I’ll write about this later but there’s something familiar in this juxtaposition of the exposed earth and the aspirational construction that made it the right home for me to sense and move. It is fitting that Iarla Ó Lionaird’s music (An buachaillín bán), though applied only when I edited the movie, both belongs to and reinforces this world where I try to navigate a relationship between the conscious and unconscious, the ‘foul rag and bone shop of the heart’ and the ambitious futures of these hard buildings. This sketch on the corner of the building works for the new Grand Canal Theatre has brought me back to long held preoccupations.
Yearly Archives: 2007
“‘Funny’ = ‘ha! ha!’ or ‘funny’ ‘peculiar’?”, my father might have enquired. I guess these middle class kids romping in IMMA’s formal gardens on a Bank Holiday Monday were in their own polite way agreeing with the ‘psycho’ comment of the Guild street boys.
I liked the looming cranes and the architectural planting and wondered what it would be like if the guy was dressed as a builder.
She’s standing in a little place she’s found herself – a vantage point and hideout. She’s inserted her body in the space defined by the hard walls and soft foliage. And from this place she watches the crowds on the other side of the street who are shuffling along the narrow length of the Liffey Docks to enjoy the tall ships, to spend money, to not be at home on a Saturday afternoon. Barriers prevent the crowds spilling onto the road. Barriers keep them safe and slow and shuffling. She’s found her own little niche.
Specifically, we were in the kitchen this morning talking about the difference between the kind of site specific work which still takes place within a clear frame (a start and end time, a defined location, a ticketing system which controls access) and the guerilla appearances which she and I have started to do. She’s been very successful at creating events which occur within particular frames outside of the theatre space, but she’s also done performances which arrive out of the blue and land in some public space – a shopping centre in Athlone for instance. Of course the performances are not really out of the blue at all, since they are the result of careful crafting in a studio environment.
That careful crafting is an important aspect to what I’m trying to do too. It gives the work its integrity. But once the material has been prepared, I don’t want to keep it in a glass display case. I want to find out of it’s strong enough to go out into the world and encounter whatever the new environment offers it. It is this encounter which I hope can be transformative, both of the material and of the environment which the material temporarily inhabits.
So mornings in the clean and comfortable spaces of Dancehouse (http://www.danceireland.ie/dancehouse.htm)
Afternoons on the dusty building sites of Docklands.
I went back to Guild st in the sunlight with trainers that I didn’t mind getting dirty, in the hope that I could so some more energetic movement. I had reckoned on the intersection being so busy with people on their way home from work, with children out of school and with Mum’s sunning themselves on their porches. For all my bravado about opening my work up to the public in a very direct way, I was nervous about starting, about making that transition from walkng and standing to the revved up energy of the material I wanted to do. But I did it and people stopped to watch. A car pulled with a couple who asked what I was up to. Dolores, a woman living across the street asked if it was martial arts or dance. She also advised me to be careful of my camera phone and when I told her I liked the graffiti backdrop, she suggested I look at a mural painted alongside her house opposite the new railway station.
I was very aware of the number of construction workers on their way from work who passed me. They’re mostly foreign nationals I guess and as they went by I wondered if bodies and buildings could find a way to connect to their experience of this changing urban landscape?
Before I left, Dolores told me that some people thought I was a ‘psycho’ but she told them who I was – an artist.
I waited in the studio today knowing that the rain shouldn’t be an impediment to my wanting to move around outside but I didn’t want to get my trainers wet and besides I was on a physical roll in the studio, making material that was expansive and energetic. Of course I couldn’t pull that off on the uneven tarmac of Guild street’s triangle of space. Instead I went back to the Shanghai material, developed a little, but sufficiently ground-bound to make it possible for me to negotiate the terrain.
I worried yesterday about not being up to the brightness of the graffiti but a little rain toned all that down to make an environment that was more familiar to my way of being. I rolled around on the ground avoiding the nails and broken glass and the attention that requires has an impact on the choreographed material, but it’s exactly that encounter between what I’d prepared – what’s in my body – and what the environment presents that I want to examine. I want to be strong enough from the preparation to be able to be open to whatever the environment offers.
People watched from their windows and front doors and in this second version you can see some walk past ingnoring me. The hoodie cuts me off a little but it also helps me fit in to the way people dress around the area. The challenge for me is to engage directly with people. My instinct is to keep doing wat I do and to let people choose to engage if they want. We’ll see if that works out.
‘Urban space’ is a vague and general term since I’m not sure where I should turn up and pass through. I saw this corner today near the Spencer Dock development. The advertising hoardings around the development have been tagged by some graffiti artist and the boulders that protect the scruffy triangle of tarmac reimagined as televisions, radios and a more glamorous rock.
It feels like it could be a place for me to fetch up for a little while as the cars speed past – it’s already a little oasis of someone else’s creativity, and I wonder how my melancholy movement will absorb the cartoon sunniness of the graffiti.
Eventhough this work on Bodies and Buildings is focused on Dublin, I can’t help but relate the way that Ireland’s new wealth has been expressed in construction to the way China’s renewed power is similarly expressed. The Olympics in Beijing has been an excuse for huge building projects but Shanghai too is a city rushing to embrace its future with buildings that glitter, flicker and shine into the sky.
Of course this construction depends on destruction: the old hutong are demolished to make way for new high rise apartments. Do our bodies remember the old paths? What must they forget to negotiate the new way? Pete, my partner, and I found this part of Shanghai near the railway station in the south of the city when we were looking for the Botanical Gardens. As you’ll see there’s not much botanical about the demolished buildings. I felt a little strange dancing in what remained of people’s homes but the few locals who came up to check out what I was up to were tolerant of my strange activity, though given my limited Mandarin I’m not sure I communicated what that activity was.
I was in Shanghai in April to spend some time with artists from the Zu He Niao collective but I also did some work on my own – in my hotel room in the example below just after I’d spent a day being ill and expelling every single morsel of Chinese food I’d eaten the previous few days. Clearly my body wasn’t entirely at ease with the city. But it did give me a strong sense of what it might be like to feel fragile in the metropolis.