HERE, ARTIST EMILY AOIBHEANN AND HER COLLABORATOR LIING HEANEY, SHARE SOME OF THE MATERIALS AND IDEAS BEHIND SORRY GOLD, AN EXPERIMENTAL AERIAL PERFORMANCE PIECE FOR THE DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL.
[The Dream, from Adventures of Frog & Toad by Arnold Lobel]
Emily: One image pours into another. El Grec theatre in Barcelona, 2013? 2014? I can't remember now. Huge outdoor amphitheatre watching acrobats perform to the music of Debussy. Instead, I see a huge curtain of multiple parts, as tall as it is wide.
I carry the image with me for years.
[Toad's Dream Illustration]
//One conversation pours into another//
Emily: Illustrator Steve McCarthy and I meet to play with the images I have in my head. We talk at length and he sketches. His sketches become part of my ingredients, while our communication more broadly fires synapses in my brain, bridging partial knowledge and intuitive feeling.
[Katie draws a tarot card in her Granny's House, Ballybeg, County Wicklow 2019]
Emily: A haunting at the Courthouse. September 2018, Katie and I were working late at the Courthouse in Tinahely when there was an unnerving paranormal event. You can watch it in the stories on my Instagram. We spoke at length about what had happened, curious and amazed but also negotiating such a strange and unsettling experience, considering it from all sides. We created a system of looping, recording ourselves talking, listening back and writing down crucial words or summarising what emerged. I think often of Mark Fisher's work on Hauntology, the past haunting the present, the present haunting the future. In a recording I describe the haunting as "Evidence in Colour and Noise" and decide I want to make work like that.
Liing: This is one of the first images digitally created. It was before myself and Emily had discussed what Sorry Gold could become. Who knew the ghostlike silks would reference Emily's own haunting experience a few months later.
Emily: January 2019, I collaborate with aerial priestess Ariadna Vendelova to create the first Cat's Paw, Experimental Aerial Dance Meeting in Košice, Slovakia. There, again, I have an education in hidden communication, what we call the unconscious and how to listen to it, opening my Matyroshka layers. I emerge knowing something deeper about how to draw up from the well. The knowledge is slippy, like it could slip through my fingers and resubmerge at any moment.
// I emerge knowing something deeper about how to draw up from the well//
[Back Forth Multidirectional Recollection Communication System] Granny's House, January 2018
Emily: Back in Dublin, I urgently contact Steve McCarthy to put my intuitive theories to the test. It takes a long time to explain and he's too busy anyway. I store it partially away for now, but feel the potency dissolve. Struggle to create understanding around what I want to do and why is a theme that comes up repeatedly later in my process.
Emily: Hungary is full of Matryoshka dolls, each part of herself containing another, unknown, hidden self. I had one growing up. I bought this one in Budapest.
[Georgina in traditional Hungarian head dress]
Budapest, January 2019
Emily: Eva shows me her latest craft. A large macramé rectangle made of thick black suede strands, like a curtain, a portal. They don't know where to hang it because it feels imposing. We spend a snowy evening drawing on little cut up pages.
Emily: My curtain and all it contains is huge. Too big for right now. I imagine reaching inside my curtain to draw out a strand. I imagine a system of lines that is both robust and delicate. While I am working I realise I have drawn this before, the Back Forth Multidirectional Recollection Communication System which I drew for Katie and Liing in Granny's house when trying to explain the process of my thinking: remembering, forgetting, conscious and unconscious connectivity. The multiplicity of time.
Reading: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
[Everything must be touched]
Košice, January 2019
Emily: The monolith keeps turning up. A black rectangle or sometimes square. Every time it appears I feel completely amazed. After Košice I travel to Piliscsaba in Hungary to visit my friend Eva and meet her new daughter Irma Alma. Piliscaba is like the woods from Hansel and Gretel. There is something toy-like about the town, the houses could be made of sweets. Tall thin trees in snow, it is beautiful, dark, magical.
Reading: Soft Living Architecture by Rachel Armstrong
Emily: I love liberating the aerial fabric from their context and imagine the swathes of industrial underwear fabric I use for dancing as simple geometric lines in space. The theatre is a void, a black cube, the lines digital glitches or organic growth, compromising the container of ideas, breaching the physical boundaries of the building.
// The theatre is a void, a black cube, the lines digital glitches or organic growth //
Emily: I draw dozens of variations.
Liing: An image that Emily had sketched and wanted to digitise were these mounds of pink blobs huddled together and off to one side. The benefits of 3D software came to play here as they are unconstrained by physical limitations. The pulley system in this image is exact to the drawing and disregards the physical structure of the theatre space. The plan was to see it in its ideal position, and then refine to fit the rigging within Project Arts Centre.
Emily: Technically it is rigging a puzzle. Nobody understands and I keep forgetting how I arrived at this place. Visual Artist Liing Heaney begins the process of developing the design ideas specific to the Project Arts Centre Space Upstairs. She brings the visual concept to a new level of technical sophistication through digital design.
Liing: When developing this image, Emily had been looking at the work of Wassily Kandinsky. She was particularly interested in the fine lines of detail and sense of scale within his paintings. The idea for this layout was to isolate a small section of an image as if picking a thought from your brain, zoom in, and extract it into the real (digital) world. The angular lines were to force and distort perspective, with the smaller silks suggesting a puzzling sense of depth. A warmer and natural light was applied to this scene.
Reading: Entertainment and Ritual by Peter A. Bucknell
Liing: This is the image that we felt evoked the sense of cavernous scale we were hoping to achieve, with monolith included. The potential for rigging on the upper roof of the theatre through an open gantry was an exciting idea, but real world technical difficulties made this an unviable option. At this time, we were unsure whether we could anchor all the counter weights into the floor of Project Arts Centre, so we considered tie off points attached to metal beams on the wall. This
image is the ideal world.
[Drawing by Emily]
Liing: The digital recreation of stage lighting. During the development period in Project Arts Centre, this image came alive.
Reading: The End of Art by Donald Kuspit
ABOUT SORRY GOLD:
If aerial is the dance of industrial technology, what will the dance of biotechnology be? This new work reinvigorates performance as a living and speculative environmental form, counter to a culture of repetition and resurrection, holding fast to an idea that the future is possible, desirable and beautiful. This performance is part one of a twin-production project on the themes of civilisation and nature.
SORRY GOLD by Emily Aoibheann runs at Project Arts Centre as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival from the 18th - 21st September as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. You can book tickets here.