by EL Putnam
What drives a person to create? Where does the impetus to take the experiences, the emotions, the sensations that run through our beings and twist them into something to share with others? Words, gestures, and tones emerge from our bodies in attempts to share sentiments that exceed linguistic structures.
These are some of the questions that drifted through my mind when I attended the “Celebration of Creativity,” curated by Roisin Jenkinson in early February. Tucked into the heart of Howth, various poets, writers, artists, and singers came together to share their creative expressions live with others. The night began with a collection of songs, as Michaela Jenksinson’s rich voice filled the hall. Her body and sounds projected a joy that transmitted through the air, with audience members tapping their feet and humming along. This was followed by Robert Fullerton reading a short story. Even before I could differentiate the words of his text, the pronounced rhythm of his voice carried an intensity that enraptured my attention. As the verbiage began to solidify into narrative, I let myself be carried along with the quirky tale, smiling in sync with the laughter that grew in the room. The night continued with Rauairi Conneely, a self-declared “poet by accident.” As he let his verses break the silence, he drew attention to mundane idiosyncrasies, shifting perspective just enough to bring beauty even to the humble sneeze.
Even at this early point of the night, I am struck by the varieties of expression, as people slip from different corners of the imagination to craft an ephemeral expression of human existence. Next up was the performance of a theatrical scene by members of the Ballymun Writers’ Group (Nancy Matchton Owens, Maria Francis, and Hazel Masterson) that offered a playful spin on tropes of Irish hospitality and family dynamics. Beneath this humorous presentation is the pull of human tensions, the inevitable clash of emotions that accompanies conflicting desires. Their rendition was followed by Christina Molloy reading some of her poetry, who articulated another undercurrent of the evening — creativity behaves as a form of spiritual practice.
“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” — Piet Mondrian
Even though I do not share the Christian faith expressed throughout the evening, I identify with the use of creativity as a means of connecting to something beyond myself, opening a common ground between us. In his poetry and dance, Brian Miller further emphasised how performance can be a form of prayer, where dance becomes worship.
The atmosphere of the room shifted as the lights dim and Milena Matejko shared her poetry, giving form to questions of art’s purpose through her passion fueled expression. Then, there was a bold transition as Sarah Muthi presented a work of performance art. Standing in front of the room, she let her hair swallow her visage as she twisted and molded her body within her clothing. Her limbs protruded in sculptural angles and the cloth stretched, engulfing her body into its folds. She hid in plain sight, simultaneously exposing and covering herself at a tempered pace. I glance around the room — wondering if this was some people’s first exposure to performance art. The bringing together of poetry and performance art is a particular interest of Roisin Jenkinson’s. Muthi’s body encompassed the distillation of emotion into gesture, what poetry does to language, forcing the audience to slow down, opening a space to think without direction that breaks from the flow of words that had dominated the evening thus far. The juxtaposition of Muthi’s actions with the other performers emphasizes how whatever the means of expression, people desire to share ineffable emotions, giving form to these sentiments, whether through language, melodic sound, or the body itself.
Shay Phelan returned us back to narrative with his songs, where he shared stories intermingled with his hopes and faith. The evening ended with Seán O’Donoghue, someone who was not on the original line up, sharing a poem that recounted a traumatic experience of almost drowning while working as a deep-sea diver on an oil rig. I was humbled into silence as he transformed a horrific event into a beautiful recount, where the ripples in the ocean are traces of human labor — the unknown men and women working in dangerous conditions to fuel our lives. The image of subtle waves flowing through the water reinforced another common theme found amongst the works — as individual humans, we are connected to worlds, milieus and courses of experience greater than us all.
Throughout the night, an honest creativity drifted from the performers, emphasizing the importance of people coming together to share their imaginative escapades with each other. Despite the differences, each performer presented a story of the self, sometimes in the form of a narrative, sometimes as an aesthetic gush of emotion.
A “Celebration of Creativity” is organized by Michael Connaughton. The next event is scheduled for 2 June 2017 and is looking for support and artistic contributions. Anything imaginative is welcome!