Performance Art: Passing Through, Live Life, Time And Tides And Scars

Irish Performance Art Beach

This blog/diary/written performance art or documentation of an odd practice has been sadly, badly neglected over the past few months so here is a Three for One account of what this artist has been up to or attempting this year.

‘Passing Through’ is the title of a work instigated a year ago to cover the process of work about journeys; a look at my own life as a grandmother with children and grandkids all away  – all of us passing through each other’s lives.
This became a bigger picture with a walk and a video shown at my solo show last year at the Signal Art Centre, Bray, Ireland where many people on a cliff walk shared and gave insight on their loved ones away, whatever the reason – not just a sad anti – recession statement – but rather a realistic look at how it is for an island people or people who come to live here from another place.

Over the following months I followed up work based on my white form called ‘Passing Through’. This performance piece involves moving through various spaces wrapped up in volumes of white ground covering that’s usually used for gardening. This was first made in the Gambia, West Africa, where I moved along a beach at dawn – and made a video, not seen by anyone yet – and was then invited to perform it in Derry, Northern Ireland by artist James King.

I then decided to perform solo using facebook to get work out there, a series of renegade art for the masses as it were.
The first was outside Blackrock Dart station, Dublin, sorry Cork folk! (Another beautiful Blackrock).
I stood in a gap between the wall of the sea and the train tracks for an hour performing to each train that passed in that time.
No one documented it. I simply posted up a description of the performance on my facebook page. I gave this art to the weary workers on their return journey homewards, or not as the case may be.
It was odd acting in a strange way in your own home area. Yet no one interrupted, stopped or made comments.
It was a bitter cold evening, there was a heavy angry sea. It’s an odd feeling to make yourself an alien in your own place, so many thoughts flash through your brain.
Some school girls were talking and smoking near me, they were from my own old school, the same one my daughters attended and I taught in, but like an unknown respect, they did not bother me nor I them.
I returned to my other world a frozen but more knowing body.

The next ‘Apparition’ had a set date and location put out on social media sites so my public were invited. This time it was by the Martello tower near Sandymount, Dublin. The tide was out so I used it to my own advantage and although it was an incoming tide the beach is wide and long and I made use of that fact by walking along the beach towards the big chimneys. As I went the material gathered sand and sea making it heavier to drag along but as I had set my time and track I was determined to continue this performance. Being about 100 yards off the shore line I noticed people stop and others take photos. So I was observed. On returning my material was so sodden and heavy I could hardly lift it back up the steps. A nice German man with small children helped me asking me whether I was shrimp fishing? I said ‘sort of’. A performative search of my own.

I went home wrote my blog and took some photos of the washed material on the line. But was it art, was it seen? Did it exist? For whom? And why?
This journey became a proposal for the Dublin live art festival in November that Dominic Thorpe and Clara McKeon invited me to perform in. This was the first time I had done a solo performance infront of a live audience at The Exchange, Temple bar, Dublin.
I had a wonderful assistant, a student from IADT, who minded me and my bags before during and after the performance.
I started from inside a nearby pub walking through it in time to some inane slow funeral march. Outside some kids saw me and as it was Halloween eve screamed ‘Jesus look a tha’ ghost…’ so with that I walked slowly across the street somewhat blinded by the layers of material across my head. I knew a car was nearby as the headlights seemed near. I stood for roughly 30 seconds making the car slow down and then moved into the gallery space.

I proceeded to literally circumnavigate the space winding the material around pillars, people, a chair and myself – this winding causes solutions to be sought; do I unwind here? Tie here unknot here? – so pulling, straining bending, heaving, tugging, sometimes inverting up the pillar, sometimes almost sliding, falling. But somehow always focused on the material, space and finding my own way through tensions and relaxations. A very small part of me let go and became aware of the audience and how it might look but mostly I was in a special zone where I needed and wanted to be.

Parts were planned, parts were spontaneous, but I did proceed to the finale I had planned which was to end up outside pouring muddy sand and sea water over myself. This was a struggle as the mud would not come out so I ended up banging and crashing it off the pavement to get it out. Clumsy and mad looking but necessary. This was the ‘time and tide ‘washed from my part of the bay to this drain to the Liffey River and out again to the sea.

Afterwards it seemed like it was well received and instead of just driving home alone I had drinks and chat with a mixed bag of people. Shortly after this piece of work I found myself making another work in The Back Loft, Dublin.

SCARS was a totally different approach. This time I used my body as the site of real scars revealing each one verbally with a story of its formation as I cut the black material I was wearing away from the site. A total of five scars, none too dramatic bar the last. This work made me nervous as it needs courage to reveal and talk in public about events that happened a long time before most of the watchers were even born.

The first scar was in my mouth so this was revealed by blacking the room and shining the torch in my mouth. The audience found this funny and for a few moments I felt it was more like stand- up comedy that Live Art but I continued. The last scar, the burst appendices, was more raw. There was a good crowd of fifty or more at this venue and many were performers themselves so it was more like a cabaret than pure live art alone. But sharing words as art was found that night too, plus clowning, poetry, dance and Performance art. There were no purists there, just people making work in their own way, a good place to play, experiment and test out material.
So in a nut shell that’s enough for now.

This artist/granny /movie extra was involved in other productions; as a patient in a hospital, a corpse in a film, Mother Theresa break dancing in a RTE comedy. All those are paid work.
My own artform has yet to bring me money but it is the one I seek to enhance, learn more about and try more.
Wishing all my readers wherever you are a good and content new year 2013.