The wonderful Annemarie Ni Churreain agreed to share some of her thoughts on the 2014 experimental art project “Epigraphing Rathmines“. Please have a look at my previous post for further details, and visit Annemarie’s website (cargocollective.com/annemarienichurreain) to learn more about her work!
Annemarie’s text below (and have a look at some samples from her work on this project below the text):
Epigraphing Rathmines allowed me to explore my thoughts on beginnings, endings and audience responses to my work, within an appropriate space i.e. in an experimental environment, and with the support of a curator and professional collaborators.
For this project I agreed to sit with individual members of the public at Rathmines Library and
- Begin a line of poetry/piece of text (in response to our experience of sitting together)
- Within a limited time-frame, end the line of poetry/piece of text and share it with participants and my collaborator
- Witness responses to the work in an intimate setting
Dialogue with curator Moran and visual artist Steven evolved mostly over Skype and email. This meant that from the beginning, I was challenged to relate in more ways than one – using intuition, editing, and observing silences and pauses. It occurred to me that collaboration using technology brings with its own scope for playfulness and experimentation. It was apt to the spirit of the collaboration that as a group we met only on the day of the actual project. The sense of tension and mystery added depth to my engagement with the public.
Dialogue with Participants
As an entry point to conversation, during individual sittings, I asked each participant about their name. I observed how each person responded frankly to a direct question and shared intimate, personal detail. I also noted how I was not asked to share my stories or anecdotes and that people saw me clearly in the role of listener. I believe the library setting added greatly to the nature and clarity of the stories I heard, as the environment itself is conducive to ‘being heard’. I began each piece of writing only when I felt certain that the participant trusted the process, and brought it to a close intuitively (based also on the participant’s body-language, level of comfort, level of distraction etc). The duration of time I spent on each piece of writing correlated directly to how ‘present’ to the situation each participant was able to stay. It gave me great pleasure to observe how each person reacted to their ‘epigraph’. Some people expressed a desire to read it privately, some people re-read it several times and expressed gratitude, one person left his printed epigraph behind. It was unexpected to me that some people interpreted my epigraph as a having in it a ‘hidden’ meaning or a ‘special’ message that only we understood.
During this project I drew upon my basic poetry tools; observation, trust and silence, to combat the tension and fear around engaging with the public and producing spontaneous pieces of text. In both my writing, and my engagement with participants, I was challenged to take responsibility for decision-making. Towards the end of the day, and with the last few participants, I found it difficult to offer the same level of attention and emotional connection. I felt that the most meaningful conversations and texts produced came in the middle of the day, once a routine had been established, but before tiredness and distraction set in. I later reflected on this learning for my own private practice.
I learned a lot from the opportunity to collaborate with Moran. Initially I had only a basic understanding of a curator’s role but developed a keen appreciation for the value and integrity of a curator’s work. On this project, the curator paid special attention to finding artistic solutions, enabling meaningful dialogue between collaborators and ensuring that practical arrangements around the project were put in place. It inspired in me an interest to work again with a curator and to investigate further the collaboration possibilities between curators and writers.
Annemarie Ni Churreain (Annemarie’s web space: cargocollective.com/annemarienichurreain)