BACKWARD performance series

Extract from ‘Circa’ online reviews.

Slavka Sverakova and Sinéad O’Donnell: A story of performance 2008.

“In Co. Cavan as part of the Cavan Arts Festival, organised by Joe Keenan and curated by Beyond, after I arrived, I sat for an hour behind Brian Connolly’s market stall and decided that I needed red ribbon (I had brought ribbons in mixed colours and textures). He had a roll in his bag and gave it to me. The red ribbons were for threading of my tied-back hair and contrasted with the large red balloon that I had stuffed up my black full-of-holes jumper. I intended it as a reference to pregnancy and the current state of the abortion laws in Ireland, the suppression of women, and an action that referenced the ages of gender silence and violence that we are still dealing with. I continued this in Israel.

(…) I started to walk slowly backward along the streets of the Nachlaot community, Jerusalem. As I was doing this, I threaded cut red ribbons into my tied-back hair; the amount of ribbons determined the duration. I began to make this backward walking action in Serbia in 2007, then in Cavan, Ireland in 2008. Each performance was always in the direction of being backward, the actions changed according to how I felt about the place and sometimes whatever I had in my pockets or suitcase. Backward project is about two things, one: to give or slow down time, to take in things, to look, to watch, to trust, to feel balance coming, get back into your body; and two: it’s a way of dealing with being dyslexic in a physical way. As a sideline these days, I am researching what is disability in performance art. A question of site was the departure, the market or the street. To be in the market, it was my feeling, that my actions had to be loud because the space was always jam-packed. I wasn’t interested in the dynamics of the market. Usually I am, but after the bus centre in Tel Aviv, I needed some time to reflect, a wee bit of calm. I chose the streets of the local area, quiet, not so many people moving around. The feeling that people were around on the inside of walls of little houses was what attracted me. I found it difficult to get my head around the territory; where do the religion and tradition meet the street? In some parts women could not be there unless they were fully covered; the streets were not marked, I did not understand the writing on the notices. Living in Northern Ireland for so long conditioned my experiencing these streets; it was not until this experience that I realized how much I mapped daily life through visuals of political territory.It was also something that I had to learn very quickly when I moved to Belfast from Dublin in 1995. In Jerusalem, the Bostonian performance artist Marilyn Arsem defined the borders for me. Dressed like a Bedouin, she pushed a wheelbarrow, with a hole in the bottom of it, filled to the brim with soil, through the streets; she left a trail. And as I was walking backwards, threading cut red ribbons into my tied-back hair, I could look down and see the mark of her line where she had been before me. I worked for two hours. Then I stopped.”