Saturday, 31 January 2009

Eamon O'Kane - a container in Bristol

I was in Bristol today when I came across a container on the waterside not far from Arnolfini. Realising that it was an artist at work and feeling some sympathy, I dropped in to see what was going on. And I'm really glad I did.

The project is called Container Studio and it's the work of Eamon O'Kane who was on reworking some urban plans and architectural drawings with felt pen when I dropped in. He's using the container as a studio while he remixes maps of Bristol. Though I didn't quite understand how he's using Le Corbusier's plans of Paris as a blue print for his remix, I loved the way the container's walls were covered in drawings and quotations from artists. The sharing of the working process in a public space is something that resonated with me. It also made me think about the performative element in his activity of drawing. It's him, in his container, a body within a structure that's generating this creativity.

He's got a slew of prestigious exhibitions this year. He's Irish, coincidentally and of course I'm intrigued by how learning more about his work could inform what I've been up to.

I went to see another exhibition of his in Plan 9 nearby. It features wood from a sycamore tree cut from his parents' garden. King James II apparently ate under the tree and Eamon is reconstructing the furniture used for the event from the tree. There's historical and personal text pinned on the walls as well as a charcoal drawing of the tree. I responded to the combination of history, personal narrative, organic material and craft, as well as to the slightly academic quality of the wall texts that are 'staged' on the wall (reminding me of Bernadette's lists in Niche). And of course the fact that he's constructing the furniture makes it a physical performance too. Even the charcoal drawing of the tree at whose foot the dust of the drawing activity is sprinkled lets you know the physicality of the process of its creation. We don't see him dance the drawing but we fee it has happened there.

What an unexpected stimulus to find his work. I'm glad I didn't pass by my pearls before breakfast.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Pearls before breakfast

Someone sent me a link to this Washington Post article about an experiment where Joshua Bell, 'one of the world's greatest musicians', played his Stradivarius in Washington DC metro station during the morning rush hour. The gist of the article is that most people ignored him, even though people had paid $100 to hear him play sell out concerts the week before. The article is interesting because it raises lots of questions about how we perceive excellence, about when we're ready to be attentive to art and about how the experience of being ignored can undermine even the most brilliant performers!

There's also a question about what pearls we miss when we're not attentive, when we're busy and 'focused'. I guess I'm also curious about the beauty that's available for discovery in unexpected places.

Having just toured Casadh Arís in Baile Bhúirne, in a secondary school in An RInn, and in a new theatre space in An Daingean, I'd love to make work that's an unexpected delight. Because people in rural areas in Ireland don't see contemporary work so often, the nature of it is unexpected to them, perhaps a little puzzling. But the response to Casadh Arís has been positive, generous, inquisitive and eager. And that delights me.

This aspiration to be an unexpected delight does betray something about me and about how I see my work. I don't see it as a take-it-for-granted-it's-fabulous-extravaganza and you could say that my image of creeping into the consciousness of others rather than demanding their attention betrays a lack of confidence. But there is also a kind of resilience and maybe courage implied in putting my work in places where a positive reception isn't guaranteed or accorded by context or by convention. The creeping is also a determination not to accept being kept in one place and to surprise by crossing boundaries - stealthily but inexorably.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Casadh Arís - Rehearsal material

Casadh arís - structure and material

I don't know why I thought to make little drawings when we've been working on this piece. I guess it's useful for Rachel and me to have another medium to meet in that's separate from our dance and music home-arts. It helped make the rehearsal space more ours too.

We were clear about the structure of the piece from quite early in the process. It would have three parts. Rachel connects those three parts strongly to the three Gaeltachts that are involved in the creation of the piece: where I grew up sa Rinn, where she grew up i gCorca Dhuibhne and, the territory between where we meet to make the work, Baile Bhúirne.

I also connect the three part structure to the image of my father and me with the greyhound on the beach. I made this line drawing to indicate the layout of that relationship:

The two little figures are separate but connected by the energy of the dogs that stretches across the space. I realised when I made the drawing that it is symmetrical, that one distant figure is mirrored in the other. As a result the space between becomes important - the mirror through which one passes to see the other - or himself in the other.

In the piece, we have a film that acts as an imaginative looking glass - a dreamy beach-world to pass through that allows me to rest and also to reassess the material in part one and reimagine it for part three. The film was made by Max Le Cain and Chris Hurley.

Casadh arís - architecture of sound

Just one week until the premiere of Casadh Arís. Dan arrived with his double bass today, changing the acoustic and physical space with his presence and that of the large resonant bass.

For Casadh Arís, Rachel has been working with live and electro-acoustic sound and I’ve realised that the recorded sound in particular sets up a kind of architecture for the live bodies to inhabit. I say live bodies because the live musicians inhabit the space just as much as my dancing body does.

Using four speakers in the corners of the room, she is able to define the limits of the space, fill its volume with volume, and determine the density of the environment through which I move. Of course as a performer, playing violin, she will periodically enter that space too. She holds the space and participates in it.

The challenge for me, as always is how I inhabit that acoustic space and the emotional and psychological world it suggests. Or is it just a space and is it just me that makes it emotional and gives it personal resonance?