I know now that Performance Art can be a many shaded shadow.
It can be so strong and in your face or just a puff of dust floating in the sunshine.
I believe it’s the intentional action of the artist that is only the start of the art.
The audience has to make it for themselves with what’s given.
If it’s good it will have an effect on those present and on the artists themselves, which may be multifaceted.
Maybe not the fully intended image and beauty or horror they set out to achieve but something else – referring here to the shadow again – not the real flesh and bones but a moving acting image left by light on the wall or floor or ground.
One can make this art alone but then only display on images kept. Otherwise just a story. Yet the story can be stand alone art too.
When Performance art gets a hold of you in the MOMENT. You enter into or are drawn into that arena/space for that time.
If like Christ “If there are two or more of you gathered here in my name, I am amongst you”
A bit blasphemous of me to quote this as a reason to make action. But do you get my drift?
Using the body as an art tool is not very new, Yves Klein dragged his females nude across the canvas in blue paint, Some female performance artists counteract that by using their body strongly as a mark maker. Using hair and floor polish, body fluids, tampons, household debris and so on.
In the past my job was to encourage the use of movement to create dance like actions with young children. Not the ability to dance as such but more to feel and experiment with the body, to choreograph ones own self for oneself not to an audience but more to gain a better self awareness.
“I am creeping, me the caterpillar. I am soaring, me the bird, me the bird, will swoop down and eat me, the caterpillar. Me the caterpillar will curl up into a tiny space so me the bird cant eat me.”
In PE college I enjoyed dance and although not a dancer I loved the freedom of creating and putting movements into individual sequences, at times interweaving ones own work with an other or group, a spontaneous dance off which was very stimulating, fun and good for learning how to pass that on to others.
In art college, we the mature access students did get good access to many life drawing classes.
Just standing for hours with bits of charcoal trying to use my full arm and own body to pull out the form of the other body in front of me.
Later trying to use charcoal and my body to draw literally using the body many ways.
In the last Master class I attended I met Kevin Carmody. We had met a time before. There was a sort of acknowledged empathy and an interest in finding out more about Performance Art.
I watched him perform a beautiful solo work involving moving, drawing, speaking.
It felt and looked like work I had tried alone but never produced, so with some cheek and optimism I suggested we try a duo drawing piece.
Living at two ends of this country we corresponded online as to how this work may or may not develop.
We had one opportunity to show it due to an extension of the use of this space used for the Master class.
I brought the materials with me on the bus, we both wore black, the white paper covered about 9 square feet, I brought white chalk and black charcoal and conte sticks and marker pens.
We had no rehearsal, just a quick verbal discussion, I then asked Aoife, a final year NCAD student, to video it using my camera.
My own trademark is working to camera as I am always fascinated to see the other me that I see from the other side of the lens.
The actions lasted about 9 minutes, we then got feed back from our peers. I felt we had achieved what we set out to do.
There was criticism about the movements which should be followed through more as in hands and feet, but dancing it was not, so the actual movements were only what the body needed to produce the marks, the plan was that there was no plan, we moved spontaneously around the paper, over around and through each other. The mark making that happened on the way made intentionally by hands, feet, and body at times and others by just body contact brushing, rubbing past contacting, marking erasing over drawings.
The results were the results of two bodies responding to the materials and each other on the white square.
In the pub after Kevin was laughing at all the white marks on the back of my t shirt as I ordered him a pint…
On reviewing the film I decided to write it as a running commentary this is the result.
Standing waiting, Kevin comes onto the paper, we will move on a signal given to camera.
Warm up, twist neck, neck shoulders, holding black marker in right hand.
Bending down, draw around right foot, stretch forward big arcing circles.
On knees, drawing lines at tangents, getting closer, we cross over into each others space now.
Our hands are working together, side to side, sweeping, I move and draw around his instep, up his leg, he circles marks on my back, we spin and circle low, he working on my back me on his knee, both bodies back into and crunch up against, I hammer and pound the charcoal and sweep it about, my back has a map of white,
Move to feet crouching, He is drawing along my back, I feel it hit my spine bump by bump, move forward, both bodies push, collide, push balance, fight, he is resisting space and my entry, I spin away, roll over, my arm is trapped under me, I lie still foetal like.
I rise, with white chalk and define an area by his still knee, I use my feet with chalk in my toes. I hold some white elastic, he pulls it and me, we slow down both lie back to camera but symmetrical in the mirror, In that moment it seemed clumsy but in film more aesthetic, one never knows.
One sees the many marks all over the paper, I am using my head, elbows pushing forward into supine position, both hands swimming contemplative marks.
There are no rules but at night before this event I sort of visualised one as a fly looking from above, so a continual use of tempo and space were in my plan that’s not a plan, so it would not become a sort of human clothes dryer action?
Although that could be interesting too?
At this point I see he has put his hand over mine and is helping me make the marks? Then my foot, I become his charcoal, or maybe my slowing down made him aware and came to my aid/side?
The camera comes close up, I draw on his back, he is still and watches, We both roll away, separate, he becomes animated, angry? Fast strong slashing movements rent the paper, I mirror this and both are scrubbing, pushing paper.
It bursts through, I replace the rip with a one hand sweep, why? A mothering instinct not to disrupt the paper itself…It all stops, no signal just two people gently expelling air.
Kneeling in opposition like two buddas.
We stretch bend, relax, Sit back on our heels and join hand in prayer mode and give each other a very slight oriental bow.
I laugh quietly.
Work made by Hilary Williams and Kevin Carmody