HELENA WALSHE, Right Here, Right Now, Kilmainham Gaol, November 4, 2010. Photo: Joseph Carr.

Although a collective effort, ‘Right Here, Right Now’ was very much about individuality, and the complex characteristics that form the make-up of individualism outside the controlled parameters of civilised behaviour. If we view performance art as uncivilised—within the context of the strict parameters of civility—then the prison represents the control of the spectacle, while the artists represent the subsequent liberation from a high ‘locus of control‘. An obvious philosophical sidetrack would be to discuss Michel Foucault's philosophy of power and the institution in the context of Kilmainham Gaol, but perhaps it would be more ‘left-field’ to refer to gender and the prison, something that Foucault ignored.


The prison, generally speaking, is a male institution of sweat and testosterone. While performance art is stereotypically, a woman’s game. So, there already existed something incongruous and resonant in the presence of artists of the female persuasion that was missing from the male artists. Although there is a certain “maleness“ connected to the general idea of a prison, Kilmainham Gaol has a feminine aspect in the curved architecture of the East Wing. This was constructed with that civilised Victorian sensibility and belief that the prison was a space of reform rather than torment.


As a viewer and critic I thought it impractical and unfair to the artists involved to do a complete overview of all twenty performances. To separate the performances into individually closed expressions, however, caused further difficulty due to the looseness of some of the performances that crossed-over, coming into eyeshot against the more static works.


It was with thoughts on gender that I gravitated towards one specific quadrant of the goal, where Helena Walshe and Sinead McCann were situated. Walshe was one of the roamers, while McCann fabricated a series of controlled parameters in the form of a ladder, table and winding path of lemons. Walshe was dressed in an improvised carb of cloth and close pegs, a certain kind of modesty pervaded the performance. She held, what looked like a newborn infant, fabricated from a ‘onesie‘ filled with washing powder; a ritual which was reenacted over and over again throughout the four hour duration of the performance. Walshe’s performance was a somewhat cliched representation of a lobotomised domestic goddess, caught in an incessant loop of routine, pacing back-and-forth, from cell to open floor space. In a sense she was caught in a ritual loop, every now and again stopping before a baby-blue basin of water to dunk the cloth-baby signifier; which on closer inspection was numbered. The strong smell of Walshe’s washing powder pervaded the immediate area where her performance took place: visual symbolism was overpowered by an olfactory stink. Combined with McCann’s lemons, the nose started to twitch, while other performers, dependent on the viewer’s gaze, fell foul of a more ghostly descriptors.

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DECEMBER_2010_


A Post-Patriotic Performance


HELENA WALSHE, SINEAD MCCANN, ALEX CONWAY_Right Here, Right Now Kilmainham Gaol_November 4_2010.

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