Monday, December 27, 2010

Significant discoveries.

From Finland:
Video artist Salla Tykkä
Here is one of her videos, 'Lasso'
http://www.sallatykka.com/
She has some very clever, refreshing photography too.
Here are some stills from her short movies:

'Lasso'
'Airs Above The Ground'
'Power'

And from Sweden:

Ingmar Bergman, 'Fanny and Alexander' (1982)
Anyone who enjoys a literary nerd-out should read Shakespeare's Hamlet before watching this film. I have never seen a film quite like this, a five hour epic of engaging ideas, words, visions. Utterly inspiring.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beth Moysés: Removing Pain


Photos from 'Removing Pain', a performance by Brazilian artist Beth Moysés for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which took place on November 25th in Trinity College Dublin, on a cold but beautifully sunny afternoon.

The rule was that we were to wear all white, including our shoes. They had hats and shawls for us and handmade, pearl embellished dresses. Although myself and my friend who also took part chuckled that we looked like kitchen porters in our long-johns and white caps before we were fully dressed, the final collective result was striking and evocative.

A mixture of women who had experienced domestic violence and those of us who wanted to engage with the important issue of violence against women, each of us had bruises painted on our faces, black eyes and cut up lips. My smack stretched the length of my cheek and across my eye. Ouch! We complimented each other on how authentic and effective the make-up was and I reflected on the gratitude I felt that this bruising had been carefully and gently applied with a soft make-up brush, not a fist.

It was a meditative and energising experience, a procession of women in white. More than one of us thought of the Magdalene women and the dichotomous image of us; revered spiritual sisters or women being made an example of? Was it a religious ritual? Or a parade of shame? Was it both? I watched the tail end of the white skirt of the woman in front of me, rhythmically moving over her legs in the breeze. It was mesmerizing. I kept my eyes downcast for the entire procession, alert for snippets of comments and the conversation of passers by: appreciative, curious, giddy, derogatory, dismissive, silly.

When we reached Physics Square, there were 16 holes dug in the ground. We each stood next to one, waiting patiently while woman by woman, we removed the bruises from each others faces. One by one, we took tissues from our pocket, cleaned the face of our sister, put the tissue in her hand, she would place it in the ground, and turn to clean the face of the woman next to her. At the end we buried the tissues, took rice from our pockets and threw it in handfuls to the center of the circle, sewing seeds of hope and renewal. The ritual was simple but clever and clear. It created a silent and meditative space for the performers and the audience to contemplate and be still. We were all these things: a spectacle, a ritual, a performance, a sisterhood. The material was challenging, even though the task was simple and it was reassuring and inspiring to feel supported by my peers. The act itself of women healing women was made overt in the cleaning of each other's faces.

In the atrium after the performance, Catherine Marshall gave an inspiring speech, observing how the Removing Pain performance and performance art in general was a reclamation or reinvention of ritual in a country where religious and spiritual rituals have been made meaningless and perverse (It made me think not only of child abuse in the Catholic Church and the Magdalene women, but of Tara and The Corrib Gas Project).

The speech, and the elements of ritual that the performance evoked made me think about the complex issues of performer and audience again. Part of me wanted to parade outside of Trinity, to walk through the city and expand the performance outside Trinity's walls. I had funny thoughts occur to me imagining this ritual becoming a staple of Trinity life. People coming from all over the world to see the women walking in white through the grounds of Trinity college, like the routine of soldiers at Buckingham Palace. Although as Catherine Marshall suggested, the more spontaneous a ritual, the less vulnerable it is to fatigue or indeed, corruption, in which case, we can indeed look to performance and performative practice, as a tool for reflection and meditation.

I also observed how the performance and ritual, was vulnerable to what I consider to be a consumerist attitude which can invade the experience of both being part of a performance and witnessing it. Possibly as a result of the oppressive rituals which have preceded us and the corruption which is now public knowledge, I fear that my ideal imagined ritualism is no longer possible in my environment - the ideal being opportunity and space for collective reverie, reflection, suspension and stillness in a world of relentless chatter, comment and photographs (Even though the performance was supposed to be a video piece, when Beth's camera would not work, my friend commented on how the performance seemed almost more valuable undocumented. And although I am grateful of the beautiful photos, my negotiation with and opinion on the ethics of photography and documentation is ongoing).

We need new rituals. Although I do not subscribe to religion, I fear the religious and ritualistic gap-stop of neo-liberalism, capitalism and consumerism alongside the perversion and corruption of the Catholic church has left us alienated as a people, for the majority of us literally put our faith in these two Gods, as it were, both of which have of course been revealed as fallible and corrupt. But are we learning from these mistakes? It certainly is an interesting chapter to live through, even if the outcome is as yet unclear. I am looking forward to seeing what new rituals we invent outside of religion, even though the struggle to achieve and maintain solidarity in a new poorer Ireland, will surely present a challenge, as much as it ever was!

More information on the artist Beth Moysés: http://www.bethmoyses.com.br/
And the event: Here and here.

Note: Many important topics in here and I've had my doubts about posting this, especially without drawing more attention to the issue of domestic violence in the midst of all this ritual talk. I'd love to hear some responses, to develop a discussion...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blackbird's "Daughters"

For those of you who have picked up and read RAG issue 5, you will have come across the name Lashings of Ginger Beer, an awesome Queer Feminist Burlesque troupe from Oxford, UK. Writing about sexuality and nudity in the Burlesque Scene in Dublin for Rag, I describe how inspiring I found the Lashings' show when I caught their show in Oxford town last Summer. One act in particular performed by Galatea Gorgon of the 'Lashings of Ginger Beer' troupe entitled "Daughters", impacted upon me personally, both as a performer and as a woman. The act was extremely dark and controversial but in an unfamiliar way, the dancer was courageous and evocative, and the performance impacted upon me in a very powerful way.

(The great Galatea Gorgon of Lashings fame)

That night Lashings performed to an audience of fans and fellow 'freaks', myself included, people who I presume were somewhat prepared for what an out and proud queer feminist burlesque group might produce. Even then, the huge strength and intensity generated by "Daughters" landed like a bomb on a stunned audience who remained silent until Gala's peers rushed on to assist her off stage. My heart was in my mouth; the performance had provided a vernacular for so many troubling but inarticulate observations, thoughts and experiences as a woman, an activist and a performance practitioner. I felt an overwhelming calling; Gala had unknowingly clarified some previously difficult and complex dichotomous impulses which had me bothered. It was suddenly important for me to perform Gala's act, to adapt it and express it, to articulate and physicalize these ideas for myself and for an audience known to me.

It is hugely exciting that I received Gala's permission to recreate this powerful performance for my next grand appearance at Pony Girl's Twisted Cabaret and Sideshow extravaganza this Saturday the 11th of December at the Complex in Smithfield. The last time I performed with the Pony Girls, debuting The Passion of St. Blackbird, I received so much good energy from the audience that it had me beaming for the rest of the night. I am very much looking forward to experimenting with this crowd, at this venue.

I'll be doing two acts that night by the way, the first being a new and spectacular addition to the ecclesiastical cannon and my religious repertoire. Swing incense burner... among other things! Oh! I expect it will be a fantastic night and a fabulous show!


Blackbird's "Daughters" and the return of Saint Blackbird
Pony Girl's Twisted Cabaret and Sideshow
The Complex, Smithfield
Saturday 11th December
8pm

Thursday, December 2, 2010

CATHOLIC GLITCH: St. Blackbird in print


Read the article and the see the pictures here: Pages 56 and 57.

Funny story:
When the young Will Eames and I shot this set, we did not imagine it would be published, or at least the practicalities of such an enterprise was not at the fore of our minds. But when the editor of Totally Dublin clapped his eyes on our reverent Saint, well, it was only right that she was included in the December edition, for Christmas!

But alas, although the shop guy loved the prints we gave him, the nature of his business meant he would not agree to the publication of some of the more detailed images. It was heart breaking. We had to change the images we wanted to use, photoshop out distinctive features and darken corners to increase anonymity of this little jewel of Catholic retail in Dublin city.

The Censorship of St. Blackbird!


I was briefly ruined by this censorship, but the incident gave me the slightest insight into the impacts of Catholic influence which has oppressively dominated Irish Culture and in many respects still does. While we may be in the process of removing the restrictive layers of enforced religion (is that a pun?), it cannot be denied that the negative effects of Catholicism will be felt for a long time to come, even as the tangible manifestations of such oppression are at long last being addressed and discussed openly.

Here are a few (personally interesting) particularly Catholic induced events and some revolutionary battles won in the face of Catholic sexual oppression:

March 25th, 433: St. Patrick arrives in Ireland, at Slane.

(There's a quote I'm after, watch this space)
Jack Harte, Unraveling the Spiral - the Life and Work of Fred Conlon
Read more here.

1965: Author John McGahern's novel The Dark is banned in Ireland for its alleged pornographic content and implied sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and descriptions of physical abuse by the protagonists Father. The controversy led to McGahern's dismissal from his teaching post.

The Dark, John McGahern-s second novel, is set in rural Ireland. The themes - that McGahern has made his own - are adolescence and a guilty, yet uncontrollable sexuality that is contorted and twisted by both a puritanical state religion and a strange, powerful and ambiguous relationship between son and widower father.Against a background evoked with quiet, undemonstrative mastery, McGahern explores with precision and tenderness a human situation, superficially very ordinary, but inwardly an agony of longing and despair.-It creates a small world indelibly and without recourse to deliberate heightening effects of prose. There are few writers whose work can be anticipated with such confidence and excitement.- Sunday Times-One of the greatest writers of our era.
- Hilary Mantel, New Statesman


1971: Women in their numbers travel to Belfast to bring back contraceptives still illegal in the Republic of Ireland, contesting the anti-birth control policies of the Catholic-dominated Irish government and the Criminal Justice Act of 1935, which forbid the import or sale of contraceptives.

When the would-be smugglers emerged from the train, a customs officer raised his hand to halt the procession. One of the women cried, "Loose your contraceptives!" and a shower of condoms, pills, diaphragms, foams, intrauterine loops and spermicidal jellies fell at his feet. Some women tossed the contraceptives over customs officials' heads to friends. Others produced the pill, swallowed it, then challenged customs men: "Now confiscate that!"
Read more here.


1984: A 15 year old school girl with a concealed pregnancy gives birth alone in a grotto in County Longford. The young girl and the new born baby are later found dead in the grotto.

Ann Lovett's death came just four months after the outcome of a divisive abortion referendum in which a two-thirds majority voted to enshrine the right to life of the unborn in the constitution, creating confusion over where that left the rights of the mother. The death of mother and child became symbolic of the emerging clash between church and state. The media spotlight was understandably glaring.
Read more here.


1993: Homosexuality is decriminalised in Ireland.

Homosexual acts were illegal in Ireland up until the Summer of 1993. The offenses against the Person Act lifted the band, and declared the age of consent to be 17, the same as that for acts between heterosexuals.
2009: The Ryan Report: 'Endemic' rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care,
inquiry finds.

Rape and sexual molestation were "endemic" in Irish Catholic church-run industrial schools and orphanages, a report revealed today.

The nine-year investigation found that Catholic priests and nuns for decades terrorised thousands of boys and girls in the Irish Republic, while government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rape and humiliation.

The high court judge Sean Ryan today unveiled the 2,600-page final report of Ireland's commission into child abuse, which drew on testimony from thousands of former inmates and officials from more than 250 church-run institutions. Police were called to the news conference amid angry scenes as victims were prevented from attending.

Read more here.


AND THEN THERE WERE THE CULTURAL RESPONSES:

(A Selection)

Will Saint Leger


Neil Watkins:


Opus Gei:


Read an interesting article on some of the artistic and performative responses to Ireland's Catholic heritage and recent history here

Photobooth + wine + chips =