It’s ok we’re just resting

by Jack Beglin

I meet Rhiannon Armstrong on the Corner of Mary’s Lane and Bow Street. She is wearing navy blue overalls and is with her minder, Jacky. She carries two yellow caution signs with the logo of a sleeping stick figure and the caption ‘It’s ok we’re just resting’ printed on either side of the plaques. This is Public Selfcare System at the 2017 Dublin Live Art Festival.

As we turn the corner onto New Church Street and into Smithfield Square, Rhiannon explains that she has been suffering from chronic migraines for the last three years. She describes herself as ‘an expert at the durational performance of thriving in a world geared against our survival’ . She has developed a strategy in order to ensure a better quality of life. This strategy she shares with me on our one-to-one encounter.

First we will lay together in a public space, at which point Rhiannon will ask for permission to touch me on the shoulder. She will then whisper into my ear and then ask if it is ok to leave me to rest alone in the public space for fifteen minutes. We make our way to Smithfield Square opposite the Light House Cinema and stand between two large flower pots. Rhiannon leads a personal ritual.

‘On the count of three we will sit down together’ Rhiannon says as we look out at the derelict building in the distance.

‘One, two, three.’ We are now sitting together. I feel the cold of the ground creep up my spine.

‘I will now place this mat on the ground for you to lay on and you can rest your head on this’ Rhiannon explains, as she uncoils a pair of blue pants from her neck and places it at the top of the small purple yoga mat.

‘One, two, three.’ I am now looking up at the blue sky framed by a sliver arc shaped street lamp.

‘On the count of three we will turn to our left side. One, two, three.’ My vision is now horizontal as I see a pair of Adidas tracksuit bottoms creep their way towards me from the distance. I take shelter behind the darkness of my eyelids.

‘May I touch you on your shoulder?’ Rhiannon asks.

IMG_5367 copy

I agree. The man in the Adidas tracksuit bottoms is now intercepted by Jacky and gently directed away from me.

‘This is your time to rest. It is ok to rest, you deserve this time to rest,’ Rhiannon whispers as I am lulled into a daydream. Time passes, the sounds of children playing pass and people come and go as I seek refuge behind my eyes.

‘Jack, may I leave you now?’ Rhiannon asks.

I agree and as I feel her touch release from my shoulder a sense of vulnerability passes over my body. Time passes, the sound of the Luas Tram signals in the air as a flock of pigeons scuttle from one side of the square to the other. I mark time by the sound of passing footsteps.

IMG_5397 copy

Rhiannon gently touches me on the shoulder; ‘it’s time’ she says as I slowly rise to standing. Jacky is in conversation with a man in a flat cap. I approach the man. Tears well in his eyes as he rolls a cigarette with grubby fingers. Rhiannon asks me how my experience was. I say that it was nurturing to be resting with her, but then I felt a sudden venerability being alone. In a small way I could understand what it is like to be homeless. The man in the flat cap places the cigarette in his mouth. He shakes my hand. ‘I’ll say a prayer for ya’ he says. I say goodbye to Rhiannon, Jacky and the man in the flat cap as I make my way towards Bow Street.

Public Self-Care system is a site specific one to one performance that draws attention to the relationship between the body and public space. The ‘costume’ Rhiannon wears and the ‘set design’ of the yellow caution plaques are theatrical. They draw the attention of the spectator and frame the interaction between Rhiannon and the participant ‘as performance’. Framing this interaction in such a way creates an ‘extra -daily’ space where the spectator’s habitual to and fro is temporarily suspended. In Brechtian terms a verfremdungseffekt, or alienation effect, is created. The spectator double takes and as a result has the opportunity to consider the implications of what is happening in the space – the private act of resting in a public area.

I had the opportunity to empathise with Rhiannon. I understood though my body the implications of her illness and the strategy she employs to combat it. In a small way the experience illustrated to me the kind of vulnerability that homeless people may feel by exposing their private and intimate acts in public. I can’t for a minute say that I understand the full embodied and existential experience of homelessness, but Public Self Care System brought me one baby step closer to the experience of vulnerability in public space.

IMG_5404 copy

Rhinnon Armstrong performed Public Selfcare System on 18 August as part of the 2017 Dublin Live Art Festival, curated and organised by Niamh Murphy and Francis Fay. Images by Fiona Killeen (www.blueprintphotography.ie)

Advertisements

The Community Carries

by Sara Muthi

1.jpg

Time and space based art work carries a quality that separates it from all other work. It can only be experienced at one time, in one space and only ever by the amount of bodies the venue can take. The documentation of the work, as in the photographs that may surface after, including the texts published and conversations surrounding the event, are all just traces of something that has passed. It is not often that you can experience live art twice, but once in a while you are privileged to be faced again with the familiar atmosphere of community based art such as ALL CHOIR.

2.jpg

The intention of ALL CHOIR has always been to use the commonality of music as a starting point for social engagement and discussion. While ALL CHOIR’s performance at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios back in April was successful in its goal, part two takes it further. Abandoning the comfortable and familiar setting of the gallery space, ALL CHOIR takes itself to Liberty Park, located in north Dublin’s inner city as part of the Treeline Project, created by Oonagh Young and Mary Cremin. This facilitated the perfect collaboration between a work such as ALL CHOIR whose objective is to break down barriers between the everyday and the art world, and the object of the Treeline Project, which strives for social engagement after the community was divided due to reconstruction in the area. The aim to use art to activate the social engagement of a community was beautifully complimented by each others artistic and local intentions.

As stated in the first response to ALL CHOIR, a large portion of art falls within one of two categories, art that creates dialogue with other art, and art that is in conversation with life. ALL CHOIR is a work which embeds itself into life effortlessly, and its change of scenery from the gallery to the inner city has made this ring ever more true.

3.jpg
Lyrics from song “All”

Lifelike art often reimagines the media of art, but more often than not avoids specific categorization entirely, making it difficult to speak of the work as simply performance. Unlike conceptual art in which the work is carried by the concept, a broad term used to encompass much of contemporary art and performance, ALL CHOIR  is carried by the community. The community is the concept, it is the point of the work. The scheduled rehearsals were just as important for the work, and part of the work as the final event was.

The instinctual and raw nature of the vocals used by Buckeridge along with the unpolished, unprofessional voices of the singing audience concocted an aura of oneness and comfort for all involved. The simple nature of a choir in a gallery became a choir in a park, surrounded by pedestrians and locals increasingly blurred the lines between art and life. We all experience life in different degrees, in different context, at different ages, however any degree of life experience would enable you to understand and relate to the lyrics of Buckeridge. Encompassing all walks of life, the lyrics are inspired by life and simply translated to us by a keyboard, our voices and each other.

4.jpg
Lyrics for the song “Together”

While live art can never be presented in the same way twice, that was not the aim of the second Dublin based ALL CHOIR event. It was simply to continue its mission, continue its vision in creating a wider community of engagement, with each other as human beings but also as creatives, individuals with their own struggles and questions, coming together in vocal harmony around life inspired lyrics.

5.jpg

The ALL CHOIR, created by Mark Buckeridge, was presented as part of the Treeline Project, an arts initiative by Oonagh Young and Mary Cremin, on 5 August 2017. Images are extracts from lyrics by Mark Buckeridge.

 

The sacrificed calf feeds from the swollen udder

by Léann Herlihy

What was my purpose?
To sit; to swaddle; to remain silent.
The elephant in the room – a woman
cradling a pail of milk to her womb.
Which one will fall to the foot of the cross,
the fifty litres of milk or sixty kilos
of woman?

I fall to the ground – a stigma;
it falls to the ground – a crime;
we both fall to the ground – a tragedy.

Assistance arrives;
two midwives from the crowd.
Their knees bend,
my legs spread.
A growing discomfort;
a ripening malaise;
out comes the fruits of my labour.

The deed is done, the doers undone.[1]
I stare around for reassurance, which is
neither met nor denied, but rather, uncertified.

– An extract from the artists notebook following the performance, The sacrificed calf feeds from the swollen udder.

The sacrificed calf feeds from the swollen udder, photo. Marcus Cassidy

The sacrificed calf feeds from the swollen udder addresses the position of the female body as a focal point of repressed histories and political desires in Ireland. The performance stemmed from the group exhibition, SANDMAN, held in the Complex, Dublin (27 July to 1 August, 2017), in accordance with STREAM. The show’s undertone was influenced by Verse 32 from the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament:

“They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshipped it and sacrificed it […]”

I – a young Irish woman – sat, swaddling a glass pail of milk; an undeniable burden protruding from my stomach. My objective was to abstain from assistance; to carry this load in solitude, a task which became insurmountable.

The sacrificed calf feeds from the swollen udder, audience members; Jill Abbot and Ciara O' Brien, photo. Marcus Cassidy

An hour passed, when two female audience members came to my aid. Removing a refuse bag from my pocket, they held it between my legs, while I pulled the plug from the vessel’s nether side. Out chugged the contents, relieving me from my seated position; a weight lifted.

A glass pail with no capacity, I loosen the umbilical chord of what tethered me to the vessel. I now stand fully exposed – yet, free. Taking the bag of milk, I drag it in circles, building momentum as the contents slowly begins to leak out. Suddenly, I stop – am I the person left to carry this weight around?

I reach out to three men, to help lift this encumbrance over the mouth of the glass pail. With difficulty, they grasp the delicate plastic between their fingers, while I caress it’s underbelly; we share responsibility. I see the struggle in their arms, the discomfort on their faces – I withdraw my hand from the growth and thrust it forward with force, breaking the bulge’s seal. The contents drains into its former place; waiting for the cycle to commence again.

The sacrificed calf feeds from the swollen udder, photo. Marcus Cassidy.

[1] “The deed is done, the doers undone” alludes to the story of Macbeth; that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plotted and committed murders “the deed is done”, and subsequently became mentally tormented by their evil deeds “the doers undone”.

Photographs by Marcus Cassidy

We have no answers to your problems

by Sara Muthi

1. CVLTO DO FVTVRVHandout image
CVTO DO FVTVRV, Manifesto print out, 2017

Wilder Being Command was a performance event that stemmed from an ambitious exhibition titled As Above, So Below. Featuring modern masters and landmark contemporary art works, the exhibition explores “how the spiritual endures in our everyday lives”.

Rather than creating a detailed report on the relationship between art and spirituality over the last hundred years, it brought the audience a selection of perspectives into art and spirituality by significant figures in both modern and contemporary art. The success of this exhibition was due to its approach in allowing for wonder and astonishment on the part of the audience, and this carried over into its accompanying performance seamlessly.

2. Greath Anton Averill
Gareth Anton Averill, The Harvest Swarm, 2017

Golden flowing robes on bicycles, chimes echoing through the wind, emerging yellow-dressed figures performing rituals in wide open spaces and marching with a devil-masked parade were a select few of mystical moments that flooded the night. There was no hidden motive within the various performances, no agenda or recruitment that was being pushed, as is the case with many spiritually centred events. Instead, there was a communal energy as visitors lounged and communicated on picnic blankets which reinforced, according to the description of the event on IMMA’s website, “an organic connection to the earth, to the present and to one another”. Intentionally curated as a night of overlapping performances engaging the audience at different stages of astonishment and socialisation, the night took form in performances that happen around you, along with performances that  demanded to be followed, or gave instruction.  Visitors were even asked to stand lightly as to not make a dent in the historic grounds, also known as “the meadows, adjacent to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, drawing no. 12 – 005 provision 2, that is to say the grounds of the unexcavated heritage site of St. Maniums Monastery” as repeated during one of the evening’s performance by the group Barry on site of Camping on the undertow.

3. Barry
Barry, Camping on the undertow, 2017

There were few single performing bodies, apart from the of the compelling work of Isadora Epstein titled Presentation on Mesmerise (2017) and Christopher Mahon’s piece (performed by Oona Doherty) titled The Longest Arms in The History of Pugilism (2017). Overwhelmingly there was a myriad of concepts and rituals performed by groups that filled the space, creating a sense in which the absence of the single performing body was a near relief. The concept and ritual of the work Experiment in Falling by Emily Mast overcame the urge to analyse one body but appreciate a collective, ritual of people that emerged from the very audience watching. Not only that, but the communal energy that surrounds people when music wraps a group is no cheap trick, but a powerful force to gathers consciousness together.

4. Emily Mast
Emily Mast, Experiments in Falling, 2017

Wilder Being Command did not simply give a single view of spirituality in today’s ever increasing secular society, but offered a comprehensive sample of spirituality through the lens of contemporary practitioners, allowing a thirst for more. While each event acknowledged its immediate context and became borderline site-specific, every artist had an important autonomous point of view worth sharing. Although dealing with spiritual subject matter, no answers were given, either directly or indirectly. As with other, but not all spiritual encounters, the experience of the here and now is paramount over answers and that is what we were given.

 

5. Stephen Doitschinoff
Stephan Doitschnioff, CVLTO DO FVTVRV, 2017

The evening orchestrated a blend of light hearted enjoyable works, as well as thoroughly enchanting and thought provoking pieces, which accumulated to the build up of the final act of the night. The first point of the manifesto CVLTO DO FVTVRV states: “we have no answers to your problems”. This statement and the procession of the CVLTO DO FVTVRV is what finalised Wilder Beings Command. The manifesto of this group gives us insight into the motive of the near thirty-minute march that concluded the evening.  Leading the audience all around the historical grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art the third statement of the manifesto reads “We believe in the immediate data of consciousness and we march for the improvement of its content”. The simple marching alongside other invested witnesses on historic grounds with a near hundred drumming beats echoing the space is an experience you could not help but be wholly absorbed in. While no answers were found in this spiritually charged journey of overlapping moments within this event, we are reminded that the spiritual takes many forms, many perspectives and “endures in our everyday lives”.

6. Stephen Doitschinoff
Stephan Doitschnioff, CVLTO DO FVTVRV, 2017

Wilder Beings Command, featuring Gareth Anton Averill, Stephan Doitschnioff, Stephen Dunne, Mark Titchner, Daniel O’Sullivam, Isadora Epstein, Christopher Mahon, Emily Mast and Barry (Edward Clydsdale Thomas, Sjoerd Westbroek and Frans-Willem Koresten)  curated by Rachel Gilbourne and Janice Hough. took place on July 29th, 2017, at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Images by Misha Beglin.

The Stillness of Silence

by EL Putnam

Stillness is not devoid of motion, since complete stillness is impossible, like silence after John Cage. Even if an object does not appear to be moving, it exists on a massive celestial body—the Earth—that is perpetually in motion. The stillness of the human body is a major illusion, as it vibrates with life from minute gestures, the pulsating flow of blood, the tingling energy of the nervous system, along with the many other corporeal processes that ceaselessly function. It is the illusion of stillness that make it so provocative, as it is not a void, but requires a deep engagement to fully value what is already present. Thus, Inma Pavon’s performance that complimented Danny McCarthy’s Beyond Silence: A Bell Rings in an Empty Sky appropriately draws from the minimal repertoire of stillness.

StillnessSilence-1.jpg

Dressed in a white Kimono, with her face covered by a sheer cloth, Pavon minutely paces around McCarthy’s installation of un-rung bells. Her steps are minor, her back erect, and her hands folded onto each other through the hours that the work takes. The white of her costume contrast the rich blue walls, which become the empty sky of McCarthy’s title. Like a moving cloud drifting across the heavens, Pavon resists the temptation of movement, maintaining a composed posture that takes extreme bodily and mental dedication. The minimalism of her actions draw attention to the most subtle gestures, charging them with an energy that is not absent of movement, but loaded with the potential for movement. Pavon’s appearance echoes the marble busts that line the walls, emphasizing how McCarthy’s installation of bells do not fill a white void, but create an intervention in a space commonly not utilized for the exhibition of art: the gallery floor.

StillnessSilence-2.jpg

Pavon’s steps delicately around the bells, maintaining a persistent walking meditation that adds an illusion of preciousness to McCarthy’s objects. The bells are kitschy tchotchkes, the collectable objects that function as souvenirs. These are not the sort of objects that enter museum collections, though they are of the sort that are made precious through personal accumulation. McCarthy’s act of placing them within a fine arts gallery shifts their significance, which is further transformed by Pavon’s graceful motions into a spiritual reverence. Her actions imbue an aura around these humble objects that are detached from their histories of personal affection.

 

StillnessSilence-3.jpg

Witnessing this performance requires an empathetic stillness on behalf of the viewer, for any sudden motion disrupts the energy that Pavon cultivates. The subtleties of Pavon’s performance contrast the growing sonic chaos seeping into the room that day. First it is the sounds of the café, the other galleries, and even the street that infiltrate the space, accompanied by the hum of the building itself. Then it is the sounds produced by David Stalling, Anthony Kelly, Katie O’Looney, and Danny McCarthy in an adjacent gallery that contribute to the aural ambiance of the experience. As such, a collaboration forms across spaces through the subtleties that stillness and silence afford. Even though McCarthy’s interventions already draw attention to the liminal spaces of the Crawford galleries, Pavon’s actions, and later the sounds of McCarthy and others, enunciate these qualities through their performances. In particular, Pavon’s impossible stillness emphasizes the fullness of silence.

 

Inma Pavon performed at the publication launch of Danny McCarthy’s Beyond Silence: A Bell Rings in an Empty Sky (available from Farpoint Recordings), along with a sound performance by McCarthy, Katie O’Looney, David Stalling, and Anthony Kelly at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork on 8 July 2016. McCarthy’s exhibition of the same title runs from 26 May to 12 August, 2017. Photographs by EL Putnam.