Don’t talk to the Artwork

performance by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
Performance in the National Gallery










Regular readers will know that I did a performance on Culture Night this year as part of the Tondo exhibition in The National Gallery of Ireland.  It was my first foray into performance art and I feel the need to express some thoughts about it.  I would also be glad of your feedback.

– So there I was at the exhibition, sitting on a sheet of cardboard, covered from head to toe by a blanket.  There was a concert going on in the restaurant next door, I could hear people laughing and chatting.  I felt ignored, unwanted, irrelevant… As I think of that now, I find it interesting because I imagine that it’s perhaps something of what the homeless people might feel.  I was there for just a few short hours, of course, and it was my decision to be there.  I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for someone to be forced to sit and beg for help.

I must say that it was really nice when a few people sat down beside me and talked to me through the blanket.  I realise now that it was an awkward situation.  People didn’t know how to react to me.  I heard some people hesitantly call my name.  There was a lot of noise in the Gallery and sometimes I could hardly recognise the voice.  I want to say here how much I appreciated your support, all of you who came.  Normally at an exhibition it’s a lovely ‘party’ atmosphere, I love meeting all the guests and thanking them for their support etc. but this time, it was different, wasn’t it.  I was the artwork!  I might as well have put up a sign saying:  “Don’t talk to the artwork”.

As an artist I feel an empathy with those on the margins of society.  I see my role as observer, my work as bearing witness in some way…  I am interested in exploring how art may produce a deeper and more enduring understanding of the contemporary experience…

It was an experience, a new experience for me too.  Actually, I didn’t mean it to be simply about homelessness and the inequalities of contemporary society.  It was a metaphor, or so I envisaged. Something about the struggles of life, struggles that everyone encounters.  Don’t we sometimes just want to curl up and hide? Something about the struggle of the artist too.  I just get an idea sometimes and I go with it.  I can’t say exactly where the idea comes from but it arrives and I accept it.  Sometimes I have to wait a long time for an idea – but I have to trust my muse.  That’s why I called the performance: Waiting

It was a great honour for us in Tondo to have an exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland and we are very grateful to the staff for facillitating us.  I hope that our installation of contemporary art added to the experience and appreciation of the Gallery’s collection and perhaps inspired some fresh insights into the nature of art and artists.



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