Anything to do with Gypsy Life or Culture. Image: Barby Asante.

 

Create asked bursary recipients Siobhan Clancy and Ciara McKeon to reflect on their participation in DIY10.

Siobhan Clancy: Response to DIY10

I was motivated to apply for the bursary offered by Create to attend DIY10 hosted by LADA (Live Art Development Association) when I learned that C.I.R.C.A. (Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army) evolved from a workshop facilitated by John Jordan, co-founder of the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination as part of this same programme years before. Recently most of my work has been orientated around a study on arts and activism, so for me, a programme that offered opportunities for revolutionary response to crisis through the arts was not one to be missed.

‘DIY To Gypsyland’ was the workshop I chose to attend facilitated by artist-curator team Delaine Le Bas and Barby Asante. Located between two sites at Lancaster University and Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, the diversity of culture and experience encountered amongst the participants stimulated a real curiosity around difference.
 
 This played out especially in explorations of identify and marginalized histories; both core concerns within the rich and varied practices of both facilitators. Much of our time in conversation and work, was spent examining our own subjectivities as material we bring to embodied practice such as performance, event-based or socially engaged practice. The workshop gave me a very valuable opportunity to confront my preconceptions in many areas, not least of all related gypsy, Irish Traveller and Roma life. I recognized that my ignorance is the by-product of the same project of exclusion from dominant narratives that Delaine challenges. Through her work, she is recovering artefacts of gypsy identity that are frequently misappropriated. Her practice looks at ways to respectfully commemorate a culture that is often maligned in mainstream media and institutional representation.

On re-reading my initial blog post (dated 2 September 2013), I realize I went with a romantic idea about nomadism as a practice of resistance and a site of sanctuary from hegemonic systems of organizing (and at times oppressing) societies. I didn’t consider how gypsy life is regulated by custom as much as any other social grouping. Nor did I realize the extent to which it is policed by external forces. I discovered a lot by talking with Delaine and learning from her recent reclamation work with Barby; lessons which took on a stark significance in light of the recent, horrific reports of Irish Gardaí removing children from their families in a fervour of racist reactionism. Delaine’s 2011 exhibition ‘Witch Hunt’ contextualizes this ongoing abuse within the political history of many other minority groups who have been similarly marginalized on the basis of gender, sexuality, creed, disability etc – all of which are areas in which I have situated my own work and research. I valued this experience for the opportunity to reflect on these associations and to broaden my network, not only in professional terms but also with regard to a deeper understanding of the links between constituencies I hope to engage on these issues through artistic modes.

I would certainly recommend other artists in Ireland to look into DIY11 as both a participant and potentially, as a facilitator. It is a worthwhile chance to play with ideas, meet imaginative like-minded people and practice critical reflexivity in a very inspiring forum. I think through our work, society might benefit from what we as artists can learn from one another; not least of all the creative means to query the institutionalized culture of misappropriation within our state, whether it manifests in cultural colonialism or child snatching.

DIY To Gypsyland is documented in more detail on http://diytogypsyland.blogspot.ie. Siobhán Clancy’s practice explores models of socialization that impact on individual wellbeing in contexts of health, disability, education and young people. Outcomes are disseminated online, presented as performance and embedded in event-based programmes to facilitate active engagement by the audience as participants. Clancy is currently researching the impact of the arts in pro-choice activism through the MA programme in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

Ciara McKeon: Response to DIY10

Look At The E(s)tate We’re In (LATEWI) was a three day mini summit organised by Jordan McKenzie for artists whose work centres around socially engaged practice, funded by the Live Art Development Agency as part of their DIY series – where artists run workshops for other artists. The focus of LATEWI was not on the production of artwork, rather it was designed for the discussion of issues related to working with communities and the intersections of art, politics and economics associated with social housing.

It was refreshing to have such an event in the organiser's flat – no ice breakers were necessary – though it was strange to hear mind-blowing, academic papers presented by PhD candidates in a cosy living room. DIY offers the opportunity to create a workshop that can truly take any form. They are designed by artists for artists and so I suspect that they are rarely run of the mill. It was wonderfully apt to hold LATEWI in Jordan's council estate flat, conversations about connection and participation could not have been more well placed than around the dining table.

The selection of presentations and activities was thoughtfully curated, considering issues of working with communities in social housing from many diverse perspectives. We heard from Katie Beswick, Lynne McCarthy and Dr Nic Rideout, who presented papers on the representation of council estates in live performance practices, critique on projects that intercept the domestic spaces of social housing and 'unburdened listening' or spectatorship as an important form of participation, respectively. We met with local residents of the Approach Estate including an architect who designed the nearby Bethnal Green 'Stairway to Heaven' memorial. Artists, Barby Asante, Bobby Lloyd and Michael Needham told us about some particularly interesting projects they have worked on in community contexts. The Tower Hamlets Housing and Social Engagement Officers candidly shared their experiences of working on the Approach Estate.

LATEWI also allowed space for the attending artists to reflect upon their own work and share their ideas. This fostered stimulating and memorable conversations, particularly around the notion of rights to representation and the ethics of socially engaged art. We asked whether and how arts practitioners should work with communities they are not part of, this was of particular interest as Jordan co-curates LUPA (Lock Up Performance Art) an artists' run performance platform, run from an old lock up garage on the Approach Estate. It was interesting to draw parallels and contrasts between LUPA and Unit 1, which I co-curate here in Dublin. Jordan being resident on the estate is central to LUPA's success. It was not brought to the community but came from a resident within the community. I wondered if the same model were possible in Dublin where renters' status is often unstable and precarious. LATEWI was a timely event and proved the worth of the DIY initiative by providing a unique and stimulating space to explore ideas around what is meant by socially engaged practice within this new era of economic collapse. Create's partnering with LADA on DIY is a promising venture which could provide much needed support for cross-disciplinary collaboration between socially engaged artists based in Ireland and the UK.

Ciara McKeon is a visual artist and curator whose practice focuses primarily though not exclusively on live performance. She has performed and exhibited nationally most recently at RUA RED, Centre for Creative Practices, SITEATION, The Avant Festival and LIVE@ 8. She is also a founder of Performance Art Network, which has presented exhibitions, masterclasses and festivals of live art in Dublin.

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