'Free as a bird'? - A discussion about artistic freedom and censorship, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast, May 2014.


Sinéad O’Donnell – Recent works and Research. Text guide– art & censorship ‘index’. 3.05.14. Rough draft plan for discussion.


1. Working with Poshya Kakil & Darya Kamil.


I received an 'Unlimited' commission enabling and funding 'CAUTION' project to happen showcasing as part of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The project was made over a two-year period and invited 5 international artists to collaborate on shared themes of ‘invisible disability’ and ‘identity’. I spent two weeks or more depending on the ideas and production of those ideas with each artist in their country or selected location. The final exhibition of work was exhibited with the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast and the South Bank Centre, London. A thread of my process was becoming more aware of the different boundaries culturally, socially, politically and spiritually for the women I encountered. Using these experiences as a material in the completed art works mirroring the conditioning and freedom’s of women around the world.


In Kurdistan Iraq I worked with Poshya Kakil, her family and artist friends. I asked Poshya what she would like to work on and she then drove me an isolated forest on the Iran / Iraq river border. At opposite sides of a river we wove green and red ropes together making a temporary tapestry. This piece was entitled ‘ the border of women’. In this same period we made more work in the city of Erbil and made an action with Darya Kamil. The artists explained to me that they wished to make a performance requesting the stop of violence against woman in Iraq. We improvised with a piece of glass writing with lipstick in English and Kurdish and Arabic feelings of false promises and requests for the violence to stop. The lipstick smugged as we carried the glass our faces becoming obsecured by the reddy pink lipstick. It is through this project that I became more aware of the constraints that other woman / artists where working under and around and how to make art in these circumstances and what did that mean?.


2. Japanese Nude.


In Japan I became fascinated with the submissiveness of female form and presence in Japanese art and life. I created this piece ‘Japanese Nude’ as a final photographic work expressing my feelings towards and for Japanese women.


3. Working with Paul Couillard.


Waves of freedom and non-freedom passed through me and what is freedom. In Toronto it is legal for both men and women to wander topless in Ontario, Canada. I walked with collaborative artist Paul Couillard topless through the city of Toronto for a duration of two hours.


4. The work of UTO Gusztav.


I developed my understanding performance practice in Transylvania, Romania from 2004 by researching the history of art actions during the communist regime. Mentored by Dr. UTO Gusztav performance artist and teacher and a book written about this period in art by Ileana Pintilie. I relocated my life and practice through art in residence at the ETNA foundation. It was through this experience that I gained access to performance art histories through the archives of UTO Gustav. A network of artists that before 89’ made work in secret, to camera or to a small group of trusted friends. If caught the consequence being subjected to the pestering of the ‘securitate’ banning all unofficial art. This piece entitled "Ajutor / Segítség / Hilfe" was made in secret in 1987 - UTO lay down on the floor under a blanket with a small group of friends watching. He said he tried to connect with the space, with his body, to feel who he is. The duration was 1 hour. Photo - Baász Imre.


5. The work of Vasan Sitthiket.


Thai artist Vasan Sitthiket a painter, poet, and performance artist who's multimedia works respond to nature, sexuality, and economic and social problems in Thailand and around the world. While Vasan was on residency at ‘Dawang highland’, Zhenshen, China in 2012, his paintings made as an outcome of the residency were officially banned in China. The doors of the gallery where glued shut with a paper notice issuing a statement from the cultural division 2012 stating closure was due to a tornado warning. The paintings depicting Putin in an electric chair wearing a striped prison uniform and the other depicting all the Chinese leaders heads being born from a Vagina.


6. ‘Gao Brothers’ based in Beijing, China.


Established in 1985 the brothers art works have been extensively exhibited in Europe and U.S.A. In China their work is very much present at their gallery space and studio in the 798 Art District in Beijng. The brother’s work is subject to censorship on a continual basis having only produced 1 public show at Ai Weiwei's space that is inside China. This sculpture is entitled ‘Mao’s Guilt’ a life size bronze, 2009. Mao is on his knees as a supplicant, confessing; his body language and facial expression indicate deep remorse. The head of this life-size bronze statue separates from the body.


7. Performance Photograph a collaboration with Manual Vason.


''The location of the ‘double exposure’ is ‘Flax Street Barriers’ in North Belfast, Northern Ireland. A number barrier of versions appearing there since 1969 in the form of British army occupied space, barbed wire, chicanes, and dragon’s
teeth. In the late 1980’s the 1st barrier wall was erected on the Crumlin road side and the second was erected on the Ardoyne side in 2001. The area in-between these closed wall barriers became an unseen no-man’s land until 2012 when local community arts and activist group ‘draw down the walls’ gained permission to cut a door into each metal wall opening up the space. The communities on each side of the peace line now accessible and visible to each other in a different way other than conflict. I gained access to this space to create an image with photographer Manual Vason. I wanted to make an image that represented how I felt about living so close to this harsh reality of walls and barriers. The ‘double exposure’ image mirrors the double sided identification of life in Belfast and what has come to be known as interface area in Belfast.''





 'Free as a Bird' discussion images
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