by EL Putnam
Actions flow in and out of the fractured white cube. Audience murmurs create a buzz that permeates the air. There is liveness to the space; an amorphous energy that hums at its limits. It is the first night that Livestock has occupied the Complex in its new site over the Keeling’s Fruit Distributor. When I exit the shaky industrial elevator, I come upon a pulsating scene.
A woman is giving a lecture to a seated audience. Her clothing is a merger of two outfits, split down the middle. She glides in and out the audience, moving them in rhythm with her observations in her act of poetic anthropology. At the corner of my eye, I catch two bodies melding though the space. Caught in a perpetual embrace, a man and woman, evoke an image of malleable decay. These actions are mirrored by my one-year-old daughter, who clings hesitantly to my legs.
There is a whiff of metamorphosis in the air, where the ordinary is defamiliarized in a swipe of Brechtian Verfremsdungseffekt. A body in white, with no head nor tail, is passed between four figures in black; a flexible sculpture. Niamh Murphy stands erect, singing along to a hip hop beat that only she can hear. The pubic region of her pants have been cut out in a nod to VALIE EXPORT’s Action Pants: Genital Panic. Enunciating the misogynistic statements of UFC fighter Conor McGregor and Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, Murphy adapts EXPORT’s legendary piece to the present cultural context in a performance that is both comical and jarring. When the applause subsides, a young woman, Roisin Jenkinson, sits comfortably in an arm chair. She seems to have appeared from nowhere, holding a journal, reading poetry at a decibel level just below the murmurs of the room. People chatter around her unaware, though my daughter tunes in attentively, transforming the moment into a private reading in a boisterous crowd. Eleanor Lawlor and Katherine Nolan move to the centre of the room. Their eyes open and close, pulling in and out of an uncomfortable embrace; clinging for life while drowning in thin air. Such is the flow of the evening.
The performances continue through the night: a chorus of bees; a virtual reality experience; a solo dance with a projected image of the self. Beginnings and endings blur into what becomes an ocean of gestural activity. It is impossible to capture it all, but affords glimpses into artistic encounters. There is little linking the works conceptually or in regards to technique and style. Rachel Rankin’s delicate yet methodical handling of egg yolks is juxtaposed to Paul King’s frantic, deconstruction of the sculptural process. Rather, the axis is the common desire to express through the body and action. Corporality becomes manifest as the activity rolls through the evening, contributing to an ongoing energy. Instead of considering these as discrete performances, the night as a whole becomes an aesthetic event with audience joviality and considerate contemplation uniting the amorphous sequence. Awash in celebratory energy, Livestock feels right at home in this first-storey walk up.
Livestock: Performance Art Platform presented its debut at the Complex on Friday 4 March. Participating artists included: Suzi Coombs, Sara French, Amy Guilfoyle, Elaine Hoey, Roisin Jenkinson, Richard Knightly, Paul King, Eleanor Lawlor, Craig Lawlor, Andi McGarry, Sara Munti, Niamh Murphy, Celina Muldoon, Katherine Nolan, Grainne O’Carroll, Tobi Ometeso, and Rachael Rankin.