by Roisin Jenkinson
About half a year ago, I embarked on a journey that has been ever evolving. Matthew Huber, facilitator of Creative Collective Dublin, initiated an idea that would invite people to take time out of their busy schedules to rest and reflect upon whatever may be bothering them in life, in the hope that they would become refreshed and feel peace. In collaboration with numerous artists, this idea became Lenten Labyrinth: A Journey of Solace, which exhibited at Block B, Smithfield from March 7th to April 14th this year. After months of brainstorming meetings and de-seaming coffee bags (which we used for building the walls of the Labyrinth), we managed to open on-time with various artworks on the walls of the Labyrinth to loosely guide the viewer towards feeling restful and refreshed. The artists included Alessia Meloni with embroidery on fabric, Jacinta O’Reilly with a large-scale painting, Mattew Huber with carpentry, Martin McCormack with small scale paintings using peat, Ashwin Chacko with graphic design poetry, Peter O’Brien with audio, and myself and Milena Matejko collaborated on a poetry book with illustrations.
While the Labyrinth had the intention of bringing people on a journey as they walked through it, it also became part of the journey itself, constantly evolving throughout the month as we added little things here and there and viewers left their mark on post-its that they could stick on Matthew’s tree in the Labyrinth’s centre. During the second last week of the exhibit, some children discovered the Labyrinth, turning it into a playing ground for a few hours – something the Labyrinth did not forsee, yet it was beautiful to witness (even if a little stressful for myself). Their playful screams echoed around the space, leaving marks of their own.
Earlier in the month, as I was invigilating there one day, an idea came to me of curating a performance event to coincide with the Labyrinth and its concept of rest and reflection. I knew it would be a lot of work, especially on such short notice, however, I decided to just go ahead and see what happens. And so another journey began. In collaboration with seven performance artists, we created a fun, flowing and somewhat experimental experience for each other and our audience. I entitled the event Letting Go / Taking Up, a concept we are familiar with during the time of Lent, yet it is also a concept for keeping balance throughout this journey of life.
Zdzislaw G-Deck Cwynar and Valerian Aszkielovicz began the experience with beats on the box drum and darbuka, respectively, to which Cian Downes quietly began by transitioning marbles from a bucket in a corner to a bucket in the farther corner of the space; an act of moving more information than one can hold. As Cian slowly made his way to the opposite corner with hands full of an array of marbles, many inevitably fell to the metallic floor, the sound contributing to the percussion beats as G-Deck and Valerian gradually drew their rhythms to silence and allowed for the marbles hitting the floor to be the only sound. While Cian’s performance began frantically, it became meditative as he crawled over the floor to collect the fallen marbles one by one. Each time he dropped a marble into his hand it would make a small ‘click’ sound and as the marbles began piling up, some would fall out of his hand again. This would seem to be frustrating, yet he kept composure as he would just pick it up again and you cannot but be transfixed in a peaceful state. There was a slope in the space, and at one point in his performance, a marble rolled down that slope. It was an epic moment of expectation, as I wondered whether he would go for it. He became still as his eye followed it until it stopped rolling somewhere beneath the Labyrinth itself, to which he then continued collecting the marbles in his vicinity.
Rebecca Kealy then turned the viewers gaze as she began to tell a story of turmoil of the mind through spoken word poetry, introducing another dimension to the experience and connecting the performances, as Amy Guilfoyle prepared to perform in the space behind Rebecca. Standing in the centre of a clockwork of water-filled bowls, with dust proof face masks strapped over her head, arms and legs, Amy began methodically removing these masks, which represent negative thoughts, and placing each one in a bowl of water to dissolve. When she had removed and dissolved them all she lay down in the centre of the circle, tapping the floor like a heartbeat as she let go of her concerns and took up rest. This piece was the centre piece of the event and its concept.
Rebecca Kealy then performed a second poem in front of my iridescent film hanging from the exit of the labyrinth, transitioning from Amy’s to Jack Beglin’s performance, during which we all held hands to create a human chain of communion as Jack led us through the Labyrinth, while verbalising a Shambhala chant, developed from a contemporary version of Tibetan Buddism, to behind the Labyrinth where was a display of colourful roses dispersed across the floor. Jack then recited poetry of his Grandmother, referring to linage, while making measured movements of contemplative meditation and ‘planting’ the flowers strewn across the floor into a flat pan of water. The whole event had built up to that moment of experiencing a reflective peace and the desire to hold onto that.
He then gave a flower to each of the audience, inviting them to interact with the installation by planting a flower themselves, but before they had time, Rebecca spoke a final poem, taking people out of their comfort zone and opening up Possibility, and G-deck and Valerian performed on percussion again to bring it full circle. After the poem ended, everyone clapped and, feeling peace amongst so much colour and light, it was beautiful to witness people planting flowers.
Éva Anna Szántó-Nádudvari closed the show dancing with flags to the song Tower by Anne Harring. It was a beautiful way to end the show and she danced expressively, full of the Holy Spirit’s peace. While Letting Go / Taking Up was stressful to organise under a limited time period, it proved to be fun, experimental, reflective and, above all, a restful and purifying experience. My only hope is that those who witnessed these remarkable performances were affected positively and went home that evening feeling refreshed and feeling peace.
All Photographs by Áine O’Hara. You can follow Roisin on Facebook @RoisinArt