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The artist would like to thank Richard Ashrowan, Valerie Connor, Pauline Cummins, Janice Hough, Alastair MacLennan, Susan MacWilliam, Frances Mezzetti and Dominic Thorpe.
Project Arts Centre presents
Dates: 29 Aug - 19 Oct
Show Time: 11am-7pm
Tickets: €0 (Free Admission)
Exhibition Opening on 29th August 6.30-8pm preceded by a conversation between Sandra Johnston, Susan MacWilliam and Richard Ashrowan (5.30–6.30pm).
Live performance by Sandra Johnston on 30 August starting at 5pm in the CUBE.
‘Why stasis as concept? Negative in one sense of being unable or unwilling to react to circumstances, but also a wry viewpoint of outliving immediate issues, a resilience to short-term thinking. Influenced in part by reflecting on my grandparents’ attitudes towards conflict and change, especially in light of three of them having developed Alzheimer’s late in life, waiting out the present through a slow regression into their past.’
~ Sandra Johnston
With newly commissioned video installations, this solo exhibition by Sandra Johnston grew out of conversations surrounding her time spent in Dublin during the late 1990s and a revisit of her archives from that time. As an emerging artist Johnston was resident at both IMMA and Arthouse, and participated in Project Arts Centre’s OFF Site programme, curated by Valerie Connor between 1998 and 1999. During that time, her performance work ‘Reserved’ took place over two consecutive nights on the rooftop of the former Ormond Hotel, with a video installation shown inside the building containing edited footage of her 24-hour performance.
Consisting of two main parts, Wait it Out negotiates personal and historical narratives in relation to the reverberation of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. The work reflects upon the indeterminate early days of the peace process and the climate of unease which motivated Johnston to relocate to Dublin in 1997. The central installation, That Apart, is an edit of a five-day consecutive filming process (in the gallery at Project and at IMMA) with Scottish moving-image artist Richard Ashrowan. During these sessions, Ashrowan recorded a series of singular actions and gestures, a flow of transitional moves that Johnston describes as an ‘autopsy of performative gestures’ extracted from various performance improvisations that have occurred in live contexts across her 27 years of practice. Performing directly for camera rather than an audience, a new potential emerges through focusing on how the actions can develop variations that possess a solitary, exacerbated relationship to the artist’s body.
Johnston and Ashrowan used the ostensibly stark structure of the gallery to construct a species of behaviour that is intensified by the height of the walls, the artificial light, the ventilated air and the vibrations of sounds that travel through the concrete floor from the street outside, with all acting as points of stimulus. The footage evidences the accumulation of wear and tear on the artist’s body, while the whiteness of the space remains implacable.
Negotiating physical gestures that subvert or repurpose the use of things, Johnston utilises domestic objects as well as objects that speak more explicitly to the urban terrorism of Northern Ireland. This sparse and precise use of gestures takes further Johnston’s ongoing interest in art processes as a means to test provisionality and attrition, using objects in ways that speak to their common usage, while also bringing forward introspective moments that actuate hidden languages of memory.
The collaboration with Ashrowan involved responsiveness, trust and patience in the creation of footage that is neither a straightforward performance document, nor a narrated film work. It is instead an intermediary experiment, where volatility and stasis contribute to the fragmentation of the working process, forcing it away from clean, conceptual resolution.
The filming reveals a number of idiosyncrasies in relation to its own process. The way in which the camera often fails to capture the physicality of movements which would have been evident to audiences in a live context, is contrasted by its ability to lend movements on a micro scale a heightened visuality. These contradictions between filmmaking and performance art were purposefully focused on and worked through within the filming and editing process.
Overprint is a constellation of videos hosted in the gallery’s black box. It includes edited documentation of one of Johnston’s street performances from Belfast during the 2000s, alongside two alternating projections of UTV news clips that chart the rise and decline of The Peace People, a movement that began in 1976 as a protest against the ongoing violence in Northern Ireland. The performance video includes extracts from an interview Johnston conducted in 2004 with Peace People leader Mairead Corrigan Maguire, as part of her continuing research enquiry into reconciliation processes. This video also echoes and is interrupted by a 1976 interview between Corrigan Maguire and political commentator David Dunseith, broadcast on the occasion of Corrigan Maguire’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. The interlinking of the various footages necessitates a revision and nuanced understanding of the significance of this woman-led organisation, and its education of people across the country in non-violent methods and a radically different approach to conflict resolution.
Wait it Out draws together new video works that have evolved from the artist’s own archive of performative actions. They are positioned here in ways that offer a potential for cross-referencing with specific historical events and residues that have significantly shaped the standpoints conveyed within the actions. Sandra Johnston and Richard Ashrowan renewed their collaborative experimentation, which began in 2009 and also involves performance artist Alastair MacLennan. Previously, they have developed two film projects in the Scottish Borders region near Hawick. The first resulted in Alchemist (2010, 30 mins, 2 channels) and a second experimental film is currently in production.
Wait it Out was commissioned and produced by Project Arts Centre, Dublin with support from the Irish Museum of Modern Art Production Residency and the Arts Department, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
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Image Credits Sandra Johnston/Richard Ashrowan That Apart, two-channel HD video projection (production still), 2019 Courtesy the artists.
Courtesy the artists. Commissioned and produced by Project Arts Centre, Dublin with support from the Irish Museum of Modern Art Production Residency and Arts Department, Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Thyne, UK.
Sandra Johnston is a visual artist from Northern Ireland active internationally since 1992, working predominantly in the areas of site-responsive performance and installation. Her actions have often involved exploring the aftermath of trauma through developing acts of commemoration as forms of testimony and empathetic encounter. She has held various teaching and research posts and currently is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the Northumbria University, Newcastle. Her practice-based investigation into issues of ‘trauma of place’ were extended as a PhD project entitled – Beyond Reasonable Doubt: An Investigation of Doubt, Risk and Testimony Through Performance Art Processes in Relation to Systems of Legal Justice published in 2013 with LIT (Berlin). She has been a co-founder and committee member of various artist-run collectives in Belfast, notably: CATALYST ARTS and BBEYOND. Some of her most recent performances and projects include: Here-to-Here, Notwithstanding, Fierce Festival 2019, Birmingham, UK (upcoming); The Biennial of Curitiba and p.ARTE Festival 2019 – Curitiba, Southern Brazil (upcoming); Asiatopia 20th Performance Festival, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Bangkok, Thailand (2018), Live Action 13, Gothenburg, Sweden (2018), Minimal, Poor, Present, as part of Glasgow International 2018, Scotland (2018), We Shout and Shout, But No One Listens: Art from Conflict Zones, CAMP/ Center for Art on Migration Politics, Copenhagen, Denmark (2017), Rise Up: Ending Racism, Poverty and War, part of Freedom City Newcastle upon Tyne, England (2017), Future Histories, Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin (2016), Border Crossings, SASA Gallery, Adelaide, Australia (2016), Lay Allude, with Alastair MacLennan, Bòlit Museum, Girona, Spain (2016), Tangible Live, EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland (2015), VIVA! Art Action, Montréal, Canada (2015).
Performance workshops solo, or with Alastair MacLennan: Diàleg Obert / Teatre El Musical, Valencia, Spain (2019); Interval °9 eXtended, Oberhausen, Germany (2017), Days of Performance Art in lviv, Ukraine (2015 & 2017), CREATurE Festival, Kaunas, Lithuania (2016).
Dr Richard Ashrowan is a moving image artist and independent film curator. He works with video and 16mm film, creating short single channel films, immersive video installations and live multi-projector performance experiments. His works are exhibited at film festivals, galleries and artist spaces around the world. He was the founder and Creative Director of Alchemy Film & Arts in Scotland from 2010 to 2019 and was curator for Scotland + Venice at the Venice Art Biennale 2017. He was awarded a PhD in 2016 (Edinburgh College of Art / Edinburgh University) for his practice-based research on ‘Alchemical Catoptrics of the Moving Image’. He has contributed to numerous festival and artistic juries, delivers talks and workshops, and was lead facilitator for Alchemy Film & Arts tutored residency programmes in 2017 and 2018. He is an active member of the Moving Image Makers Collective. His work is concerned with light and luminosity, referring to the language of early light metaphysics and alchemical processes in methodology and content. His research has included an exploration of the use of light by alchemists from the 12th to the 18th centuries, examining their experimental methodology (alchemical catoptrics), diagrammatical structures and early pre-scientific philosophies of light. These historical antecedents often inform the content and structuring principals of his films, which are substantively concerned with notions of transformation. Landscape and place, coupled with a personal sense of deep presence, often form the starting point for his visual material. His most recent film production include: Lumen (2018, 3m), Substitute (2018, 7m) and Index (2018, 3m).
Susan MacWilliam is an artist working with video, photography and installation. Through anecdote, reconstruction and detailed editing her works explore forms of portraiture and interpretation, and provide a historical visual record of cases within the history of parapsychology and psychical research. The works consider the world of the paranormal, the supersensory and the tradition of psychical research. With an interest in that which is on the periphery of the mainstream and which falls beyond conventional fields of science and psychology MacWilliam has developed an extensive body of work, exploring a range of phenomena including dermo optical perception, table tilting, psychic abilities and mediumship.
Her most recent solo exhibitions include The Telepaths, The Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 2019 and the extensive touring of her survey show Susan MacWilliam: Modern Experiments, West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen; Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; F.E. McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge; Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda (2016-2017).
Commissioned and produced by Project Arts Centre, Dublin with support from the Irish Museum of Modern Art Production Residency and the Arts Department, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Thyne, UK.
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