Live Art in Ireland
The emergence of work designated as “live art” marks a time of profound change in Irish society that has been accompanied by a growing commitment to presence and “liveness” in performance practices. This chapter examines live art practices in Ireland since 2000 through the work of four Irish practitioners: Amanda Coogan, Dominic Thorpe, Áine Phillips and Aideen Barry. These artists have been making work in a time strongly influenced by immigration, the economic boom and crash, and the revelation of pervasive and systemic abuse of both children and adults in Irish institutions. Their work creates immersive encounters in which the spectator is no longer a detached observer in a darkened auditorium but is repositioned as participant or witness to the experience of the body in the space with them.
Amanda Coogan’s durational performances stage the materiality of the female body—her spit, urine, pain, blood, her desire, her exclusion—and the efforts to contain or bleach this out. Coogan’s performances remember those absences and elisions in Irish cultural memory, such as abuses in the Magdalene Laundries and state institutions, and stage the competing discourses around women’s bodies. The site-responsive works of Dominic Thorpe and Áine Phillips situate spectators in the counter-spaces of twentieth-century Ireland, state institutions, industrial schools and Laundries, where the most vulnerable citizens were detained. Their work questions the ethics of looking, witnessing, remembering, forgetting and redress. Aideen Barry’s quirky performances interrogate the domestic spaces of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Like Coogan, her women, trapped in their suburban homes, continue to engage in durational acts of scrubbing and cleaning.
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