MARILYNLENNON

IoD (institute of dwelling)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research Archive

Awarded Arts Council of Ireland, 'Artist in the Community' Scheme, Research and Development fund 2018

 

Institute of Dwelling

 

The Institute of Dwelling was a year long artistic enquiry devised by artists Marilyn Lennon, Colette Lewis and Elinor Rivers. The enquiry investigated ideas of ‘dwelling’ and ‘being’, to excavate its ontology and foreground embodied knowledge and human agency within the current discourse around the construction of homes and dwellings in 21st century Ireland. In this period the public imagination has been colonised by a dominant narrative of housing provision.  The research practice endeavoured to problematise a market driven model of building or designing a home. Our enquiry opened up a critical space for encounter, dialogue and engagement with the collective imagination. 

 

As a tactic of enquiry the ‘construction worker’ aesthetic was appropriated and reconfigured as a ‘Dwelling Agent’ figure enacted by the three artists. The ‘Dwelling Agent’ figure subverted the construction worker aesthetic by appropriating and feminising the workwear, wearing red boiler suits and ‘magical’ headgear and using dwelling agent construction tools as performative objects. A series of public interventions were carried out as performative actions generated from vernacular and folk practices, playing with the landscape that lies between ritual and routine, the absurd and the sublime. These actions focused on the intelligence and sensitivities inherent in the body and functioned as playful entry points and devices to provoke and harness the collective imagination.  

 

 The artistic enquiry included a number of site specific, public performative actions and exhibits.

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Foundation Ritual, a ‘Health and Safety’ certification inspection. 

Performative action, Juergen Faulstich, Self-Builder, Cork, 2019 

 

As part of our enquiry we devised a ‘Foundation Ritual’ for a building project with a self-builder based in Cork city who was building a 25 meter square timber dwelling on his property. The foundation ritual was adapted from pan European and Asian ancient practices used in traditional architecture to invoke protection from the deities on a building project. These rituals can include careful selection and purification of a site, water divining for a well, laying of the foundation stone, front door orientation etc. The Dwelling Agents performed the action under the guise of a ‘Health and Safety’ certification inspection, in collaboration with the self-builder and included beating the boundaries of the site with branches of the birch tree, salting the boundaries of the house, clearing e-smog, etc. 

 

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Water Broadcasting Secret Stations, performative action, Skibbereen Arts Festival, 2019 

 

Water Broadcasting Secret Stations was a water divining and mapping performative action with the Dwelling Agents, devised as a public intervention and participation event in The Fairfield, Skibbereen, Co Cork.  Participation in the performative action was made through an open call as part of the Skibbereen Arts Festival in 2019. This work was developed after working with water diviners in West Cork and adapted from the vernacular and folk practices of water divining, traditionally used as a practical tool for locating a water source for a dwelling place. A diviner detects and locates the flow of underground water using divining rods, which move involuntarily and act as an antenna for the body’s response to sensing the flow of underground water. In Seamus Heaney’s words, this speculative act brings uncontrollable electric signals, ‘water suddenly broadcasting through a green aerial its secret station’

 

The event explored the intelligence and sensitivities inherent in the body by focusing on the body as an antenna, tuning into the earth’s invisible forces through divining and experimental mark making. Facilitated by the Dwelling Agents, participants learned to use metal divining rods, hazel rods and pendulums to locate underground water in a three hundred year old public market space. Findings were initially mapped through mark making using chalk and charcoal directly onto the ground and afterwards translated on to a large scale drawing on paper titled the ‘Fairfield Divining Map’. In this work, marginal embodied ways of experiencing the world re-emerged to open up playful and curious entry points to fuel the imaginary. 

 

Window Display: Water Broadcasting Secret Stations 

Ephemera including the Fairfield Divining Map, Dwelling Agents workwear and performative objects and tools were displayed as shop window dressing in two vacant commercial units in Skibbereen and Cork city. Here, the project used another strategy of subversion, playing on the tropes of shop window display.  We exhibited performative objects in a state of suspended utility, where they became objects to be looked at. However as performative objects, imbued with an aura of the magical power of water divination, through our public and participatory performances, the viewer was given the opportunity to imagine themselves as the performer of the power that the objects afford.

 

27 Bridge Street, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Skibbereen Arts Festival 2019

Hear - Podcast link - Interview with Luke Clancy for RTE Lyric FM’s Culture File

 

SPARE ROOM Art Architecture Activism, TSB Building, North Main Street,, Cork city, 2019. 

Curated by Eve Olney and Kate O’Shea, the exhibition theme was framed within the rationale of critiquing institutional complicity within different forms of precarious living conditions.  

 

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Learning Lab: Art, Cultural Democracy and the City, performative action, Create & Counterpoints Arts, St Peter’s Church, Cork, 2019

 

Dwelling Agents enacted a research action in response to an invitation and provocation to consider How might we imagine – from the perspective of 2019 – Cork city in 2050? Our provocation was to give attention to urban stimulus and to invisible infrastructures of the city by demonstrating the intelligence and sensitivities inherent in the body in response to invisible natural forces in a place. Using the practice of water divining to survey the space our intention was to make these invisible forces visible to a witnessing audience of civic actors, artists, residents, planners, small business people, activists and researchers. Divining was carried out by holding two L-shaped rods perpendicular to the ground in the hands of diviners while traversing a space until the rods indicated a water source was present underground.  A strong current of water running beneath the floor was detected causing the divining rods to move into a cross formation when passing over this invisible natural force. Here we proposed that unconscious peripheral perception is an undervalued human capacity and through ‘sensational cartography’ we can begin to understand and capture how we fully dwell in urban spaces in order to imagine future possibilities.

 

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Where Lies the Brazen Moon?, Sign(s) of the Times Billboard commission, Skibbereen Arts Festival, 2019 

 

Billboard Display: Where Lies the Brazen Moon?

 

Coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landings, as part of our ongoing enquiry we were commissioned by the Skibbereen Arts Festival to develop a new artwork for Sign(s) of the Times billboard project in Skibbereen Town. 

Peggy Diggs writes: “Billboard art often instigates a process, a questioning, or an argument about an issue or value that often goes unquestioned or unresolved in the public mind”. 

In this commission a billboard sized riddle was inserted into Skibbereen towns’ public space generating a different kind of dialogue between art and public.  The billboard instigated a process, a questioning or highlighting of the inherent ability of the human body to tune in and to sense its environment at a deep level. The public was challenged, over the course of one year ending in July 2020,  to use divining rods to find the location of a buried cast bronze moon, hidden in a secret location in Skibbereen Town. 

 

Divining is still widely practiced in West Cork today to locate reliable water supplies. Traditionally divining has also been used for finding lost objects, missing persons, minerals, diagnosing health conditions and orienting dwellings etc. While certain people have a particular gift for divining water, everyone has the potential to be able to divine. Divining packs and instructions for use are available from the Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre. 

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