Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walking We Ask Questions - Sorcha Kenny & Live Collision, ABSOLUT Fringe 2012

Photograph by Emma Hannon
Part I: Sunday, 9th September 2012, Dublin

We meet in the Square, Temple Bar, Sunday morning, early, early enough, actually it's twelve o clock, but that day, it was early for me.
I arrive, coffee in hand and meet my Mother, waiting patiently making new friends. 

We begin with a silent protest, facilitated by artist James O'hAodhaholding blank white placards, we walk together through the streets of Dublin, through this our city, through lane ways and side streets, through walk ways and across roads passing gardai who don't interfere, who don't seem to even notice us.  We walk together silently, holding a non prescribed sign, the space to think what our individual protest might be, should we choose to fill in the blanks, and yet we are together, collectively, a new community on the streets of Dublin on this fresh Sunday morning.

Walking together, thinking as individuals, the space for both.

We continue to the open door of artist Michelle Brown's home, there's tea brewing (coffee too), food on the table and quickly a queue for the toilet!  She opens her home to us, this new community, who are embarking on a seven hour adventure through the city together.  We are talking again, we speak together of the initial phase, the responses we met with, the questions in people's eyes as we passed, the questions articulated that we answered with gesture.

I leave this home with a challenge, and a partner to complete it with.  A set of instructions, dense in detail, turn right at the gate and take ten steps...continuing the journey through the city as a 2 year old child would, swinging around lamp-posts, stopping to look at dog excrement, squashing my face against a bus stop, hugging a stranger, feeling the bumps on the pavement beneath my feet, skipping.  Skipping was my favorite part.  Walking through the city is forever changed for me.

We wait inside the entrance of St. Patrick's Park for the rest of the two year olds to catch up, and we talk of our experience, laugh at ourselves within the challenge, and there's a sense of fun and adventure, and excitement at what is yet to come.  Gathered together in a public space, there's discussion of the physical challenges too, the tired legs, but we walk on, now lead by our host, Sorcha Kenny towards Kilmainham.

Across the road and under the arch, off Patrick Street, an amazing surprise, a choir of voices greet us, and we stand together around the walls and watch and listen, smiling across at each other at this amazingly amazing event, they are singing under the arch, and passers by stop and wait and listen, cyclists dismount and listen with us too.  It's an awesome sound, the voices together in a walk through space, the voices raised in praise of their own God, but we can share in their sincerity, in the intention to worship as they feel.

Photograph from Growing up in the Liberties (Facebook)

We walk on, we walk faster because we're a little behind schedule and there are more artists, more surprises waiting to be encountered, waiting to unfold.  We walk and talk through Dublin 8, the Liberties, we stop in a square of houses, opposite where I went to secondary school, it used to be the Holy Faith, now the Liberties College and hear a poem. In Grey Square we stop at the statue of Jesus Christ and speak in solidarity with Pussy Riot, call and response, collectively raising our voices in support.

We continue, and arrive at the home of another artist, Lian Bell who opens her door and makes pots of tea, black and herbal, biscuits on plates, and another queue for the toilet.  I sit outside on the footpath opposite and watch the group, the choir, on bicycles, have joined us, small groups discuss while sipping tea, and I speak with the Blow magazine photographer who is documenting the day. 

And sitting there, I become aware of the amazingness of total strangers coming together and walking, just walking through this our city, together.  

And on, through Rialto, up the LUAS line, confronting the right to walk in public space, call and response, revolutionary lyrics, laughter, fun, walking veering towards marching.  To Kilmainham Gaol, a little late now to meet our next artist facilitator Megan Kennedy (Junk Ensemble) who guides us down the hill and into the Irish National War Memorial Park at Islandbridge.  She leads us running diagonally from tree to tree stretching out along the path, and its fun and frivolous and we are all doing it together, we the strangers who only met this morning, now engaged in a collective action of joy.

And here I had to leave the walk, reluctantly, and I watch the collective gathered walkers bounce from tree to tree off into the distance.  

A beautiful day, a beautiful experience, thank you Sorcha Kenny.

Part IISaturday, 15th September 2012: Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2

Today is about talking about walking, and the relationship to the city.  Sorcha Kenny & Live Collision have invited a series of speakers to present lectures and performance lectures inspired by this project and this quotation by art activist John Jordan:

The greatest medium is the present. As Joseph Beuys said, “Don’t wait to begin, use what you have.” Start where you are at. Hell, you’ve already started. What are the tools and tendencies around you? Inside you, beside you? You could start with your own body. It’s the eco-system you know best, the source of most of your knowledge and dreams. The art of social movements has often begun with collective bodily performances as its first, most abundant resource.

The speakers are: 

Nigel Rolfe (via skype) - Performance Artist and Visiting Professor in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in London; David Landy - Assistant Professor on the MPhil in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict, Trinity College Dublin; 
Owen O'Doherty - PIVOT Dublin, a Dublin City Council initiative devised and co-ordinated by Dublin City Architects; 
Laurence Davis - Lecturer in Government at University College Cork, Ireland, a Series Editor of the Contemporary Anarchist Studies book series published by Continuum Press, and a founding member of the Anarchist Studies Network, he has written numerous articles and book chapters on anarchist and utopian political thought, democratic and revolutionary theory and practice, and the politics of art, work, and love; and me, presenting the very beginnings of this project HERE & NOW.

It's a fascinating afternoon, talking about protest, about finding ways to make protest engaging, about the lack of protest in Ireland and finding alternative means to do so that would engage the people, later the discussion raises the issue of why we as a nation don't protest more and the problem of who you stand behind, who represents you, or if we can find a way to protest collectively but as individuals, and I am reminded of the silent white placard protest of the Sunday before 
 facilitated by artist James O'hAodha.  I learn about the city, the mapping of this our city across the decades and learn one of my new favorite facts, that the best way to work with the maps and track the development of the city over time was to use the paths created by the people walking, these were the constants, even the underground rivers changed course.  And I am struck forever by the image of Nigel Rolfe lying in the bog at the very centre, the actual centre of Ireland, for a whole day he lay there, beautiful.
I'm honored and delighted to be asked to present the very beginnings of HERE & NOW at this event, it's a simple performance lecture and you can see it here, the beginnings, once again, thank you Sorcha Kenny.

Part II of Walking We Ask Questions will be podcast next week on the website:  

HERE & NOW (beginnings)

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