sense of intention, allowing her to stake her presence in this transitory space throughout the course of the day. The next week, this space took on different meaning as it became of site of Mari Novotny-Jones performance inspired by the enigmatic figure of the Sheela Na Gig.

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Sandrine Schaefer
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Mari Novotny-Jones

Jimena Bermejo utilized strategies that both incorporated conversational interaction and the inhabitation of public space. First she engaged in dialogues with various strangers, posing the question “What not to do in Belfast?” that were recorded as audio segments and textual observations written onto a white coverall worn by the artist. In the second phase of the work, these documents were incorporated into a movement and audio performance in collaboration with Chris Brokaw presented in a graffiti filled underpass under Anne St., where Bermejo used her body and a permanent marker to trace the movement and energy of the existent imagery, cultivating a palimpsest of her presence within the sonic and visual scape.

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Jimena Bermejo

While most of the artists performing as part of Transactions took advantage of the nuances and subtleties that the chaos of urban life affords, Milan Kohout attempted to compete with the already existing spectacle as a means of countering its presence. At the intersection of Royal Avenue and High Street, Kohout offered passersby an opportunity to block the interference of marketing imagery and consumer culture from peripheral vision, an uninvited capitalist infiltration, through the use of visual blinders that consisted of two pieces of white board, about one meter in length each. Even though his performance was in the midst of others attempting to solicit attention from the masses moving through the busy intersection, including street preachers and tour operators, the awkwardness of the white blinders and the bizarre image of their use made his presence just distinctive enough from a typical street canvasser or political proclaimant to make it warrant attention, functioning as a commentary twisted unto itself.

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Milan Kohout

Through the twisting of actions over the course of these performances, new means of engagement were introduced as the artists alter the presumptions and expectations of the various layers of urban flow. Such a mode of performance bears resemblance to other activities supported by Bbeyond, including the group actions of the Performance Monthly (which was included as part of the Transactions programme), but the experience of witnessing seven artists presenting solo (and in one case duo) performances within the context of a foreign city offer something different. Presented outside the gallery context, the works that comprised Transactions offered a multifaceted array of aesthetic experiences that highlight the continued significance of performance art in the spectacle-saturated culture of twenty-first century cosmopolitanism in stretching the anticipations of the present. New temporary modes of locality are introduced by being in space and claiming a place through the alchemical activities of performance.

The first phase of Transactions, an international artist exchange between the Mobius Artists Group and Bbeyond, took place May 3 to 12, 2018 in Belfast and included performances by Marilyn Arsem, Daniel DeLuca, Anna Wexler, Sandrine Schaefer, Mari Novotny-Jones, Milan Kohout, and Jimena Bermejo with her collaborator Chris Brokaw.  In September, five artists from Bbeyond will be travelling to Boston in order to complete the exchange. Photographs by Jordan Hutchings.

Bbeyond is supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. In Boston this project is made possible by a Live Arts Boston grant from the Boston Foundation and by a grant from Culture Ireland.  Mobius is also funded by The Oedipus Foundation, the Tanne Foundation, and generous private support.

 

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Untitled PLATFORM’18

by Sara Muthi

Interdisciplinary, mixed-media and expanded practice are all terms that point to the fact that boundaries within arts practice are becoming less and less relevant. Sure, you can argue and theorise about the ontologies or “essence” of a certain field (which I thoroughly enjoy to do), however this mindset often times missing the point of what’s happening within a specific work. Performance art has traditionally utilised the body (or bodies) undertaking an action (or series of actions) for a certain time in a certain place, to an audience. This form of visual arts practice has often times overlapped with other performing arts, such as theatre and dance, though now being recognised more than ever. This can be a touchy topic as both artists and performers may be uncomfortable with the idea. While these practices have traditionally been seen to occupy different fields and have majorly different priorities, considering the two within the same space can make for productive conversations on expanded practice. Performance PLATFORM is a space for such dialogues between performance art, theatre and dance to happen.

All art, in the contemporary sense at least, is not a space for answers, but a space for questions. It does not look to resolve but to further confuse apparent fundamental qualities of accepted forms and push them to unstable ground.

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Robbie Blake

Robbie Blake’s practice is a good place to start in relation to overlaps between performance art and in his case, music. As an artist and composer working across many contexts of performance, he encompasses music, vocals, gestures and some degree of costume to his performances. His solo contribution to PLATFORM was nothing short of this, engaging in improvisation as is common to performance art. Similar to Blake, the Landing collective, comprised of Aliina Lindroos and Moran Been-noon, overlap the expectation of performance art with practices spanning choreography, video, installation and multimedia works. Neither Blake or Landing would either identify as ‘performance artists’ however both use the forms fluidity to explore concepts that could not otherwise emerge. Between the Landing duo rich practices of video and dance merge together to deliver a subtle yet moving performance, encompassing projection, dance and pre-recorded voices. A mixed media harmony of the digital and the body created what turned out to be a thought-provoking and multi-layered work.

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Landing Collective

A major difference that has been identified between performance art and theatre is the lack of plot or narrative within live art. Performance art always happens at the same level as life, no stage is present and audience occupies the same space as the performer. The performing body is not a representation of character but a display of the self in action. This provided an alternative context to the work of dancers Cian Coady & Mia DiChiaro and the D15 Youth Theatre. As dance and theatre would usually happen on stage, creating a distinct distance between viewer and performers, these boundaries are not humoured within the gallery. As performers perform within arm’s length  to the audience, this posed new questions and challenges for each. For Coady & DiChiaro this meant a restriction of space and thus of body, unable to stretch out as would usually be encouraged in dance. For the D15 Youth Theatre this meant they had to very actively interact with the audience, posing a new challenge to their staging and script. A key element taken by both these groups is the lack of narrative or plot in their performances, aligning it within contemporary visual art lines.

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Cian Coady & Mia DiChiaro

 

This all comes full circle in the work of Lisa Freeman, working primarily as a performance artist she instead intentionally and consciously takes her performing body out of her newly developed performance Self Defeating Zone. Freeman in this case becomes the creative force as director, choreographer and costume designer. Heavily encompassing elements of theatre including script, choreography and developed characters, this work however would not suit a stage due to its audience dependent nature in which the performers confidently approached, made eye contact, directly addressed and blatantly laid on the ground before individual audience members. These actions combined with a carefully considered, intentional arrogantly-delivered script reveals how Freeman skilfully directed her performers to equally engage with a script and improvise with their surroundings, dance moves and dialogue.

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Paula Nash and Emma Brennan, performing Self Defeating Zone, by Lisa Freeman

As I’ve stated before, the very best art remains open to interpretation and is continuously interrogated. While nothing may have been resolved in the running of these series of interdisciplinary performances it certainly created a dialogue between practices encouraging thought about the state of performance art and it’s undeniable overlaps. Such overlaps render labels and fields of practice futile. This makes Untitled the most appropriate title.

Performance PLATFORM took place on April 3rd at 7pm in the Draíocht, Blanchardstown with performances by Robbie Blake, Cian Coady & Mia DiChiaro, Landing Collective, Lisa Freeman, D15 Youth Theatre, including an in-conversation with Sara Muthi, chaired by Sharon Murphy. Curated by Sharon Murphy. Photography by Misha Beglin.

 

Young, single and ready to navigate through complex issues regarding temporality and time

by Sara Muthi

PLATFORM’s mission is, well, just that. To create a platform for young, early career artists. Through an exhibition  of diverse practices, a series of performances also accompany this showcase of Ireland’s best and brightest up and comers. The multidisciplinary practices that encompass PLATFORM range from painting, sculpture, video, audio, drawing and, of course, performance. The performances are of particular interest. While one can never know what to expect from a performance, an enjoyable musical experience that bridges community, pop culture and complex relationships between temporality and presentness would be low on my list of expectations.

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Sadbh O’Brien, Lacuna, 2018

A theme that seems to be coming up more and more within performance events is an overlap of performance art and the performing arts. While two very separate fields, the showcasing of the two forms is entirely appropriate in the dynamic lack of boundaries of creative practice PLATFORM  champions. Cian Coady & Mia DiChairo perform Disrupting the Flow, a dance work made in a site-specific manner. Performed within meticulously marked floor lines, the presence of contemporary dance in a contemporary art gallery comments on the decreasing boundaries of creative practice in all fields. Beginning with this work, PLATFORM sets itself up as a melting pot that seamlessly curated diverse practices in a condensed, concentrated, rich yet appropriate overview of the preoccupations of a new generation of artists.

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Cian Coady & Mia DiChairo, Disrupting the Flow, 2018

Working across fields of painting, drawing and performance, Mark Buckeridge’s performances are heavily influences by his background in music. What I will take the liberty of calling the “All I Want to do is Cry” song performed live by Buckeridge, (which repeated for days in the minds of listeners), is part of his Concert Series. This series is of interest due to its ‘pop concert’ nature that is performed within contemporary art galleries as opposed to stages of any kind. A work such as this bridges the gap between pop culture and sometimes seemingly in-accessible art works that people not knee-deep in art theory think they may not understand. By veiling complex ideas of temporality, affect and communal understanding in an widely understood situation of the pop concert, Buckeridge tears down boundaries through vulnerable and relatable lyrics. This is also achieved through the voice in the work of Robbie Blake and the Tonnta vocal ensemble.

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Mark Buckeridge, Concert Series at Draíocht, 2018

Wearing earplugs and eye masks, each of three Tonnta vocalists takes a space away from one another. Standing still, like a ringing sculpture each performer is in a state of semi-isolation as they sing a personally chosen song. This personal aspect incorporated into the performance allows Blake to explore the auto-biographical as material for performance. As each performer quietly belts out their vocal song, notes from each voice get caught in crossfire in a most joyous harmony that strikes at least once every minute. The vibrations of each voice do not bounce off microphones or concert hall walls, but off other artworks that surround the performers. This intangible relationship that the performance shared with the static art objects further nips away at the ever expanding field of art that PLATFORM artists are encouraging. These intense, personal moments of song from each performer empower each of them, as does the assumptive autobiographical lyric of Buckeridge “all I want to do is cry, want to do is cry, all I want to do is cry, want to do is cry” (x 10).

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Robbie Blake and the Tonnta vocal ensemble, a signalling, 2018

There is something to be said about using one’s own life as material for work. This cannot ring more true than for the work of Emma Brennan. Brennan had continually been using her grandmother’s bread recipe in her performances, creating bread onsite for the public. However, this has developed into a fascination with the material of dough, which is now the subject of her video triptych in this exhibition. Exhaustingly moving a mound of dough from one end of the screen to the other, Brennan labours with dough equivalent to her own body weight across this space. Exploring viewer-performer relationships along with investigations into the value of the intangible self, her video work makes important comments on the representations of performance in light of everyday technologies.

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Emma Brennan, Heed, to the mound, 2018

PLATFORM creates ample opportunities for emerging artists to exhibit, grow and consider their practice in light of their peers. Spaces for fresh creative freedom, in which things may be tried and tested in a critical context such as this are few and far between. This makes PLATFORM’s success in bridging gaps between contemporary life, culture and experimental arts practice all the more important in today’s contemporary art climate.

PLATFORM’18 opened on the 21st of February in the Draíocht, Blanchardstown with performances by Robbie Blake, Mark Buckeridge, Cian Coady & Mia DiChairo. Exhibiting artists include Ella Bertilsson & Ulla Juske, Emma Brennan, Mark Buckeridge, Gum Collective (Aaron Smyth, Alex de Roeck, Aimee Gallagher, Ciara O’Brien, Ciaran Gallen, Sadbh O’Brien, Sofya Mikhaylova, Stephen Lau); Lisa Freeman, Louis Haugh, Landing Collective (Aliina Lindroos & Moran Been-noon); Eve O’Callaghan. Curated by Sharon Murphy, the exhibition runs until 31st March. Photography by Misha Beglin.

Uncomfortable State

by EL Putnam

Through her post-digital performances, Laura O’Connor plays with the technological apparatus of digital media, which commonly involves streaming performances over the web while performing them live simultaneously in a gallery space. O’Connor begins the work Uncomfortable State standing in front of a green felt cut-out of Ireland. Across from her there is a laptop that is streaming her performance over YouTube. The live feed of the performance is projected onto a wall facing her, making it evident that she is using green screen to transform the map of Ireland into a video of Irish Sea, the body of water that women travel to access abortion in nearby England (O’Connor 2017). The audience is presented with two simultaneous versions of the performance — one in the shared physical space of the artist, and the other mediated by digital video. She wears a skin coloured body suit and is applying green paint to her body, which renders her body invisible in the waves of the Irish Sea in the digital rendition of the work. Over the course of an hour, she covers her body, resulting in a crude overlay of her bodily form with the video of crashing waves in the streaming version; an uncanny rendering where is both veiling and revealing. There is a lag between the live presentation of actions and the video feed, compounded by the delayed audio track that feeds back into the gallery, with the performance co-existing in digital and physical space.

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O’Connor places her body under erasure – sous rature, which Jacques Derrida describes as something inadequate yet necessary (Derrida 1997), encompassing the state of maternal bodies in Ireland where strict legislation that rendering them vessels for the propagation of future citizens. At the same time, she plays with the trope of “Mother Ireland,” which as Geraldine Meaney (2010) points out, posits the nation of Ireland as a passive female body. There is an ambivalence throughout the performance, though not just through its content that draws Irish conservatism concerning gender and sexuality to the fore. Ambivalence is introduced through the juxtaposition of the live to the digital within the context of the gallery in a manner that emphasises the mediation of the technical apparatus. While the performance could be viewed online and was streamed to several television monitors placed throughout the art space, only within the context of the gallery where O’Connor is present both physically and digitally, is technological mediation most pronounced as the imperfections of digital rendering conceals while revealing O’Connor’s body, drawing correlations with the bio-political control of women’s bodies in Ireland.

O’Connor’s use of green screen evokes Hito Steyerl’s play with the technique in her 2013 video How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, within which Steyerl explores the different formal means of making images visible and invisible through the camera, such as resolution and various transitions, drawing attention to the invisible political and economic structural supports that mediate the production and sharing of images. In “Lesson III: How to Become Invisible by Becoming a Picture,” Steyerl uses green paint to blend into the test patterns flickering on the screen, eventually fading herself into the image itself. In her analysis of the video, Katja Kwastek describes how Steyerl creates a “seamless transition from human life to digital imagery” that “addresses computer vision from the perspective of the world becoming a picture and this picture being subject to analysis” (Kwastek 2015, 80–81). Like Steyerl, O’Connor also exposes the technological apparatus of digital image production through her performance. While Steyerl creates a broader commentary on the mediation and control of the world as imagery through analysis, O’Connor draws from the legacy of bio-political control in Ireland that renders the female body as a passive maternal vessel for the perpetuation of Irish citizenship through political legislation. Here digital media is not just used to critique itself as a mode of image making, but is used as a means to expose the ideological framing of the maternal in the context of Ireland.

Laura O’Connor performed Uncomfortable State as part of Livestock: Interface at the Glitch Festival (curated by Mart) at RUA RED in Tallaght on 13 May 2017 and at the What if? Performance Festival at Town Hall Cavan on 20 May 2017.

Works Cited

Derrida, Jacques. 1988. “Signature Event Context.” In Limited Inc, 1–23. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Kwastek, Katja. 2015. “How to Be Theorized: A Tediously Academic Essay on the New Aesthetic.” In Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design, edited by David Berry and Michael Dieter, 72–85. Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Meaney, Gerardine. 2010. Gender, Ireland and Cultural Change: Race, Sex and Nation. London: Routledge.

O’Connor, Laura. 2017. “Uncomfortable State.” Laura O’Connor. 2017. http://www.lauraoconnorart.com/uncomfortable-state.html.

Copy that, Kapton

by Sara Muthi

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A grimy web of melted plastic, layers of Kapton tape, and other unknown gooey-looking substances cover the interior of what seems to be a dilapidated starship, one had not been maintained for a long time. Taking up the large majority of the right half of the gallery is this starship installation, situated at an angle. The architectural structure is not centred in the space, but rather at an angle, making it slightly more claustrophobic to navigate. Its aluminium wrapped pillars make up the walls consisting of stretched and twisted webs of clear plastic, decorated in what can only be seen as creative attempts at collage and painting, loosely attached to the plastic. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that such a scene was reminiscent of every artist’s studio I’ve seen, including my own. With little apparent rhyme or reason to these seemingly creative acts they began to ring more as compulsions rather than meticulously crafted artworks.

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Centred within this lair is a battered cryopod containing an awoken yet confused, memory deficient astronaut, speaking in a stream-of-consciousness manner to the on-board computer that echoes in the space. Not even the astronaut’s outfit was safe from the grime and filth that plagued this space. The signals that imply the long length of time that the ship had been unkept is supported by his acknowledgement of the audience, but only as hallucinations; spectral symptoms of a prolonged lack of human contact (or so the press release tells us). Conjuring up memories of a life left back on Earth, the nameless astronaut attempts to make sense of his surroundings.

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In writing about performance I would usually not spend any amount of time in the description of the space surrounding the performance. With that said, the space that situates the performance is so thoroughly inseparable from the performance that it would have been non-sensical to not textually indulge in this rich scenario by Sam Keogh. Everything from the control panel the astronaut heavily interacts with to the see through plastic panelling of the walls in the spaceship that allows the audience to see the performance from all sides in a voyeuristic fashion are all aspects of the symbiotic relationship the space shared with the performing body.

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In my many visits to performances I have noticed a term coming up more and more, that of “activating”. In my understanding of the term it generally describes material objects in performance that remain meaningless or useless until the body intentionally interacts and therefore “activating” them. It is also a term used in relation to Kapton Cadaverine.  Often times if installations or sculptural objects need to be ‘activated’ by performance they remain dull and meaningless in the meantime, however Keogh strikes  a balance by which the installation can stand independently while retaining its richness and be equally as compelling alongside the performance.

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Kapton Cadaverine blurs the lines not only between installation, sculpture, collage, painting, found-object and performance but also of theatre. Our suspension of disbelief in this scenario is strongly rooted in the astronaut’s actions. Emerging from the cryopod, Keogh acts the part of the delirious spaceman awoken from hyper-sleep with words that are scripted, actions that are planned, and a stage set. This kind of performance walks a very fine line; a line few artists walk as the fine arts and performing arts are seen as being part of two separate creative fields.

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Keogh’s dramatized actions and words are what sustained audience interest, watching this confused astronaut speak and listen to the on-board computer was as strangely fascinating as a trip to the zoo. Watching an exotic animal do incredibly mundane things like eat and pace up and down is a phenomenon centred on the curiosity of other species. In the same way, watching a spaceman wake up and walk around talking to his computer is only interesting due to our fascination with space and the unknown. While zoo animals do not have the ability to tell us to leave them alone, Keogh’s character was not shy to tell us all to leave, over and over and over and over until the audience began to abort ship. Copy that, Kapton.

 

Sam Keogh’s exhibition Kapton Cadaverine opened on Friday the 26th of January at the Kerlin Gallery with a performance from 7-8pm. The show runs until March 10th. Images by Mischa Beglin.

 

Between the Troubles and Brexit

by EL Putnam

Since 2008, the Performance Monthlies have been a key activity for the Belfast-based performance art group Bbeyond. Each performer works individually, though they evolve “alongside each other, singular yet part of the whole. By opening up the possibility of accepting and responding to someone else’s actions, an ethics of encounter emerges.”[1] Notably, performing as a group in a public space has an explicitly political function in post-conflict Belfast. Karine Talec points out how in this “context of heavy surveillance and division, many artists in Northern Ireland feel compelled to question the priorities of public space.”[2] While the actions themselves may not appear explicitly political or critically engaging with the dynamics of Northern Ireland or Belfast, merely the act of presenting a performance gesture or action functions as an aesthetic rupture that defies the implied performance of a space. The implications of these actions are more than providing disruptions to the flow of everyday life, but as Talec describes: “these poetic embodied experiences can be both liberating and healing, their connective nature encouraging a reflection on ideas of community, participation, and dialogue.”[3] The Performance Monthly is fuelled by intuitive play where independent simultaneous actions blend into collective actions, sometimes intentionally and in other instances through co-presence.

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In February 2016, Bbeyond had planned to form a parade in honour of the 100th anniversary of the opening of Cabaret Voltaire and the beginnings of Dadaism. However, a Protestant-Loyalist or Unionist parade of the No 710 Ulster Defenders of the Realm (which Northern Ireland’s Parade Commission, the regulating bodies for parades, designated as “Sensitive”) was scheduled to take place that day along our same route. A last-minute decision was made by Bbeyond to not proceed as planned, due to the possibilities of our actions being misinterpreted by Loyalist march participants and bystanders as mockery — a risk we were not willing to take.  Bowing out of an act that could have been interpreted as political is not a gesture of self-censorship, but an intentional selection of framing the meaning of the work and allowing Bbeyond to continue to occupy the liminal space of disruption that it inhabits. This change in plan allowed Bbeyond to rupture the day, which according to Brian Patterson (one of the founders of Bbeyond), introduced confusion for some witnesses who came to our location to take part in the parade, but were unable to fit Bbeyond into a category of either loyalist or nationalist. Our display of bulky costumes and sounds drew attention, but the intentions were unclear based on the binary logic of Northern Irish parade culture, which is divided between loyalist and nationalist expressions of solidarity. Thus, the non-specific political nature of Bbeyond’s Performance Monthlies can also be considered a strategic response to the overt expressions of political sentiments that informed the bifurcated violence of The Troubles and continues to be manifest through the spectacle of Parade Culture in Northern Ireland.

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This is an excerpt from a paper given by EL Putnam at the PQ Symposium “Porous Borders” in the Czech Republic, 13 October 2017. The full title is “Between the Troubles and Brexit: The Minor Gestures of Bbeyond as Aesthetic Ruptures in Public Space.” Photos by Jordan Hutchings.

[1] Karine Talec, “Bbeyond and the Art of Participation,” in Performance Art in Ireland: A History, ed. Áine Phillips (London and Bristol: Live Art Development Agency and Intellect Books, 2015), 103.

[2] Talec, 103.

[3] Talec, 104.

The Public Diary

by Sara Muthi

In today’s ever increasing digital society the use of pen and paper is becoming less frequent. While this is unfortunate, it does allow us to be more appreciative of the few opportunities we have to sit down and temporarily let our hand take over our mind. Such is the experience of Milena Matejko’s The Public Diary as part of the First Fortnight Festival 2018.

The First Fortnight Festival is Ireland’s leading mental health arts festival, giving us an opportunity at the beginning of every year to reflect and be kind to ourselves, make positive decisions and start the year off on the right foot. The Public Diary gives us ample opportunity to release our inner thoughts or creative energy in a safe communal space, without fear of judgment as all visitors have a communal understanding, and perhaps a subconscious need for such a place of acceptance to exist.

Initially The Public Diary was an interactive installation developed by Matejko in which notebooks were installed in each public toilet as an opportunity for the public to express their thoughts, troubles and experiences through writing and sketches. Such conceptual projects which depend on public response as an outcome can often be hit or miss, however the need for such a project was quickly realised when the notebooks began running out of pages. The ingredient to the project’s success laid in its activation of catharsis; the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

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The First Fortnight Festival picked up this work and facilitated it on a greater scale at the site of their 2017 festival in the Smock Alley Theatre. Here, a collection of entries were built, consisting of intricate drawings to humorous doodles to serious confessions to encouraging words, all of which rang relatable to most who experienced the work. Such a library of public entries could no longer be held onto by Matejko and needed a widespread showcase. Picked up for a second year the First Fortnight Festival 2018 enabled an interactive installation of such entries on a large scale, grand prints highlighting the most bold, personal and impactful entries that wrap the space of the Culture Box while projected images of entries run on a loop. Entries range from “”i love my friend more than my girlfriend”, “occasionally i feel like the loneliest person in the world” and my personal favorite “i bought a pair of jeans for 29 euro just now because i was ashamed to come into the theatre with a tracksuit on”. Such a grand portrayal of peoples intimate thoughts and expression resonates the fact that your own intimate thoughts are not your own, but are shared between countless others around you. There lies in the impact of Matejko’s project.

When the private becomes public one of two things can happen, shame or empowerment. Shame only occurs at a level in which the private was made public without our consent or intention; a regrettable circumstance. No one wants their private diaries to be publicised. Empowerment on the other hand is much different. By articulating your thoughts and expressing your energies in a in a public book you are taking control of your thoughts, both good and bad, in a gesture that solidifies to you and everyone who reads or takes part that they too are not alone. Confidence and strength in your humanity is the goal, an achievement none of us can claim 100% of the time, but as projects like The Public Diary remind us to strive and promote.

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Through facilitating and now exhibiting this creative means of expression as a library of public diaries Matejko aims to build connection, compassion and a sense of relatability to those around you. With hopes of encouraging the public to share further and add to the building library of creative expression The Public Diaries’ work is not done, nor can it end until every mental health stigma perpetuated in our society is exposed as untrue. Matejko creates a safe, comfortable space in which the public can engage with the work on a deeper contemplative level, a project who’s success is a testament to the dire need for more safe opportunism to share can be facilitated and a testament to the important work the First Fortnight Festival is contributing to our society.

The Public Diary project was developed by Milena Matejko, curated by Sara Muthi. Part of the First Fortnight Festival 2018, exhibited at the Culture Box at 12 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, the show runs from 5th January to 20th of January 2018. Photography by Milena Matejko.