Tuesday, 25 December 2007

3, for now

Matthew's chocolate reindeer are festive but also inspirational for the trio of men who have been working in Dancehouse, with Bernadette's concentrated energy emanating from her creative corner. I didn't manage to move the movement outside. Instead outside came in to the studio: the dogs who played ball daily in the park below, the rubbish bags piled against the wall, the winter light that united in unexpected beauty the collection of new buildings, old stories, neglect and construction - all these influenced the direction of the work in the studio and are directing it towards a realisation that could be witnessed as part of the cityscape.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Xiao Ke's blog reminded me that Dancehouse, where I generally work before going out into the public spaces of Dublin, is itself part of that urban space. As soon as I remember that I recognise that our building makes concrete a complex interaction of political, social and artistic forces: the work and aspiration of dance artists, the regeneration of a under-resourced area of Dublin, a public-private partnership in construction that comes from a particular moment of Ireland's economic history.... It's good to be reminded that these are the concretised stories our bodies are rubbing up against each day.

Xiao Ke's blog is http://blog.sina.com.cn/zhaozhaokklee

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Xiao Ke in Dublin

This past week, Xiao Ke and I have worked together, mostly in the studio in DanceHouse but also crossing the city to give her an idea of its geography and human colour. I learnt a great deal from our collaboration but I'm only beginning to understand what that learning is.
The large windows of Studio 4 in Dancehouse overlook the Eileen McLoughlin Park and the new apartment developments that hope to regenerate, reform and reorient the inner-city communities that have lived in the area. Xiao Ke was amazed at the number of Chinese people who now walk along Foley St with the other recently arrived and long settled, the young, the strung out, the pyjama-clad and well-heeled.

In the bleaching autumn light, the tarmac space that opens between the undressing trees and the peeping tower blocks suggested itself as a place to settle our developing dance. The crows share the space and people mark its perimeter.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Xiamen -End of the Red Path - Deire an Chosain

Maybe it was the last time for Bernadette and I to experience our connection through the Cosán Dearg material but if it was, it was a joyful and creative valediction. The performance in Xiamen happened in the studios of local artist (and police commissioner), ???. The space, an old cigar factory, covers a vast area, much of it full of ??? work – large sculptures and installations that suggest something of a sci-fi movie set. But there is still plenty of space to move in.

Lu Ming, the curator and organiser in Xiamen, had asked the participating artists to perform simultanaeously around the space. Bernadette and I chose, as we had in Hangzhou, to allow the work to travel around the space repeating our encounters over three hours, performing our solos when we lost each other, always knowing that we would meet again. This process allowed us to explore the work with an audience in the way we have always done in the studio and the way we imagined we could at the end of each single performance at the beginning of this journey in Project Arts Centre.

I was moved when I would discover Bernadette around a corner, focused, in her mind and in her body – dancing.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Hangzhou Dock 47

It is only gradually that I have discovered that the reason that we had so much free time in the very beautiful Hangzhou. The original local partner of the festival was refused official permission to host the festival. The reason for this late cancellation seems to have been Shu Yang’s performance in Beijing in which he referred to Myanmar/Burma. As a result, there was a scramble to find us another venue in Hangzhou. Most of the western artists knew nothing of this at the time but the Dock 47 space was a great last minute choice: another post-industrial art space in the 798 mould.

The audience that assembled was engaged and curious and asked many questions after Bernadette and I performed. Having moderated my energy to allow for the explosiveness of Bernadette’s energy in Macau, I allowed myself to meet her strength in this space and we had fun with the resulting fusion and friction.

One of the audience members said she enjoyed the performance because she could feel that there was conflict and cooperation. I said I was happy that she saw this because the trust between Bernadette and me in this encounter allows us to experience the conflict and cooperation. She said we were like children in this freedom we had to express ourselves. Perhaps but we are, but if we are children we are children who have lived a lot and so this ‘childlikeness’ is no accident of age but a choice or maybe just an aspiration.

Tadeo's post

Another perspective on the Dadao Live Art festival in Beijing


Oxwarehouse: Bernadette fits right in

One of the most flattering observations made about our performance is that it looked as if we always lived in the Oxwarehouse with its funny drainage troughs and sloping floors. For some of the Performance artists, the immediacy of response to an environment is an important way of distinguishing themselves from the rehearsed performance of choreography.
However with Bernadette and me, the relationship to the space and to the particular building comes not from making a work that 'translates' the building into movement: instead it comes from bringing a developed physicality that is robust enough to be open to the energy of the space and doesn't need to ignore it to maintain the integrity of the dance. It makes the work a truly live art that interacts with its specific environment because of the strong preparation the choreography entails.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Oxwarehouse: Echo a friend

The growing sense that dance and, by extension, my work isn’t entirely welcome in this Live Art context has made it harder for me to be open in performing. I’ve been aware for a while that some of the artists were uncomfortable with having dance in the programme. However, no one has really asked me why I am here and what I think my work is trying to do here. There is no question but that what I do comes from and relies on a dance tradition – it is the discipline I follow. But that discipline is a means to an end or, more precisely, a means to a process of discovery that takes place in relation to the environment and the new context in to which I bring the work. I don’t hide a message in the work for an audience to decode. Instead, I see the work as an opportunity to learn something and I try to create an environment where others can participate in that discovery. I’ve seen a number of works that have inspired me in this touring festival, some from artists with a dance background, some with visual arts or theatre training. It’s the work and its impact that matters to me and not the tradition from which it derives or the manifesto to which it adheres.

In the beautiful Oxwarehouse space in Macau, I carried the shadow of this sense of being unwelcome until a Chinese woman, Echo, stepped into the space as I was warming up and began to copy my movements. Before we spoke, she established a connection between us that made me feel welcome and through her, I found a positive focus for my last articulation of the Cosán Dearg solo. Thanks to Elena’s filming, Echo sits in the middle of the frame, making this a duet that prepares for Bernadette’s arrival. The glitz of Macau’s casinos is an odd contrast to the pastoral environment of the Oxwarehouse space.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Shenzhen Free Arts Zone

Shenzhen is a city which didn’t exist, except as a small fishing village, 20 years ago. It’s now a young city full of young people from all over China. It’s a city full of new high rises, some already abandoned and derelict. New seems to be easier than repair and recycling.
I’m staying in a luxury business hotel and feeling both refreshed by the comfort and a little guilty about the comparative expense. I reassure myself that this luxury, and the Chinese business men who enjoy it, are as much part of the Chinese experience as the artists with whom I’m working.

In Shenzhen, our hosts are the Shenzhen Free Arts Zone (www.szarts.cn). They run the top floor of the factory building in the picture above and have converted it into very basic artist live-work spaces. A central corridor and shared office/common room provide a gallery space where the artists’ work is on view and in which we performed. It has been a pleasure to have an opportunity to talk with these artists who are keen to engage and learn a little of our work.

The solo found a new expression in this long corridor where I set up a line of fire-extinguishers to remind myself of my long red journey. I danced near a set of naked statues whose presence in the space reminded me that I was somehow preceded in my path.

Elena Giannotti who dances Michael Klein's Einem on this tour, is pictured above and she artfully filmed my performance.

The video contains nudity (again)

Philippina urban occupation

I was mesmerised by how Hong Kong’s Philippina maids appropriate the city’s public space for their day off. On roads and squares they set up encampments for the day where they sleep, eat, socialise, play cards, dance, access union counselling etc. It reminds me of a festival but I suppose there is a sense where this temporary occupation of public space, this ingenious use of resources, is born of necessity rather than choice.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Second performance day in Hong Kong

The second day of the Hong Kong/Dadao festival brought performances to the Queen’s Pier area of the city. The afternoon of performance were engaging and stimulating, unfolding in a kind of carnival atmosphere which some individual performances managed to focus and quieten. One such performance was by San Mu (there’s some background on him at http://www.araiart.jp/copro282.html) who opened a space in the paving and made a work that remembered an ancient city, Fengjie, that was flooded to make the Three Gorges Dam. San Mu invited onlookers to listen to the water in a three hundred year old bowl he had placed on the pavement:

Other performers included

Zhou Bin from China

Mandy Romero from Liverpool
( http://www.avfj43.dsl.pipex.com/mandy_performance.htm )

Yeh Yi Li from Taiwan

Marilyn Ansem from the US
( marilynarsem.net )

Hong Kong performances

I performed in Hong Kong last night, on a terrace of the Osage Gallery (www.osagegallery.com). Hong Kong has been challenging but that may have had to do with the long and bureaucratically tedious journey from Beijing via Shenzhen: a 5 am start in Beijing to catch a comfortable flight to Shenzhen which passed quickly thanks to the entertaining celebration of 300 days to the Olympic opening by the improbably beautiful China Air cabin crew. A Starbucks in Shenzhen airport lulled me in a sense of being in familiar territory but then we had to take a bus to Hong Kong, which meant taking a bus to the Chinese border, unloading our luggage, queuing for the border checks, boarding another bus, travelling the few hundred metres to the Hong Kong border check, taking our luggage and going through border formalities again and finally boarding a bus to take us to Hong Kong. China’s different system’s couldn’t have been more clearly demonstrated and frustratingly experienced.

The Osage gallery seems to support a lot of dance, with a Phillipina choreographer supported to make work in response to the gallery’s various exhibitions. It’s an imaginative basis for a residency if the choreographer enjoys that stimulus. The terrace space itself is great, surrounded by tall buildings with glimpses of the harbour in the distance. These are pictures of the state I was expecting to perform.

Because it rained however, we had to improvise other options. I was quite happy to dance in the rain but the lighting had to be protected. Eventually I performed with no lights in the glow of borrowed illumination from nearby buildings.

I’d intended to use the DVD of Cosán Dearg Cúl Aodha as a way to introduce the duet with Bernadette as a context for the solo and also to bring that lush countryside into the built up city. Consultations with lawyers confirmed that there couldn’t be any nudity so that had to go. No matter, I brought my own connections which may have been communicated implicitly if not as explicitly as I’d have liked.

Dancing on the rough concrete meant that I had some cuts and scratches, more little marks on my body from the history of this piece. They are not trauma such as Ron Athey or Marina Abramovich perform on their body nor are they displayed like Boris Nieslony’s bleeding forehead in this Hong Kong event, cut when he smashed plates of glass on his head while Siu Lan read a (partial) list of countries where human rights are curtailed. But they are a concrete element of my physical memory, that I will keep consciously as I wait for the cuts to heal and that I expect to linger beside my consciousness in the new skin that forms.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Beijing Olympic Site

Since I visited the Olympic area, I knew I should dance there. The impressive Bird's Nest Stadium and Water Cube are still surrounded by a desolate building site which was once a place where many people lived before the imperatives of landmark construction moved them on. More than performing on Wanfujing or in Tiananmen, dancing in this location, soon to be the focus of the world's attention and the place from which China projects its carefully constructed image, is resonant and telling.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Wanfujing interrupted

After the opening performance, I was really tired or allowed myself to be so. Dancing on concrete takes its physical toll too. It’s something I can manage occasionally and am happy to do if it allows my work to find new places and people. But I also need periods where the conditions are kinder. Today wasn’t one of the kind days: I warmed up in Jingshan park, a beautiful park overlooking the Forbidden city. It’s not too weird to do back stretches and yoga fire breathing there as parks are a common location for people to do their callisthenics and tai chi. It’s weird only when I lie on the ground.

I was warming up there because we had performances on Wanfujing, the main shopping street.
I wasn’t sure I could marshall the energy to focus myself enough to perform but when the time came, I knelt in front of a big video screen advertising the Olympics and hamburgers and started again, trying to find some stillness in myself as the busy city circled round.

A plain clothes policeman interrupted my performance and told me to go. I said ‘I’m dancing, wo tiaowu’, but he was having none of it….

Opening Performance: Dadao Live Art Festival: Contains nudity

I’m glad I kept it simple. By the time I showed my solo, some three hours and a variety of live art explosions, weltings, wrappings, climbings, creamings and drenchings after the beginning, only something simple and direct could be visible. I was very happy to have been able to be an occasion of silence and concentration in that busy environment.

My only prop was the red colour on my hands and feet – a vestige of the Cosán Dearg Chinese food dye which I’d expected to find here but which isn’t widely available at all. Instead I used acrylic paint from the fancy art shop in this increasingly commercial 798 Art district.

This performance contains nudity

Friday, 5 October 2007

Rehearsal 798 Art Space

“One World, One Dream”, Exhibition 798 Art Space

This is what Shu Yang’s curatorial note says about the “One World, One Dream” exhibition that I found in the 798 Art Space:

‘“One World, One Dream” is the title that the “Vision Testers” is using for its 2007 Photo Show, exactly the same as that of the official slogan of the 2008 Olympic Games….
“One World, One Dream” depicts the otherwise indoor wedding shoots in the outdoors setting – newly weds posing for their best shots in the midst of real-life scenes. What makes these works different from just wedding photos is that accidental bystanders and thrill-seeking onlookers as well; as the real world that surrounds the set become part of the show….

Dragons and phoenixes are imaginary critters, non-existent in real life, They have been however, our nation’s totems. Drawn side by side, they stand for harmonious matrimony. In other cultures, though, they are nothing more than demons that appear only in nightmares. Now, think about this: Wouldn’t it be horrible if the slogan “One World, One Dream” materializes across the globe? Whether we are talking about wedding gowns or Olympic Games, the idea is to interface with Western culture. Our modernization drive, which dates back to a hundred years ago, boils down to our efforts to align ourselves with the West. To date, we have alignments in some areas and misalignments in others, thus this freak that bears resemblance to nobody. Of course, this is not unique to China only. Many non-Western cultures on the globalization bandwagon face the same problem, which is the most difficult issue troubling globalization itself. The realities in present-day China are awkward, because we have not used our brains well to think, to explore and to address issues. Instead, we have only managed to chaotically react. At the offset of China’s modernization drive, Mr. Lu Xun advocated the “Copycat Approach”. Over the decades we have copied from all over, albeit piecemeal, but have somehow misplaced everything we have copied. Perhaps we put too much emphasis on superficial things in he modernization drive and have not nurtured new wisdom, ending up with this hotchpotch with a bit of everything that do not go together. Against this background, the works in “One World, One Dream”, created by the “vision Testers”, seemingly poke fun at our lives but nevertheless serve as a wake up call.’

What the exhibition housed was in fact a series of sets, a pink boudoir, a chateau ballroom, a communist square, a Japanese cherry blossom – all accessorised with costumes and props for member of the public to dress up and be photographed in. It reminded me of a tourist trap in the Yu Gardens in Beijing which encourages visitors to have their photos taken in what look like Gilbert and Sullivan ‘traditional Chinese’ costumes. And it reminded me of end-of-pier fairground cut-outs. These sets all referred to the wedding photo sets that had been created in public spaces and shown on the photographs on the gallery wall.

But I didn’t see so many people look at the photos. They were having much too much fun, dressing up and being photographed. Some people didn’t need the props or the sets to work their angles a la America’s Next Top Model. And I did wonder whether the artists’ intention to create a dissonance between the aspirational artiness of the wedding photos and the less aesthetically polished ‘real world’, as Shu Yang called it, might have been irrelevant to many of the viewing/interacting public. In their real world (young 798 district national holiday crowd), aspiration and the glamourising photographs are all of a piece. The success of this exhibition is to have drawn a public in and in doing so drawn this out of them.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

798 Art Space: Just arrived for the Dadao Live Art Festival 2007

Arriving in Beijing for the Dadao Live Art festival, I’m aware that this third trip to China is on the surface at least, a bit easier. That may have something to do with being collected from the airport or perhaps it’s the extra special effort Beijing is making for the Olympics or maybe it’s just that I recognise something this time around.

But I’m suspicious that this familiarity is superficial at best. When I made my way to 798 Art Space to meet Shu Yang, the curator of the Dadao festival, I introduced myself and was greeted by a helpful man who said he was Shu Yang. I wasn’t convinced, as I had remembered Shu Yang from a previous visit and this man didn’t look like my memory of him. Still I’d just flown overnight half way around the world and it seemed impolite to be sceptical. I said I was there to look at the space where I might be performing and he said go ahead (I make these sound like straight forward exchanges when in fact they were delicate negotiations in my poor Mandarin and his passable English). I looked around and enjoyed the exhibition which Shu Yang has curated but decided I needed to know if the exhibition would be there when the performances took place. So I thought I’d ask ‘Shu Yang’. It was at this stage that my helpful friend made clear that he had no idea who I was and what the Dadao Live Art Festival might be. If this was Shu Yang then I was in trouble.

Fortunately he did now know who the real Shu Yang was, or maybe I managed to pronounce it in a way that made his name recognisable. He called Shu Yang who came immediately to collect me. Take nothing for granted and keep calm.

Though it’s clear from meeting the friendly and dedicated festival organisers that this is a big challenge for them on limited financial and administrative resources, I think that the work I’m bringing is sufficiently sure of its core identity to be able to adapt to whatever circumstances it might have to face: it seems like there’s an opportunity for me to perform in either a gallery, a street or a studio theatre. I want to perform in all three locations and let the reiteration of Cosán Dearg gather new experiences and memories to its already evocative score.

Friday, 14 September 2007

'Covent Garden' in Docklands

I made Cosán Dearg in collaboration with Jason Byrne and Julie Feeney in 2005. Bernadette and I have revisited the material in various guises since then and each time it's a different experience, determined by who we are and where we place our new encounter. This section is called 'Covent Garden' because we made it in a studio at the Opera House. We're investigating the work again because it's strong enough to face whatever our trip to the Dadao Live Art Festival in China may ask of it. Experiencing it alongside the smokers and pedestrians of this walkway in Docklands is good practice too.
The music is by Julie Feeney. (see www.juliefeeney.com for her wonderful award-winning album 13 songs)

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Rock and Roll Minotaur - for the smokers

I hadn't realised, not being a smoker, the new relationship that smokers have to the buildings in which they work. They are often to be found huddling in niches, porches and doorways or on this occasion enjoying the sun from a convenient wall. I'm sure there's potential in developing work for this temporary audience - though I wouldn't want anyone to think I was encouraging their smoking.

Perching near the power cables

We did go behind the protective/prohibitive barriers to do this perching sequence and a security guard came to warn us of the exposed power cables, but when I said we were dancing he left us alone.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Match in Bassano

Performing on a soccer pitch in Bassano is kind of stretch of the bodies and buildings concept. However the idea of bringing dance outside of its protective glasshouse to be tested in a public space links the research and manifestation of this project. The performance in Bassano was at the invitation of the Roberto Casarotto who curated the B-Motion Festival as part of the Operaestate Festival in the region. I was excited to participate and to attend because much of the work he has assembled i by independent artists and its reassuring to see the possibilities for such work to reach a wider audience without compromising its idiosyncrasy.

For Matthew and me, the challenge was to deal with the huge space which the football pitch presented. I took the material from the film and extended it from one goal post to the other. Sunshine and the sandy ground made it an effort but that effort is already part of the truth of the material and didn't need to be denied. Performing in that kind of public space where the work isn't sealed off from outside influence requires a particularly sturdy kind of piece but it brings with it a potential for beautiful additions: we gained the shouts of elderly gentlemen playing boules and the voices of a gospel choir practising nearby. One cannot rely on these chance additions but one can be grateful for them and for serendipity.

There's an interview and more photos on the b-motion blog - a great idea that records and deepens the festival experience:


Friday, 13 July 2007

Martello Towers

I’ve spent the past four days taking boats, wading through water, tromping through fields and climbing ropes so that I could dance on top of some of the twelve Martello Towers which were built in what is now Fingal, north of Dublin. The adventure is part of a Public art commission by Fingal County Council, for which I am collaborating with multi-disciplinary artist, Dan Dubowitz. We’re hoping to re-establish a tentative connection between the towers which were built to protect against Napoleonic invasion. However the towers never had to defend the coastline and have since been adapted to various uses (museum, private dwelling, store house) or allowed to fall to ruin. Of course, in falling to ruin, the towers have continued to serve various functions – as shelter, as haven for drinkers and lovers, as a place for pigeons to roost and for hardy plants to colonise. Now there somewhere for a physical and imaginative exploration of bodies and this particular set of buildings.

The adventure aspect of this project is fun: I love scaling the towers and negotiating the tricky entry to them. This experience is more than fun though: it’s also a physical experience which colours the movement -material I bring to the top of the towers. If I were butchered there, adrenaline would make my flesh taste different. Dan has set up a rotating camera to capture the activity on top of the tower, or to catch glimpses of the material at least. The constant rotation means that much material is missed from the shot. There is a pathos in the absence and presence.

It’s not just me on the towers: Bernadette Iglich joined us for the adventure, finding a way to feed the challenges of the environment and weather into the life blood of her movement. Her DNA is now imprinted on the towers and it has left its marks on her

Sunday, 8 July 2007

You Tube and the US Presidential election

An article in today's Observer (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2121069,00.html) describes the impact of You Tube and its user-generated content on the US Presidential election campaign.

"The notion of a 'citizen ad' is an intriguing one, suggesting as it does both a citizen's arrest - the idea of doing something without pay for the public good - and Citizen Kane. You can, from the privacy (and affordability) of your own home, have an effect akin to that of a mogul. Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the country's leading experts on advertising in political campaigns, considers this development and says: 'There's a saying in the United States, "The press is free for anyone who owns one." That's no longer true. You still have to have some income, because you have to have a computer, but the cost of getting access to the public has dropped dramatically - and that goes back to the early days of the republic, when there was more capacity to simply post things. The American revolution was fed by individuals who could easily get things into circulation, in part because the public was so small. When we moved to mass channels of communication, the ability of the individual to affect politics dropped, and to some extent that's been regained now. It changes the rules, and I think it's healthy.'"

I am excited about the freedom and diversity of expression this citizen action allowed and self- flatteringly imagine my own work to be of a piece with the ethics and method of such citizen action. My dances in unexpected places, shared with whoever see them, live or in this blog, are intended to be a kind of permission to wider freedom, a suggestion of more possibilities than are usually explored.

But a quotation from Phil de Vellis who made one particularly noteworthy pro-Obama video that made me ask myself about my own commitment to engaging the public: "you have to actually interact with your audience out there, and a pretend conversation is not enough".

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Safe Pass Training

"The FAS ‘Safe Pass’ Health and Safety Awareness Training Programme is a one day safety awareness training programme aimed at all construction site personnel, including new entrants, to ensure that they have a basic knowledge of health and safety. It is important that workers have a basic knowledge of health and safety to make them aware of the inherent dangers on construction sites so that they will not be a risk to themselves or to their co-workers who work alongside them."

Sitting alongside Dublin City Council employees (planners, storemen, designers, cleansing team) I wondered what I was really doing there. I was tickled to be taking the course and enjoyed the incongruity and the chance to bring my work into an environment that didn't expect it. But what was I really going to gain.

The training modules incorporated within the safe pass programme are:

- The reasons for promoting safety
- Health and Safety at Work Legislation
- Accident reporting & Emergency procedures
- Accident prevention
- Health and Hygiene
- Manual Handling
- Working at heights
- Working with Electricity, underground and overhead services
- Use of hand held equipment
- Safe use of vehicles
- Noise and vibrations
- Excavations and Confined Spaces"

So I sat there and took in the sensible information (we didn't get to Weill's disease until near the end and as someone acquainted with pigeon droppings my ears pricked up) while simulataneously letting some other part of my brain take that information and examine it from other perspectives.

I imagined dancing on hydraulic platforms (working at heights), burrowing in excavations and confined spaces, with a whole lot of manual handling going on.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Ernest Pignon-Ernest

Adrian ( www.gai-savoir.net) has drawn my attention to this work of Ernest Pignon-Ernest who makes interventions in the public space with beautiful trompe l'oeil drawings of human bodies. He affixes the drawings to buildings and leaves them to weather. I understand that he takes account of the particularity of each environment and draws his work accordingly. He does make the work in the studio though and only when it's ready abandons it in the public space.

I ask myself how much I want to make material that takes the particular built environment into account. I'm wary of accommodating external pressures too soon in the process as what interests me is the encounter between the prepared material and the environment. Of course there's accommodation in that encounter but the material has an independence that precedes the encounter.

There's more information on Pignon-Ernest in this blog:

Friday, 22 June 2007

EastBerlin Flap

Near the EastSide Gallery in Berlin, I found this open space to do my flip-flop flap dance. Something about Berlin (the background dope scent?) made me want to do silly, irreverent movement though the music with this clip pulls it back to a more sombre tone. I'd expected to find Berlin a good environment for my bodies and buildings research since it has undergone so much change in the years since reunification but I found the atmosphere different. The building is reconstruction more than construction; the city and its people seem familiar with the large projects around them. This current wave of building is one of many Berlin has experienced. And so there is less dissonance between the bodies and the building around.

In Ireland, where the huge building programme is unprecedented, the challenge of working out the relationship between what was before and what is now, between what our bodies remember and what these new structures dictate, is more compelling for me.

Wounds or graves

Working in Berlin this week, I responded again to the similarity of building sites to open graves in the city. 'Dead like you' - the graffiti on the building on the corner of Rosenthalerstrasse underlined the connection though I'm not sure what its point is. I think of it as a kind of memento mori.

This little grave in Kreutzberg is a gentler reminder of transience. The red tape marks the boundaries and signals danger. The collection of flint in the centre of the hole gives it a shrine-like quality, or a sense of an ancient tomb uncovered. In my head anyway...

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Our 'green' Taoiseach

Thanks to Fintan O'Toole Irish Times article about Bertie Ahern this weekend (Sat, Jun16)(http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/newsfeatures/2007/0616/1181771177107.html), I have a readymade link between urban construction, destruction, Ireland and China.

'No Irish political leader has ever been so openly contemptuous of environmental concerns. This is the Taoiseach, after all, who complained in 2003 that every big infrastructural project has to "go through eight hoops, through all environmental, planning and blah blah blah, and every blah costs a few hundred million". This is the Taoiseach who loftily dismissed all objections to motorway routes as being about "swans, snails and people hanging out of trees", and who sighed with envy in Shanghai at the power of a Chinese mayor to bulldoze everything in his way: "Naturally enough I would like to have the power of the mayor that when he decides he wants to do a highway and, if he wants to bypass an area, he just goes straight up and over".'

Perhaps I can be one of the people hanging from trees, or a swan, or a snail - a brake on untrammeled bulldozing for the physical life that the Taoiseach's list of irritating objections embodies.

Bulldozer, snail, swan, hanging body - power.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The Black Book

Looking at the Grand Canal Theatre video material, I remembered images from Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book. It's a kind of detective novel set in Istanbul but the novel is as much about the city and its expression of Turkish identity as it is about the narrator's missing wife. It's a difficult read; it is labyrinthine in its structure like Foucault's Pendulum. But I recall clearly the dark spaces of the city he describes: the tunnels and caves beneath Istanbul which catalogue its history and contain a fantastical alternative version of the present; the dark central shaft of the apartment building where the narrator's family live, a shaft where items lost and fallen gather. These dark spaces are a kind of unconscious - a space made of memory, fantasy and desire - what was and what mustn't be. We build in the light but but can't avoid dealing with these shadow spaces

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Grand Canal Theatre

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.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

'There's the funny man again'

"'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.

Sunday, 3 June 2007


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.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Rebecca and site specific chat

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.