Townhall Cavan Arts Space promise to bring colour, art, and imagination to the streets of Cavan this month with its ‘What If?’ Performance Art Weekend, running from May 19-20.
Featuring performance artists from Belfast, and Dublin, as well as local talent, and the cutting-edge Gonzo Theatre Company, ‘What If?’ will re-imagine the way we look, sense and experience the world and our environment, transforming the streets of Cavan Town and Townhall Cavan Arts Space into a haven of possibility.
Artists participating are Christoff Gillen, Áine Phillips, Sinéad O’Donnell, erstwhile Townhallian Sally O’Dowd and Hugh O’Donnell, while renowned Cavan artist Laura O’Connor will take part in a live Skype performance from a yet-to-be-announced international venue.
The ambitious event is curated by Siobhan Harton and Joe Keenan, and theatre director Philip Doherty.
Sitting upstairs in the Townhall Joe begins reading out a lengthy definition of performance art from Wikipaedia. The all embracing definition basically rules everything in and nothing out.
“That’s giving you a pretty wide scope,” says Joe delighted by the ambiguity. “It’s one of those things that when you see it, you know it’s happening.”
Joe explains that it’s the intensity the artist brings to the work that is the telltale sign of performance art.
“They are totally involved and are usually not connected with the audience at all – they are doing their thing,” said Joe.
“They are in the zone,” adds Siobhan, who explains that “bringing art to the public” is one of the group’s key objectives.
The Celt wonders that often the public feel excluded from this type of art because they don’t feel that they possess the key to unlock the meaning behind the performace.
“There is no key, there might be a lock, but there’s no key,” he says with a good natured laugh. “The great thing is, you can totally ignore it. Buskers are on the street, you can walk straight by them and ignore them completely or you can stop and listen and throw them in a few bob.
“These are performers, you can enjoy them, not enjoy them – it’s not going to cost them anything!”
This isn’t the first time that Siobhan and Joe, have brought performance artists to Cavan before under the TransArt banner. The performance which lives most with Joe was that of Chrissie Cadman, and her response to the St Clare’s orphanage which ran a laundry, and ultimately was the site of a blaze costing scores of young lives. Dresssed in “big red, old style knickerbockers” Chrissie filled a huge bin with water and suds and cleaned clothes on the street, close to the site of the old convent.
“She started washing these clothes, taking them out on the street,” recalled Joe. “Eventually she was soaking, the street was soaking, there were suds all around the place, there was a huge crowd around her.”
Siobhan explains that one of the driving forces behind the festival is to bring art to the streets, and specifically to people who may not normally interact with the arts. She adds that from experience, Cavan audiences are very welcoming of street performances.
Cavan people receive performance artists really well – that’s coming from the performance artists... they get a better reaction from the public in Cavan than they would have in other pparts of the country.”
“We’re a strange lot,” Joe chips in.
The weekend also marks the return of the Gonzo Theatre with its new performance, ‘Night One: Red’ opening the festival on Friday, May 19, and continuing on May 20. Writer/director Philip Doherty has created an exciting, innovative new theatre experience, all inspired by the colour red. (See p38 for interview).
The ‘What If?’ Performance Art Weekend is funded by Cavan County Council and the Creative Ireland Programme.