Performance Art in Ireland: A history

Áine Phillips, ed 2015 Performance Art in Ireland: A history Pub Live Art Development Agency & Intellect Pub. London page 249


Pauline Cummins and Frances Mezzetti… have worked closely for the last 15 years. In 2009 they began a series of investigations into the performance of gender in public space through a project called Walking in the Way. The collaboration draws out their individual interests in the social, political, and historical aspects of site and how the site as source can expose the characteristic of social relations in a particular location. Walking in the Way has been performed in Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, London, Derry, Istanbul, Madrid, Seville and Malaga. In each site the artists carry out meticulous research into the area to identify specific actions and locations from which to work. They dress as men in order to infiltrate the world of men. They were not hiding and were therefore not in disguise, but instead they embodied men, donning men’s clothes, applying facial hair, and exploring their own relationship to maleness. This allowed them to investigate their gendered position in public space. From simple acts like leaning on a bin in the street, standing around and loitering in the city, the artists were finding actions, behaviours and gestures that allowed them to understand positions which they, as women, were unable to access. This sense of possession, of ownership of a domain by virtue of one’s sex is clearly visible as they blend into their surroundings. No comment is passed. There are no side glances. Even when their actions take on a more surreal character, there is still a sense of belonging, of permission to carry out strange activities and rituals like marking out boundaries in chalk (Dublin), carrying large oversized objects (Seville), doing a traditional Irish dance in the middle of the street (Madrid). Much has been written about the position of women in the city from the nineteenth century onwards and what is striking in this work – made in contemporary society – is that belonging and possession of the public spaces is still particularly male. Michel De Certeau in his essay Walking in the City writes of Foucault’s analysis of the structures of power, of the ‘“minor instrumentalists” capable, merely by their organisation of “details “, of transforming a human multiplicity into a disciplinary society…[of] secretly structuring the conditions of social life.’ Mezzetti and Cummins draw out these minor details in their work. They blend into the fabric of the city, to investigate and highlight the social differences that still exist in how we occupy or inhabit the city.

(pp. 249, 250. Michelle Browne)

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