Logo The Directory of Artists Banner

Follow LivingGallery on Twitter

Timeline of performance art


My performance life began as a child growing up in an emotionally intense family locus caring for a severely brain damaged brother with extreme physical and medical demands as part of intimate domestic life. During the 1970's and 80's I witnessed the extreme (often abusive) conditions helpless non-abled people lived in psychiatric institutions in Ireland and the UK. I also saw acts and behaviour I judged 'normal', that others would consider 'mad' and I found that mad is normal and normal mad. I began to perform in school plays, and discovered the expansion of subjectivity consequential of performing. I saw Marina Abramovic and Ulay's "The Kiss" at the age of 17 and I understood suddenly that eloquent, framed (performed) behaviour could be art and I began making performance art in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin from 1984 until the present day.

Another potent influence for me was being inculcated into Catholicism as a child. The ceremonies, simultaneously opulent and visceral along with incantation and symbolic gestures inflamed me with desire to become a priest and perform these conceptualised rituals! I realized as a female this was not permissible but I now create alternative rituals laden with the meanings and ideas I think of as vital, philosophical and intended to benefit life, others and my culture.

As an art student in the 1980's, the first performance I made was to camera collaborating with Gearoid Dolan (aka ScreaMachine) satirizing Catholicism and patriarchal Ireland. I was influenced by artists and teachers Alanna O'Kelly and Pauline Cummins who inspired my critical feminist ideals and who still influence me. Anne Seagrave and Nigel Rolfe also taught me, their aesthetics and methods still resonate in my work.

In my early twenties, I traveled to Galway to work with Macnas, a street theatre and community arts company. For seven years I served an apprenticeship in performance skills and collaborative community arts practice. The company's work was orientated towards visual and performative spectacle, but with political satire and cultural commentary driving the projects we made. I left in 1995 to focus on solo performance. I completed an MA supervised by Sean Taylor who instructed me "to make work about self and experience". His words envisioned the autobiographical focus of all my mature work and some years later I completed a PhD in autobiographical performance practice creating a text that explored its history and a body of work that entangled the personal with the political and was performed internationally and published as a documentational DVD.

Engaging with the Live Art Development Agency and its remarkable director Lois Keidan was one of the most important events of my performance life. Lois Keidan curated my work into the National Review of Live Art in the UK, at Glasgow's Arches in 2001 and since then my work has been commissioned, supported and presented internationally. My relationship with LADA opened up my artistic future and my understanding of the full creative potential of my work.

Since 1999 I am head of sculpture at the Burren College of Art in the west of Ireland. I teach performance and sculpture on graduate and post graduate courses. It is a small community of contemporary artists and students supporting and critiquing, enabling and promoting process oriented practice in a rural context. I have also curated live art and performance festivals and events, which has built my networks and provided insights into how performance functions in the art world. I also believe in the principle of helping young artists as I have been helped by others so much in my career. I write critical reviews and articles for journals and books on performance and live art. This helps me develop my knowledge, discernment and vision of performance, along with teaching and curating, providing objectivity that allows me to constantly learn and develop my art form.

My performances continue to address issues of social satire, excavating the role of church and state control in Ireland, the role of the personal in relation to the political (the singular in relation to the mutual) and specifically - institutional abuse, feminism and female experience, madness, love and 'the violence of identity' (Amartya Sen) in the re-creation and performing of alter-identities as an empowering possibility for all.

Chronology of my major performance works:
1985 "Madonna" a performative VHS video satirizing the hegemony of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the phenomena of congregations hallucinating moving statues. A collaboration with Gearoid Dolan aka screaMachine, made at the National College of Art & Design Dublin.

2000 "BVM at The Alternative Miss Ireland" performing an ironic personification of the 'Blessed virgin Mary' goddess where I declare a new matriarchal and humanist world order. Presented at the Olympia Theatre Dublin and Black Box Galway. "Immaculate Make-Over" was another goddess embodiment where I applied layers of cosmetics to my face and body over 4 hours, transforming into an abject art/beauty object or living sculpture. Shown at EVA Limerick and Arthouse Dublin.

2002 "Love & Longing" a staged performance with a spoken script, projected video and live actions exploring desire and love lost. Presented at the National Review of Live Art in the UK(NRLA), The Arches Glasgow.

2003 "Sex, Birth & Death" a staged performance involving the consumption of a baby-cake and the ejaculation of milk-streams from my breast, exploring concepts of maternal love and eroticism in response to the experience of abortion. Commissioned by the NRLA at The Arches Glasgow, also performed at Cleveland Public Theatre and Collective:Unconscious NYC and Cork Arts Club. 2005 "Red Wedding" a staged 90 minute ceremonial wedding where I marry the female and male aspects of self. Commissioned by Bodily Functions, The Granary, Cork and toured to Reception Space, London.

2006 "Red Weight" a site specific hour long performance where I drag 500 pieces of used red clothing sewn into a garment as a metaphor for the burdens we carry through life. Shown at The Hugh Lane Gallery Dublin and Project 06 with ENSO, Galway Promenade.

2007 "Harness" a staged performance with script, sound and video projection exploring the extreme disability of my brother. I wear a orthepedic harness based on one my infant daughter was compelled to wear from birth to 6 months. Created for Performing Rights (LADA) at Tanzquartier Vienna and Hotel Ballymun Dublin.

2007 "The Art of Love/War" a site specific work which re-creates Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" into a manual for love affairs. Shown at Mozovia Art Centre Warsaw, Exist 08 Brisbane Australia (2008), NRLA Glasgow (2009) and NON Bergen Norway (2011). 2010 "The Lost Runway" is a large scale collaboration with students and artists to create a live memorial for missing women using the format of a fashion show. Commissioned by "Louder than Bombs" (LADA) for Stanley Picker Gallery Kingston University London and Kyoto Seika University and Kyoto Arts Centre Japan.

2010 "Redress Series" site specific performances using sculptural garments, bleeding ink and a huge fish net to explore institutional abuse in Ireland especially in relation to girls and women incarcerated in 'Magdalen Laundries'. Presented at Right Here Right Now Kilmainham Gaol Dublin, Live@8 Cork, Limerick and Dublin (2011) Kilkenny Arts Festival (2012) and as part of "Labour" at ]PerformanceS P A C E[ London, The Void Derry and The Lab Dublin.

2013 "Spectral (lake of eggs)" a staged performance in which I speak of madness and freedom, practice escapology from a strait-jacket and recompose broken egg shells in collaboration with composer Trevor Knight shown at The Cube NUI Galway, Unit 1 and Project Arts Centre Dublin.

see photos