Suzanne Walsh review of FIX13

It is the first night of Fix Festival 13 and artists and attendees are gathered in a pub, unaware that the day’s events are not quite over. The pub is full, but not uncomfortably so.

I find myself in a conversation in which I’m trying to explain the difference between stage and ritual magic to a fellow drinker, who believes that there is no essential difference between them, seeing them both as a kind of trick. Although not an expert on either, my attempts to argue for their difference are made all the more difficult by the clouds of Lynx deodorant that hang in the air. This intoxicating scent, unleashed upon the mostly unsuspecting pub audience, is the work of David Fagan, and refers to the copious use of the deodorant used by teenage boys to attract a partner. The paradox of masking ones’ own scent in order to attract others, is that attraction is the recognition of another’s singularity, whereas the masking of individual scent means all are rendered the same, in that tense tribal sense of the teenager. The other pub-goers, one imagines, mutter amongst themselves at the strong stench, while simultaneously being carried back to teenage discos of youth.

Another unsuspecting audience might have dreamed, on the four o’ clock bus from Belfast to Larne, heads against the cold glass of the bus window, until continuous flashes of individuals wearing red and white hats invades their consciousness. One, and then more, in a series of co-incidental appearances in a performance orchestrated by Sighle Bhreathnach-Cashell. Even on the liminal roadworks of the motorway, where the fresh clay lies peeled back waiting for the new road to be laid, heads in the seats in front of mine whip back at the sight of these unexpected doppelgangers haunting the verges. The conclusions this captive audience comes to in the privacy of their own minds, or as they talk amongst themselves, we will never know.

The conversation in the bar continues, with my fellow conversationalist and I still trying to differentiate the two forms of magic, stage and ritual, to conclude this disagreement in a way that is satisfactory to both. She reveals that she comes from a non-religious background, and therefore sees any kind of belief system, or inner practice as a trick, rendering stage magic and the ritual kind all alike. However, there still remains, to my mind, an essential difference.

There is also a difference in insulting an enemy with a clever putdown in the heat of the moment, and providing a favourite putdown at the invitation of Janks Archieve, who are making a worldwide collection. Visitors to the project struggle at first to call one to mind, a putdown is not usually on the tip of the tongue until the moment it’s needed for deployment, however given a little time, they eventually warm to the task, providing many colourful examples – Your Ma’s your Da! Is there no mirrors in your house?

Time and space, and the co-ordinates of both, are both essential components of magic, both stage and ritual, and they both require transformation of different kinds, whether through illusion or through inner practices. Music is transformed in Phil Hession’s performance, where he etches phrases of singing with a special record-cutting lathe, taking theses fragments, and along with visuals, loops them until the fragments of his own voice repeat with those of others singing an old ballad, ‘And she went over her father’s hall and she heard the dead bell ringing,’ creating a new aural dimension that reverberates through the space, time caught inside time.

Space, cold utilised spaces transformed by activity of Charlotte Bosanquet and Colm Clarke, in an unused swimming pool, the sound of boxers skipping hisses like rain, their sweat contributing some small liquid to that chalky place. And space, a gusty elemental day pulling at the edges of a car-park, marked subtly by a series of small acts, and at the end, white paint flying off the artist’s outstretched hands.

Time, in the belly of the gallery it unfolds, in the shadowy half-light of Amanda Coogan’s performance, hands move under vast swathes of fabric, cutting holes to poke through until she emerges to full height, to make mysterious signs to the slowed down bellow of Beethoven. Here is also time defined in Triple AAA’s obsessive shredding of accumulated documents from their own past, or the length of time an obsessive fan, performed by Nora Jacob, can scream at solitary audience members, thrust into momentary fame.

Back in the pub conversation, under the heady scent of Lynx, a satisfactory conclusion is reached at last; the difference lies in the intention of the practitioner – the stage magican intends to entertain an audience through the power of their illusions, while the ritual magician, whatever ones own beliefs, is intent on an inner path of power and knowledge.

Knowledge as revealed by Tonya McMullan’s secretive stories, told in almost whispers in a small castle replica within the Disney store, with shop security leaning in, a story that reveals structures within structures, of power and politics within the Disney Kingdom. A different kind of knowledge is imparted in Mitch Conlon’s pub parade, one that draws in both willing, banner-carrying participants with casual pubgoers in a celebration of wild pub nights out and their grim aftermaths, ‘Time is Only a Human Construct’, a surreal and carnivalesque journey through anecdotes and the city.

Like stage magic, Live art prefers a live audience, even an unknowing one, and can also entertain, as those who felt the wet slap of spaghetti during FoodFight 3# will contest, in that wild Bacchanalian feast of excess and forgetting. However Live art is also the slow unfolding of the artist’s practice in real-time, in this way it is both stage magic and ritual magic’s intentions crossed, it is both performative and the artist’s inner practice of exploration all at once.

It is many things, it is a branch balanced precariously on a head, fish hanging like thoughts. It is white sugar spilling from stockings. Forgetting is like opening a bird cage. It’s anecdotes from a wild parade celebrating drink culture through streets, through pubs, a performance based on the kind of anecdotes from those nights when conversations unfold in stuffy bars with a whiff of Lynx and the loud murmuring of voices that make one have to raise ones’ voice a little to be heard.

– Suzanne Walsh 2013

Debbie Guinnane wrtier in residence | Text/images of performances by Rob Ireson, Amanda Coogan, and Essi Kaulsalainen

The Drowned Giants

(artists featured in review are Rob Ireson, Amanda Coogan, and Essi Kaulsalainen).

We met inside (the) Catalyst, greeted by a man dressed in a white boiler suit, with a light that blinked at us from the centre of his heart. He smiled and made us welcome, inviting each of us to dress in a similar white boiler suit to his own, and requested that we insert our inter-being, our inner light beneath the fibrous tissue like fabric as we zipped ourselves up. Our day clothes, including our coats remained worn underneath. Because of this my body morphed into an uncomfortable bulk, making me question my size and width, feeling cumbersome and awkward we walked outside, following his lead. We walked on together following him while he pulled along a large metal steel container. He introduced us to his ideas on public and private space, offering up potential situations where we might occupy a site and induce a situation of change, from the external place to our internal other.

When we reached the site, just located around the corner, he unpacked his container, pulling out yards of strong plastic- the colour of silicone, and released it onto the ground. The site we had arrived at, was a derelict road, seemingly unused or in the useful sense almost meaningless. There was a derelict shop beside us with windows I wouldn’t notice until long later when their glass iridescent body became like a Big Brother frame or the glass mirrored windows one expects from an interrogation room. The site remarkably remained unmemorable until it became closed off from me. Highlighting my complete lack of awareness, although, I was consciously working hard to pay attention to the situation. He continued to talk to us, generously offering us symbols and meanings for us to use to interpret his intention. Speaking of the concepts he was researching, divulging secrets that belonged to the performance. I listened in interest, accepting his words as truth, eating up their metaphors and symbolism, relishing in the scientific sounds and curves of the organs they were yet to produce, adding the layers up as they began to sculpt into an entity of their own.

Then the plastic sheet grew, and we entered through a ring on the ground. As air began to blow inside, the body of the organ expanded and we watched and waited. Seven women there we stood, and one man in isolation. A little while into the situation, two outsiders who happened to pass by on the street adjacent, joined us, making that eight women and two men refracting time in a cocoon.

While reflecting on my return journey home from Belfast to Dublin, I sat on the bus looking out the window, I saw a sign, it read: “Without Christ, no hope”

And I thought of the potentiality of my time in the blimp, and the questions that arouse in the desiring will of the imagination: Was this it? Was this the end? Did others survive? The book The Road, by Cormac McCarthy drove on in my mind, and I visualised the cannibalism, the carcasses, and the mutilated human remains. The complete anarchy, and butchery. The skin of the ballooning plastic, as it walled its way around us surrounding us on all sides, curling its way outwards, enlarged itself through means of consumption, breathing both the air and us in. In one long swallowing gulp. The mouth of the orifice we sat within, not tempted to think of the beholding body of the event. As our experience of the performance was resting on the nature of its being- whole, engulfing, transporting and circumstantially pending, a wolfing-down by some unknown appetite. We sat, walked, talked and explored the orbit, the hallow body of the gun, that would destroy us yet. Our spirits remained high, lightly elated by the alien experience. I saw the sky line fill out and two moons appear. A cage hard, with geometric lines, acted like a barricade of the moon, its form encasing the light into a prison of the artifice’s surmise. This may be the reason for our end of time.

I feel like the prophesy was living while we all failed to notice it. The woman in the green lagoon was a warning. With the alien mouth, the green monster, linear horizons of sight standing on planes that unearth an internal chaos- and the puny human beneath, with the external object of calm. The calm, an immortality. The foundation becomes the architecture, and the calm resides in the death of the becoming. “I wondered how it’d be like when I died, what it’d be like to know this breath now was the last one you was ever gonna draw…. ‘Cause that’s where it’s hidden – the immortality I hadn’t seen.” The place resembled that of limbo, that dead place of nothing. Only facades and structures, tricks of light, and games of hide and seek. A mutiny of nothing, a shallow pool of artifice. But with limber limbs and so many mouths to feed, she turned from a squirming subterranean thing into a foul goddess, or the imitation of one. Hands sprung out to communicate back in, what words failed to impress upon me, were lead out in whispers of tangents strung up in a flair of fingers gestating signs, symbols, spells awaiting for an alchemy to posit and take hold. My back and backside both resting against the coldness of the concrete floor and walls felt repelled through the cold and the uncharged air. But moments of beauty, yet- were to be captured and witnessed, in the lining of the material, the playing of light against the fabric and the folds, the blond hair and slender body, and delicate precision of lines that drew her lips up into a series of pouts and wide-mouthed expressions. The sounds that played from the iPod that sat down the back on top of the speakers, drove home the feelings of a deep-sea exploration, humming, and calls like sirens from whales reverberated through the still, stoney, space. We were given a dramatic spectacle and shown the underbelly of the performance, which lead to the fragmenting of the experience, from one of atmospheric intensity to a hallowed out tale of extraterrestrial occupancy.

The other woman who I wrote onto the opening pages of Jean Paul Sartre’s Nausea, played with love and what it is to love the ordinary that we consume in our quest for distraction. Her face rubbed along the leaves, green and sharp, pricking her chin along its edges, in a most welcome gesture her harmony reached the tree, animal and warm. Holding, holding it up, this pink body with chipped green rim. Short rough bark, and bright green wisps of sleeves. Motions were carried on the black chair on wheels, toes pointing out and down, tap-tap pause, tap, pause, tap-tap, hold, steady, tap, tap, tap, tap, hold- steady.

Heavy. I remember her sharp pointy tongue, licking, and circling around the pillar, following its lines, as I followed hers, falling into a trance, moving in circle with her. I watched the line of her mouth reach out through the triangular silhouette, as it moved forward, faltered, and finally reached its target. My mind fixed on finding the right language to decipher it, following her patterns into a rhythm that followed and fell into her own. Each new pod was repeated in its journey, but the actions were to change, many moments of caress and care, touching, and holding onto the fabric of the material as if it was someone close to her, someone dear. Wet lines were drawn marking her inwards, drawing an outline of the time it took to reach her and fall in. Meditations and repetitions began to form in my mind, my voice sung in my head, falling over letters, reigning punctuations in. My patterns resembled hers, each word was happy to die and be repeated. English became none, we together created a new language, that was formed through our mutual dialogue, although I acted as a vacuum on her, sucking her actions in, I proceeded to internalise the edifice, I became a cannibal, but my appetite was wide eyed worship, using words I began to feel the material through them, justifying her lick to the pillar with the repetition of cold, cold, cold, cold….. I want to sacrifice all and face death and be consumed by its by product, as it lives and breathes through me.

These are the words I inscribed upon the page:

Images are: Essi Kaulsalainen inscribed onto the book Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre.

Charlotte Bosanquet: Full Duration of Performance as Opened to the Public: 10:09:13 | Debbie Guinnane, FIX13, Belfast.

Performative-writing based texts by Debbie Guinnane


Images by Debbie Guinnane

Amanda Coogan: 15:33 – 15:58: 10:09:13 | Debbie Guinnane, FIX13, Belfast

Performative-writing based texts by Debbie Guinnane

Photos by Debbie Guinnane

Debbie Guinnane – Writer in Residence | FIX13 | Wednesday 4th | Thursday 5th of September | Artists: Seamus A. Bradley, Janks Archive, & Mitch Conlon

0037TeXt 1.

Performative writing – that upon which, one’s words follow one’s gaze. An action that is proceeding with the thought of mutual gain, a polygamous relationship between performer, performance, site, space (as interpreted through the perception of both time and light) and witness, towards which literary style remains undeQined. The degrees of experience are up in arms against the literary cohesion that attests to follow. Guernica versus the critical text. The backwards glance and the pillar of salt. Words rest their laurels on the blarney stone. Much of the emotional content is left aside to wilt and dry, like the cannibal meat drying on the bench from the lifeboat of Pi. I consent to my assurance that the words I use, demonstrate with accurate gullibility, my (in)ability to withdraw substantial amounts of information from the performance – data collecting like tax inspectors on a marching-high good day- to archive, in sizeable quality a document that can attest for the event, recently deceased. Do I write in the process of performance or perform in the process of writing? I am a sculptor, whose practice revolves between improvisational practice and content orientated strategies, an indecisive and easily corruptible map-maker. How might I, artist, act as critic, and vice versa? (How does a simple “comma” create such vibrant intonations in ones mind?) “[improvisation is] constitute by the very weave of the moment, place and circumstance of enunciation.”* Count down to nought. Reduce, reduce, reduce. Find the highest frequency of content and subtract it by one, n – 1- the rhizome. Enter Deleuze and Guattari….

I Qind profundity in the rhetoric, I hear quips from tongues, resting their laurels on the corpse of the academic text (but this corpse-of course! can sometimes have the quality of a burgeoning Qlower “Et le ciel regardait la carcasse superbe Comme une 4leur s’éspanouir” **). Let the extremes inform the means, take the words at their full meaning- rounded off syllables that jump from the tongue- I see his actions and emotions as homogenous and bearing fruit- to fall….. but with some broken down platters, many oversized, or cracked, holds out for one, and misses. But we’ve different appetites, even our saliva smells different.

For Seamus A. Bradley (Open Platform):

Shadows reQlect light, that close doors and re-enter. That shift and quiver, a large capital red “M” becomes attached to a wall, that is white, bricked and thick. The volume of outside trafQic reverberates through here. My ears are Qilled to the brim of outdoor noise and in-house hallows. Shortly follows a capital “N” then an “A”, and magic! a man appears. This illusion is indecisively dated, as he already stands here, suited up before me, in tandem with this spell-check. Much more carries on in the way of spelling- “MAN”, “SUPERMAN”. And then the artist undresses, and stands tight in navy blue knickers worn over loose grey boxing shorts. A dialogue from the MAN himself ensues with his SUPERMAN- and all I can thing of is Shaw and the play I failed to read. The performance carries on through a delivery that acted as an echo of his heart beat. Elements were extracted from boxes, and slights exposed through self-conscious poses. His voice continued to elevate beat after beat after beat.

Dear Janks Archive:

Flat, back of the seats, with the heads of them bent low, cowered, thickened, chins in, they leaned forward over the car seat’s bottoms. I hear “a face melted welly”. Great visuals, no? “Your moma’s so fat, I slapped her thigh and rode the wave!” Such a small, small room, you got hunchback ‘roaches where you live.

But can you translate? That’s too racist. Whose on the run, boy? Johnny? No, only a rabbit. East Belfast’s got a lot of craicers, I tell ya. A big fat bull dog stands squarely in the middle of the path, two hind legs spread. Facing us on, I hear a young girl spin her grandmother’s yarn – “you look like a bull dog who swallowed a bee.”

…….ah, how you know?! Sure, we’re only slagging, like.

I can see that!

It’s not meant at you, I swear.

But it’s meant “for my sister! When she was born, she was so ugly, the midwife slapped my mother!”

“your so old, you fart dust.”

ahh but sure “your so stupid, you’ve to study for your blood test”.

So tell me, look directly into the camera. Inserts microphone on the fabric encircling the neck, whats your line? Hide your face in money? “Your as cheerful as a mass card”. It rained while we swallowed.

By the fear Mitch Conlon:

With pink tees “how’s it going?” and Max with “the schlong on ya!” (what’s a schlong?

I’ll tell ya, you’ve got one, I don’t).

Mitch Conlon

We meet at Catalyst, all of us roped into wearing a tee, pink, soft, fabric with neat black text. I ended up carrying a sign of Buckfast (‘cus it gets you fucked fast), and each had their own pride of place in the formation of his hollering brigade. I got put beside the large piece of shit that was meant to represent a block of hash, she was lucky there wasn’t a schmell off of her.

[My notes say one tee-shirt read: “Drinking is for thinking” and I think the artist himself would be proud to note, I’m sculling a Hurrican for good measure, as I type. Where the fuck is Ballyhoura region, Ireland? At 7 percent, sure, this text shall be mighty!]

“Go on Sligo, for the SAM!” The Conlon roars, and an old binge drinking buddy of mine from my blushing, bushing years, crows on alongside. I hear names of Galwegian holes and mongrel dirt roads, and a scatological account of acts of resuscitation.

Keep that arrow pointing to SLIGEACH! That darn shell of a place.

“Where’s SPAR?”

We walk, hail, honk and follow. We pass a crew of Qire Qighters, yellow dressed men, in their dungarees, and a red truck standing to attention. Boys run alongside, in bold chase. Holding court down the back of our group. A double decker bus rides by, blowing his horn in tandem to our Qist waving, tail gating parade. Conlon is ROARING mad, he’s got some pipes on him! ” I love you Davey” strongly croons on.

Arriving at The SunFlower Inn, I got busted for my impatience, and wondered where the hell was the rest? Conlon jumps on top of the bar stool and wails, a sonic memory of debauched inebriety. Sodom crapulence at its tail.

* Seth Itinerant Improvisations 147 (Live Art Development Agency)
** Une Charogne de Charles Baudelaire.

Writer:  Debbie Guinnane

Debbie Guinnane | Writer in Residence | FIX13 | Open Platform | Wednesday 4th September


Artist: Seamus A. Bradley

TExt A.

shadow reflection light shift quiver red M capital A capital N equally capital “MAN” stick only white walls brick, hand left inside salmon tinted folder , jacket off hook purple lining navy blue shirt black hat glasses black pants suit shoes hair long and curly red glasses of insert into pocket walk right sounds of sticking lower read upwards palm down tie off navy + red hanging wall hook body slouched rise stand fingers pry at two red letters an upside down E R MAN backwards an E before shirt buttons undone shirt off tattoo television woman’s torso shoulders bones brackets freckle dots SUP before the EMAN unbuttoning lower pull over shoes struggle fabric crouch crouch down navy knickers over grey cheque boxers an & is placed suit pants hooked legs sideway man in knickers wipe white dust stand quiver scratch pull hair hat on gel the thing no point as happened goings on what? Whatever change sides yea hat on so I suppose thing thing fingers twitch hat off I see am m rub face find beginning change sides find beginning scope find the end so when do it begin what sides whatever you write hand right life sides arm sore die die write in between ah theres narrower over yes hat up something fabricated sides fabrication happened self know will end romance road trip change car no driving lessons side girls invention fabrication no invention avoid self-referential hands clasped tongue lick invent then? Good at? Looks up sides sides hat hands rub right something writing something inventive writing as happens maybe change know being inventive invention optimised hat I see problem as it happens miss it what goings on right superman man identify anything ok well you’d have to find the beginning identify the whole so when does it begin what whatever it was life wait a minute hey walks out nervous? Steps performance Belfast talk here not religious or anything new Seamus Heaney shit nice couple nice scratching hands clutching right elbow inside focus something you thing favourite thing talk about lips touch finger least favourite be involved in moment pressure favourite feel alive least favourite thing not sure whats your fav thing not being sure of being alive being disappointed least fav thing knowing I tried knowing I failed favourite thing Nazis bends down picks up black SLR camera holds dusty outside really kind off fakely nostalgic holds up takes picture holds seaside pose smiles sea things smiles looks over fathers camera old photos most typical bends to writer house car something (self conscience) one day sister home aboard zoom present recently blind smile while stall head hand hold bend lower panoramic landscapes Jordan turns seascapes profile photo of photo catch heavy flight perspective tree crisp fire points composed completely stalled associated loneliness longing isolated things blind opens back stretches out film negative packs bag in closes lid. Down E

Writer: Debbie Guinnane

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