ELASTIC Performance Festival Oxford Brookes University May 2017
Curated by Veronica Cordova de la Rosa and Peta Lloyd
FÀILTE made for ELASTIC at Oxford Brookes in May 2017 was a durational work that invited the audience to consider the experience of homelessness and the sense of displacement when forced to live in temporary housing or in the homes of strangers. It focussed on the loss of a garden, a place to nurture and grow and to experience colour and beauty. The lack of a garden, no matter how small, is an aspect of homelessness that affects wellbeing and health, physical and mental.
The work began on the platform of Charlbury railway station as the artist set off for Oxford. Throughout her journey she asked strangers to photograph her and if they wished she talked about performance art and why these actions were part of an artwork. She started her day by drawing a tulip she saw in the flowerbed, in chalk on the platform. She was photographed putting on her cardboard flower crown, mounting the train, travelling with her very large transparent sack of drawing materials and personal items on train and bus through Oxford. Once at Brookes she requested help from others to help her dress for the work and then spent several hours kneeling drawing a pretty chalk "garden" on the ground. As the work progressed she applied colour to herself and drew around her feet as she "planted" herself in her temporary garden and read aloud a text describing her own much loved and now lost garden. Scrawling the word FÀILTE on a piece of cardboard box, meaning 'welcome' in Irish Gaelic, the language of her forebears and one she does not speak, she then invited people into her garden to sing with her "Oh Danny Boy", a song much loved by the Irish diaspora. The artist's mother and her family were forced to migrate from Ireland to England in the twenties during the troubles and she grew up hearing this song sung often. Once done the artist packed up her materials in her sack and asked strangers to photograph her on bus and train, as she bought coffee at the rail station as she travelled back to her lodgings.
The work employed strategies the artist often uses : of inviting strangers to help her to document the work and explaining that they are participating in an art action; the request for people to physically assist her by helping her to dress, sometimes to add items that are needless such as a sticking plaster where there is no wound but to fulfil the request. The invitation to witness drawing happening in situ and the amalgam of drawing with action. The shift of persona from the conversational to the performative through the use of song and invitation to audience to participate.
Photography : Stu Allsopp and Clare Carswell