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Guest Post: De-Bordering – A Performed Visual Dialogue by Áine Phillips and Helena Walsh

14th March 2019

Áine Phillips and Helena Walsh are Irish artists and friends, who met at Limerick School of Art and Design over twenty years ago. They have collaborated on numerous feminist performance projects, inspiring and supporting each other as artists. Both have lent their creativity to urgent political campaigns, such as the successful campaign to repeal the 8thamendment in the Republic of Ireland, which enabled access to safe and legal abortion in 2018.

In this performed visual and cross-border dialogue, Áine and Helena raise questions around the impact of a return to insular notions of nationalism. They explore the impact of the imposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland in the wake of Brexit, highlighting often overlooked gendered inequalities. In the dialogue, Helena Walsh plays the role of a resigned Lady Justice, who steps down from her golden pedestal atop the Old Bailey in London. No longer able to maintain balance and fed up of holding up patriarchal and imperialist ideals, she wanders around present-day London querying the future of humanity given contemporary inequality and injustice. Her queries are answered via telepathic communication with the great-granddaughter of Áine Phillips, who time-travelled to 2019 to aid progressive social and political change. Through highlighting the innovations of the future, Áine presents a hopeful vision of unity and diversity that emphasises resisting the imposition of borders and division.

Áine created the Banners for the Artists Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Campaign 2018 and her futuristic costume is by Justyna Koeke.

Thanks to Kevin Biderman for filming Helena Walsh’s contribution.

Áine Phillips is one of Ireland’s established performance artists and the editor of ‘Performance Art in Ireland: A History’, published by the Live Art Development Agency and Intellect Books UK in 2015. She has presented multi-media performance works internationally since the late 80’s and has created work for diverse contexts; public art commissions and communities, the street, club events, and gallery/museum exhibitions. Her work has been shown across five continents, in places such as Tokyo, Ljubljana, New York, Uganda, Brisbane, giving talks on her work at Tate Britain and IMMA. She has worked extensively as a curator of performance events in Ireland and the UK. Phillips is the Head of Sculpture at Burren College of Art and lectures at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance NUI Galway.

Helena Walsh is a Live Artist from Co. Kilkenny Ireland. She has been based in London since 2003. Her practice explores the relations between gender, national identity and cultural histories. Over the last twenty years Helena has performed widely in galleries, museums, theatres and non-traditional art spaces, including public sites. She has curated Live Art events and projects, alongside regularly presenting on her feminist performance practice. In 2013 she completed her practice-based PhD focussed on Live Art and femininity in an Irish context at the Department of Drama, Queen Mary University of London. Helena co-founded the pro-choice direct-action feminist performance group Speaking of IMELDA, contributing to the groups’ performances, media campaigns and publications between 2013 and the successful referendum to repeal the 8th amendment in the Republic of Ireland in 2018. Alongside her creative and activist work, Helena writes on contemporary performance practice and teaches at the University of the Arts, London.

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