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.