Young, single and ready to navigate through complex issues regarding temporality and time

by Sara Muthi

PLATFORM’s mission is, well, just that. To create a platform for young, early career artists. Through an exhibition  of diverse practices, a series of performances also accompany this showcase of Ireland’s best and brightest up and comers. The multidisciplinary practices that encompass PLATFORM range from painting, sculpture, video, audio, drawing and, of course, performance. The performances are of particular interest. While one can never know what to expect from a performance, an enjoyable musical experience that bridges community, pop culture and complex relationships between temporality and presentness would be low on my list of expectations.

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Sadbh O’Brien, Lacuna, 2018

A theme that seems to be coming up more and more within performance events is an overlap of performance art and the performing arts. While two very separate fields, the showcasing of the two forms is entirely appropriate in the dynamic lack of boundaries of creative practice PLATFORM  champions. Cian Coady & Mia DiChairo perform Disrupting the Flow, a dance work made in a site-specific manner. Performed within meticulously marked floor lines, the presence of contemporary dance in a contemporary art gallery comments on the decreasing boundaries of creative practice in all fields. Beginning with this work, PLATFORM sets itself up as a melting pot that seamlessly curated diverse practices in a condensed, concentrated, rich yet appropriate overview of the preoccupations of a new generation of artists.

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Cian Coady & Mia DiChairo, Disrupting the Flow, 2018

Working across fields of painting, drawing and performance, Mark Buckeridge’s performances are heavily influences by his background in music. What I will take the liberty of calling the “All I Want to do is Cry” song performed live by Buckeridge, (which repeated for days in the minds of listeners), is part of his Concert Series. This series is of interest due to its ‘pop concert’ nature that is performed within contemporary art galleries as opposed to stages of any kind. A work such as this bridges the gap between pop culture and sometimes seemingly in-accessible art works that people not knee-deep in art theory think they may not understand. By veiling complex ideas of temporality, affect and communal understanding in an widely understood situation of the pop concert, Buckeridge tears down boundaries through vulnerable and relatable lyrics. This is also achieved through the voice in the work of Robbie Blake and the Tonnta vocal ensemble.

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Mark Buckeridge, Concert Series at Draíocht, 2018

Wearing earplugs and eye masks, each of three Tonnta vocalists takes a space away from one another. Standing still, like a ringing sculpture each performer is in a state of semi-isolation as they sing a personally chosen song. This personal aspect incorporated into the performance allows Blake to explore the auto-biographical as material for performance. As each performer quietly belts out their vocal song, notes from each voice get caught in crossfire in a most joyous harmony that strikes at least once every minute. The vibrations of each voice do not bounce off microphones or concert hall walls, but off other artworks that surround the performers. This intangible relationship that the performance shared with the static art objects further nips away at the ever expanding field of art that PLATFORM artists are encouraging. These intense, personal moments of song from each performer empower each of them, as does the assumptive autobiographical lyric of Buckeridge “all I want to do is cry, want to do is cry, all I want to do is cry, want to do is cry” (x 10).

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Robbie Blake and the Tonnta vocal ensemble, a signalling, 2018

There is something to be said about using one’s own life as material for work. This cannot ring more true than for the work of Emma Brennan. Brennan had continually been using her grandmother’s bread recipe in her performances, creating bread onsite for the public. However, this has developed into a fascination with the material of dough, which is now the subject of her video triptych in this exhibition. Exhaustingly moving a mound of dough from one end of the screen to the other, Brennan labours with dough equivalent to her own body weight across this space. Exploring viewer-performer relationships along with investigations into the value of the intangible self, her video work makes important comments on the representations of performance in light of everyday technologies.

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Emma Brennan, Heed, to the mound, 2018

PLATFORM creates ample opportunities for emerging artists to exhibit, grow and consider their practice in light of their peers. Spaces for fresh creative freedom, in which things may be tried and tested in a critical context such as this are few and far between. This makes PLATFORM’s success in bridging gaps between contemporary life, culture and experimental arts practice all the more important in today’s contemporary art climate.

PLATFORM’18 opened on the 21st of February in the Draíocht, Blanchardstown with performances by Robbie Blake, Mark Buckeridge, Cian Coady & Mia DiChairo. Exhibiting artists include Ella Bertilsson & Ulla Juske, Emma Brennan, Mark Buckeridge, Gum Collective (Aaron Smyth, Alex de Roeck, Aimee Gallagher, Ciara O’Brien, Ciaran Gallen, Sadbh O’Brien, Sofya Mikhaylova, Stephen Lau); Lisa Freeman, Louis Haugh, Landing Collective (Aliina Lindroos & Moran Been-noon); Eve O’Callaghan. Curated by Sharon Murphy, the exhibition runs until 31st March. Photography by Misha Beglin.

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Uncomfortable State

by EL Putnam

Through her post-digital performances, Laura O’Connor plays with the technological apparatus of digital media, which commonly involves streaming performances over the web while performing them live simultaneously in a gallery space. O’Connor begins the work Uncomfortable State standing in front of a green felt cut-out of Ireland. Across from her there is a laptop that is streaming her performance over YouTube. The live feed of the performance is projected onto a wall facing her, making it evident that she is using green screen to transform the map of Ireland into a video of Irish Sea, the body of water that women travel to access abortion in nearby England (O’Connor 2017). The audience is presented with two simultaneous versions of the performance — one in the shared physical space of the artist, and the other mediated by digital video. She wears a skin coloured body suit and is applying green paint to her body, which renders her body invisible in the waves of the Irish Sea in the digital rendition of the work. Over the course of an hour, she covers her body, resulting in a crude overlay of her bodily form with the video of crashing waves in the streaming version; an uncanny rendering where is both veiling and revealing. There is a lag between the live presentation of actions and the video feed, compounded by the delayed audio track that feeds back into the gallery, with the performance co-existing in digital and physical space.

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O’Connor places her body under erasure – sous rature, which Jacques Derrida describes as something inadequate yet necessary (Derrida 1997), encompassing the state of maternal bodies in Ireland where strict legislation that rendering them vessels for the propagation of future citizens. At the same time, she plays with the trope of “Mother Ireland,” which as Geraldine Meaney (2010) points out, posits the nation of Ireland as a passive female body. There is an ambivalence throughout the performance, though not just through its content that draws Irish conservatism concerning gender and sexuality to the fore. Ambivalence is introduced through the juxtaposition of the live to the digital within the context of the gallery in a manner that emphasises the mediation of the technical apparatus. While the performance could be viewed online and was streamed to several television monitors placed throughout the art space, only within the context of the gallery where O’Connor is present both physically and digitally, is technological mediation most pronounced as the imperfections of digital rendering conceals while revealing O’Connor’s body, drawing correlations with the bio-political control of women’s bodies in Ireland.

O’Connor’s use of green screen evokes Hito Steyerl’s play with the technique in her 2013 video How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, within which Steyerl explores the different formal means of making images visible and invisible through the camera, such as resolution and various transitions, drawing attention to the invisible political and economic structural supports that mediate the production and sharing of images. In “Lesson III: How to Become Invisible by Becoming a Picture,” Steyerl uses green paint to blend into the test patterns flickering on the screen, eventually fading herself into the image itself. In her analysis of the video, Katja Kwastek describes how Steyerl creates a “seamless transition from human life to digital imagery” that “addresses computer vision from the perspective of the world becoming a picture and this picture being subject to analysis” (Kwastek 2015, 80–81). Like Steyerl, O’Connor also exposes the technological apparatus of digital image production through her performance. While Steyerl creates a broader commentary on the mediation and control of the world as imagery through analysis, O’Connor draws from the legacy of bio-political control in Ireland that renders the female body as a passive maternal vessel for the perpetuation of Irish citizenship through political legislation. Here digital media is not just used to critique itself as a mode of image making, but is used as a means to expose the ideological framing of the maternal in the context of Ireland.

Laura O’Connor performed Uncomfortable State as part of Livestock: Interface at the Glitch Festival (curated by Mart) at RUA RED in Tallaght on 13 May 2017 and at the What if? Performance Festival at Town Hall Cavan on 20 May 2017.

Works Cited

Derrida, Jacques. 1988. “Signature Event Context.” In Limited Inc, 1–23. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Kwastek, Katja. 2015. “How to Be Theorized: A Tediously Academic Essay on the New Aesthetic.” In Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design, edited by David Berry and Michael Dieter, 72–85. Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Meaney, Gerardine. 2010. Gender, Ireland and Cultural Change: Race, Sex and Nation. London: Routledge.

O’Connor, Laura. 2017. “Uncomfortable State.” Laura O’Connor. 2017. http://www.lauraoconnorart.com/uncomfortable-state.html.