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Timeline of performance art
BRIAN CONNOLLY

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Regarding my first performance, as far as I can remember it was part of a Cabaret Night organized by Anne Seagrave in Mother Redcaps Bar in the Liberties area within Dublin. But first I need to put things into context. Not long before that, in 1991, I had organized 'Available Resources' in Derry with Alastair Mac Lennan, Brian Kennedy, and Nick Stewart, via the Orchard Gallery. It was my first direct experience of a range of International Performance Artist's work, including works by Tomas Ruller, Zygmund PioTrowski, Artur Tajber, Alastair Mac Lennan, Richard Martel, Nick Stewart, Alana O'Kelly and James King.

It was a strong experience for me both as an organizer and witness, and I still have fond memories of these artists and their works. These influences provoked me to think more about my own art practice (i.e. installation art and public art processes), as well as the audience perception of art practice within public contexts. I was considering how art processes could be viewed as potential artwork, or where artwork processes could overlap into the arena of ritual, symbolic action, or layered meaning. I started to think of some of my former artworks as potentially close to Performance Art or at least potentially related to aspects of Performance Art, but I was not clear about how to move these ideas forward at that time! I was also very scared to step from the relatively safe position of the 'doer' and 'maker', into the position of 'performer', as I am sure is the same for many Performance Artists!

After my time working in Derry it was not long until I moved to Dublin where I continued to work for a few years. While in Dublin, I became more involved with the Sculptors Society of Ireland and co-initiated a spin-off organization called Random Access. Random Access organized a series of projects, which broadened out the idea of sculptural activities in Ireland, including time-based events. One of these events was curated by Anne Seagrave, who developed a series of regular Performance Cabaret Nights in Mother Redcaps Bar. Anne persuaded me to try something out for one of these nights.

Creating my first performance experiment was a very exciting experience, but as an artwork, a complete overloaded mess! I was trying about five ideas in one work, so in a sense it was a kind of experimental vomit! At one point I was crawling under the audience with a minor's lamp on my head, shocking and disturbing them as I moved secretly through the venue. This aspect of the performance I greatly enjoyed and I should probably have left it that, however, at another time I was interacting with imagery and objects in a tiny dark storeroom mostly on my own, with my mind running away with me! That is about as much as I can remember of my first performance action.

In a sense this action or performance experiment broke the ice for me. I was able to take the step from the 'artist as producer of an externalized artwork', to the 'artist as part of the artwork'. This beforehand, had seemed so far away, but in fact was very close to what I had already been doing within my former Installation work, much of which had been created in public.

As result of this initial performance experiment I started to create a series of site-specific performance works, the first of these occurred within Poland. I created a performance/Installation with Lukasz Guzek in QQ Gallery in Krakow, and performances with Wladyslaw Kazmierczak both in the Baltic Art Gallery (Ustka, Poland) during the 1st Irish Days Project and within the Castle of Imagination in Bytow (Poland).

As my ideas and experience grew, with vital help from artists such as Alastair Mac Lennan, I started to develop a new strand of Performance Art called 'Install-action' and a series of works around the thematic title of 'History Lesson'. I also developed a spin off performance art strategy aimed directly at public audiences which I call the 'Market Stall Performance'. I continue to work with all of these strategies today, along with other open and site responsive artworks and group performances.


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