of the Trade Over Now: You Then, Me Now
Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney
Wellington House, Pollard St, Manchester
26th January 2006
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
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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