Conscious of the Trade Over Now: You Then, Me Now

Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney
Wellington House, Pollard St, Manchester
26th January 2006

Reviewed by Lucia Sweeney

The live performance and installation by Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney at the Collective Exhibition was a macabre but provocative live art expression of the space and show. The performance was set around the site-specific installation of a Cotton Mill at Wellington House in Ancoats, Manchester.

The art created by Sweeney is an installation formed by cotton and polythene. Within this enclosure there is a live performance. The structure is to relate the history and life behind the mill in the foundations and edifice of this building and the history of the cotton industry. The installation is born from a white, sterile, metal box, layered by cotton and plastic. This is outstretched to form a sculptural synergy between spatiality of the building in its contemporary and historical context. This fusion between cultural object in this installation and artefact of the building re-animated with a heart pulsating in the centre of the labyrinth and white box. A live performance relative between the spatiality and temporality of the building and art created is emulated through the body.

On the opening night of the Collective, the art by Sweeney is glows intensely from the centre of the installation through the darkness of the exhibition space. The light radiates through the layers of cotton and plastic stretched upwards and outwards. The luminosity follows these strands as rays of light to the beams and structure of the mill. The audience explore this edifice, their eyes trailing the lines of light through the polythene and cotton to the centre brightness of the sculptural installation. When they peer within and focus past the brightness, there they observe the rawness of a heart, the blood of which has absorbed into the cotton it sits.

The performance opens with the artist standing next to the installation, their form almost absorbed by the fusion of light, which permeated all that surrounds it. The artist disrobes and starts to wrap her body in layers of polythene. She commences from her right ankles and wraps and wraps it around up her leg, then over her hips to trace the polythene down the other leg, back up to her mid rift and then continues to wrap her torso leading to her neck and arms. She then outstretches a mass of cotton material and places a section on her lap. There is a pig’s heart on the floor and she places this onto the cotton material. With a needles and thread she sews the heart to the fabric. This is a slow and arduous process, as the needle is forced through the muscle tissues of the heart and the pressure pushed into the cotton material which soaks the excess blood. Once completed, she stretches the materials to stands raising the material against her body. She continues to wrap her body with the fabric, but the heart resides against her own chest.

The performance is reversed and the cotton material removed, outstretched and placed across the floor. The plastic torn from her body, she dresses and leaves the space of the installation. This is where the performance ends. The articles produced during the performance, now become part of the installation, as if to impart another transition with the history of the building and the space of the cotton mill.

Sweeney is a performance artist and graduate of Liverpool John Moores University in 2002. She is currently on her doctorate and researching the body within contemporary arts, science and culture. Her art explores the temporality and spatiality of body politics within the postmodern environment and institutional structures. She has performed and exhibited in an array of international events, such as the Liverpool Biennial, Venice Biennial, Performance Art Festival (US), Hong Kong Biennial and Berlin Kunst Salon. Her art is strongly founded on the canon and philosophy within the context of live performance interventions, as well as considering new and innovative modes of expression modified through digital technology and optical engineering. Other projects and commissions have happened in London, New York, Paris, Copenhagen and many other places.

The Collective are a group of eight artists researched and selected by Irene Rukerebuka (Founder of Tifeldig Productions and Rant Magazine) from diverse professional and creative backgrounds and practices. They were each set the brief to respond to the building where the exhibition is held, which was primarily a Cotton Mill in Manchester.

The Collective of artists in the group are made up of Ailis Ni Riain, Bryony Bond, Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney, Hemanti Chauhan, John Deller, Jo Harrison, T C McCormack and Tony Knox.

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