Creative Resistance and Existential Dread

By EL Putnam

Performance art has a way of expressing emotions that are difficult to pin down. Sometimes the only way to make sense of nonsense is to engage with the beyond sense — the ephemeral quality of being that escapes the concrete. 20 January 2017 marked the inauguration of a certain man as a world leader, whose path to power was paved with sentiments of bigotry fueled by fear while making a mockery of the democratic process through the collapse of politics with the tactics of reality television. Attending Queerstock at the Complex that evening, this event lingered in my mind, filling me with sentiments of existential dread for what is yet to come.

The room pulsated with a jovial atmosphere, colourful lights filling the space to the beat of music played by a giant pink triangle (Martin McCann). In a far corner of the room, a person (Ryan Backer) sat still under a rough, brown blanket, surrounded by a ring of empty beer bottles with their labels removed. Occasionally, the figure moved a bottle so it stood upright, becoming a corporeal clock, though it is unclear what time is being registered. As I shifted into the room’s ambiance, I took comfort in the colours and costumes of the mingling attendees. In the middle of the room there was a pile of white rubbish bags with black straws extruding from them. Presenting biomorphic forms, these bags took the appearance of a minimalist installation. The music changed and a man in a pink wig (Francis Fay), wearing only socks and underpants, emerged from one of the bags. He awkwardly shifted his body as he attempted to dance still encased in the plastic lining. He exuded celebration through his actions, moving his arms and shaking his feet to the beat of the music. Blowing up balloons and blowing out silly string, the man continued to dance against the plastic barriers, breaking free from the lining as he filled the room with his exuberance. It is a strange sight that defies mundane codes of conduct, but it is through these gestures that hope returns. No matter what happens to the course of history, artists have always found means of navigating a way of being in the world that resists when necessary, adapts when needed, and adopts new methods to challenge whatever may stand in the way.


The night continued with a monologue by Ciaran O’Keefe. Listening to his melodic voice, I am reminded of the futility of human existence along with the joys of life’s pleasures, whether it’s an electric kiss, the subtleties of Marilyn Monroe’s cinematic performance, or the recounting of a Shakespearean monologue (Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…). Referring to his sexual orientation during the performance, I considered how there was a time in Ireland when being gay were not so openly accepted, and despite these prejudices, people have found ways to thrive.

Throughout the night, I thought about how people have the potential to overcome obstacles, including resurrected old ones. The various expressions of sexuality and gender fluidity, both explicit and inferred, presented at Queerstock, emerged from a creative energy, encompassing an emotional range of human experience  that cannot be suppressed. Here is where the potential for resistance flourishes.








Images (top to bottom): Amy Guilfoyle; Ciana Spelman and Anne Ebeling; Day McGee; Dylan Kerr; Ollie Bell; Paul Francis Quinn; Vickie Curtis. Photographs by Aoife Giles.

Queerstock was presented at the Complex on 20 January 20, 2016, curated by Niamh Murphy. . LIVESTOCK is an bi-monthly performance art platform for both emerging and established performance artists, facilitated by Francis Fay and Eleanor Lawler.


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