performingborders focus on Ireland is the result of the Fire Station Artists Studios (FSAS) International Curator Residency I undertook from 30 April to 9 May 2017 in Dublin. During the residency I have been discussing live art, borders and contemporary Europe with ten artists and art professionals in both Dublin and Belfast. The sound-interviews will be released in three parts in June, July and August 2017.
Many thanks to all the interviewees for their insightful perspectives, to Helena Walsh for her guidance, and to the wonderful staff at FSAS for their support!
This month performingborders presents interviews with artists Brian Patterson, Amanda Coogan, Dominic Thorpe, Níamh Murphy.
Ireland Focus 2/3: Suzanne Walsh, Katherine Nolan and Elvira Santamaría-Torres.
BRIAN PATTERSON, 5 May 2017, Belfast
Alessandra Cianetti: Brian, you are one of the founder of the cross-national project Bbeyond that was born from a collaboration between Belfast and Krakow-based artists. Bbeyond monthly meetings became a point of reference for different generations of Belfast-based and international artists. Would you mind to tell me more about Bbeyond’s ethos, its story and future developments?
AC: Time and place play an important role in your practice. As you state your ‘working practice is concerned with this poetics of being in relation to place (the present/environment) and intellectually how we have arrived here (through our past/histories), and the potentially to navigate our future/s’. Because of the city where you work, Belfast, I wonder how the notion of border (both geographical and theoretical) has impacted your practice.
AC: My arrival in Dublin happened the day after the EU leaders met to list their conditions for the Brexit negotiations with the UK government. Ireland was the subject of the third request and from the conversations I have been having since then, this brought back anxiety on both the internal and external borders of the island. In Áine Phillips book ‘ Performance Art in Ireland: a history’, Andre Stitt refers to the Irish performances of the Seventies and Eighties as ‘contextual methodologies, issues and concerns specific to performance art that was happening in a conflict zone’. What do you think we can learn from Northern Ireland’s past performative experiences and Bbeyond work in terms of strategies and methodologies to enable the building of a future?
Brian Patterson is currently working as administrator and co-ordinator of projects for Bbeyond. He was involved in the setting up of Bbeyond in 2001 to promote performance art in Northern Ireland. From 1998 he has worked with Flaxart Studios mainly with the organisation of their International Residency Programme, since a fire destroyed the place in 2003 he devoted most of his time and energy to the overall re-organisation and relocation of the studios into a city centre location. Prior to this he worked on the management committee for Catalyst Arts from 1996-1998, an artist run organisation set up to promote an outlet for more innovative and experimental working practices. He graduated in 1992 and since then has taken part in numerous group exhibitions where his main interest was installation work. In 2001 he was one of the artists involved in the Routes project, set up to promote the work of the unions in keeping sectarianism out of the work place in Northern Ireland. In May 2005 he made his first performance in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland.
AMANDA COOGAN, 6 May 2017, Belfast
Alessandra Cianetti: Amanda, thank you for having me and let’s talk about your international practice. You are a cross-disciplinary artist that works across live art, performance, photography and video but also across languages (you are proficient in sign language for example). Your works have been described as ‘iconic, audacious, elegiac’, as Áine Phillips writes adding that you poke away ‘at boundaries, hegemonies and restrictions to emerge gorgeous, courageous, defiantly unique’ pieces that urge ‘us all to come and join’ you. What role borders do play in your practice?
AC: In your recent work you have been experimenting with performativity, sound, apps and site-specificity in exploring ways to build a fresh relationship between the audience and a place. I’m thinking here at the Lyric Theatre in the case of ‘Once More’. Can you tell us a bit more about this project and more in general, how you think of your relation with the audience in your live art works?
AC: When at the IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin) I encountered on the shelves of the bookshop a writing of yours from 2011. You were asked to reply to the question ‘What is Performance Art?’. A big one! Then, in 2015 your contribution has been published in Áine Phillips’s seminal work ‘Performance Art in Ireland: A History’ where you gave an insightful account of the performance art in Dublin from ‘70s to ‘90s. My question would be an other big one I suppose: what happened after the ‘90s and the Good Friday agreement in the Irish performance and live art scene? How do you think the recent political developments (I’m thinking here of Brexit and the UK/EU negotiations that have at its core the unity of Ireland) will impact on the live and performance artists’ practices? Does Patrick Ireland need to be exhumed?
Amanda Coogan is an internationally recognised and critically acclaimed artist working across the medias of live art, performance, photography and video. She is one of the most dynamic and exciting contemporary visual artist’s practicing in the arena of performance. Her 2015 exhibition in the Dublin’s Royal Hibernian Academy, I’ll sing you a song from around the Town, was described by Artforum as ‘performance art at its best’.
Her extraordinary work is challenging, provocative and always visually stimulating. In 2010 the Irish Times said, ‘Coogan, whose work usually entails ritual, endurance and cultural iconography, is the leading practitioner of performance in the country’. Her expertise lies in her ability to condense an idea to its very essence and communicate it through her body. Using gesture and context she makes allegorical and poetic works that challenge expected contexts. Her works encompass a multitude of media; Objects, Text, Moving and Still Image but all circulate around her live performances. She is at the forefront of some of the most exciting and prolific durational performances to date. The long durational aspect of her presentations invites elements of chaos with the unknown and unpredicted erupting dynamically through her live artworks, She is first and foremost an embodied practionner. Her work often begins with her own body and challenges the expectations of the contexts, such as head banging to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, and signing the lyrics to Gill Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution will not be Televised’. Her work moves freely between solo presented live performances, group performances and living installation. Coogan holds a degree in Sculpture fom Dublin’s National College of Art and Design. She was a Masters student of Marina Abramovic at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunst in Braunschweig, Germany and received her PhD from the University of Ulster in 2013. She is an occasional lecturer at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin; Limerick School of Art and Design; The Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dublin; Dublin Institute of Technology and Crawford College of Art, Cork.
DOMINIC THORPE, 8 May 2017, Dublin
Alessandra Cianetti: With your practice you engage ‘with subject matter that has significant social importance, often related to issues of trauma and injustice’. In your opinion, throughout the arch of your prolific career, what have been the most representative performative pieces of this long-term engagement?
AC: Power, memory, trauma, relational practices, the body as a ‘site of meanings’ – as described by Áine Phillips in her seminal book ‘Performance Art in Ireland: A History’ – seem to be recurrent topoi in your practice. You have already answered part of my coming question in the first one however, I wander if you would like to add something on how you explore these complex themes through your multi-disciplinary practice.
AC: My arrival in Dublin happened the day after the EU leaders met to list their conditions for the Brexit negotiations with the UK government. Ireland was the subject of the third request and from the conversations I have been having since then, this brought back anxiety on both the internal and external borders of the island. You have already told us a bit about this on the first question however, I wonder if you want to add something on how you address in you performative practice the notion of border and whether the Irish borders have been impacting on your practice.
Dominic Thorpe is an Irish visual artist who works primarily through the body in performance, drawing, video and photography. His work often involves contextual and relational based processes. He has shown and performed work widely internationally and in Ireland, including at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Bangkok Cultural Centre Thailand, Performance Space London, the Galway Arts Centre Ireland and the SASA Gallery Adelaide Australia. He has completed a number of commissions and residencies including at the Nordic Arts Centre and the Fire Station Dublin. He has received numerous awards and bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland, the Kildare County Council, Culture Ireland and CREATE. For Unit1 he has co-curated the work of over 60 Irish and International performance artists. He was the first artist in residence at University College Dublin (2013/2015), where he researched performance, memory, institutional abuses and images of perpetrators. Dominic currently works at the KCAT Arts Centre Kilkenny and the Creative Well art project Kildare.
NÍAMH MURPHY, July 2017, Dublin, Remotely
Alessandra Cianetti’s questions: 1) Níamh, you are the director of the Dublin Live Art Festival (DLAF) that since 2012 has been surprising, stimulating, inspiring, moving, stirring and shaking its public. Would you mind to tell us a bit more about the history of the festival, its aims and where do you think it is going after its first brilliant years? 2) The DLAF’s website refers to the huge ‘surge in interest and production of live performance art in Ireland’ today. What do you think has changed compared to the previous decades? Do you see a trajectory from the works done in the Seventies and Eighties both in Northern and Southern Ireland (I’m thinking here at pieces made by Alastair MacLennan, Nigel Rolfe and Alanna O’ Kelly just to give some examples) and what artists are doing today? 3) Last year for the Easter Risings Centenary you and Áine Phillips curated Future Histories. The project’s documentation will be presented at the Live Art Development Agency in London this coming June where the following discussion will focus, among other themes, on the ‘shared histories of Ireland and Britain’. Can you briefly describe the project itself and the artists involved? Also, in light of the recent developments in the relations between the EU and the UK over the Brexit negotiations that have seen Ireland as one of the main objects of discussion, what do you think will be the impacts of this situation on both DLAF and Irish artists’ practices?
Níamh Murphy is the DLAF Festival Director. She has made and curated live art in Ireland and internationally since 2004 and founded DLAF in 2012 as a way to unite and connect groups and individuals curating live art within the visual arts and beyond.
Featured Image credits: ‘There must be so way out of here’, Bbeyond monthly, Belfast