2010 has been a busy, watershed year for the Trojan Amanda Coogan, leading Irish performance artist of her generation. At home in Dublin, she inscribed Performance Art definitively onto the mainstream map of Irish Culture by staging “Yellow, Re-Performed” in the Dublin Theatre Festival. Soon after, “Right Here, Right Now”, a Live Performance Festival at Kilmainham Gaol seeped into the National Psyche via a spot on RTE’s Nine O’Clock News (not to mention the over-subscribed event itself). She also had snails sliming all over her in “Snails, after Alice Maher” up at Irish Museum of Modern Art earlier this year.
Meanwhile, out on the cutting edge of the international Art scene, Amanda was cast in Robert Wilson’s “The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic”, to premiere at Manchester International Festival 2011. Sharing her journey – from Wilson’s “isometrics”, to the discovery of massage a la Willem Dafoe – Amanda sent 16 daily postcards home from Wilson’s initial Madrid rehearsals in September. Here we diarise them in a series of five very exclusive VULGO posts:
I’m a performance artist and have worked with Marina Abramovic consistently over the past ten years, an exciting and often exhilarating process of discovery and learning. As a consequence I find myself cast as an actor in the biography of Abramovic directed by Robert Wilson for the Manchester International Festival, 2011. In September 2010 the cast and crew met in Madrid for Stage A of the process, a three week workshop. I sent postcards home on the process.
The rehearsal space is a full stage; Proscenium arch with a beautiful Cyc. The playing area is marked off with white tape into rectangles, A,B,C,D down the front and 1,2,3,4, 5 along the edge. This is a full dress rehearsal theatre, the only difference between this and an actual theatre is that there’s no auditorium!
Hellos, welcomes and introductions proceed. There must be 50 people in the room, I’m not sure yet who are actors, production team and creative team. It’s 30 degrees heat in Madrid and it looks like we’ll be holed up in a black box every day. This will be an adventure!
Yours in darkened love, A
Bob tells us that everything on stage should be in motion. The movement cannot start in the mind, only in the muscle. Your body should always be in motion.
The stage is broken into rectangles according to stage left, right upstage and down stage and numbered 1-5 along the side and A-D on the front and back. All our movements are directed along these lines, either to follow the straight lines or to cut them diagonally.
He goes through endless lighting cues and music choices for scenes. We have to sit in silence as he does this. I’m looking longingly for a glympse of daylight out of this black box, and dream of the sun’s rays.
Yours in Motion, A
Bob mentioned to me today that my movement had to be more isometric – I haven’t heard of that word before. I think I’m too fluid as a sign language user. In this scene we are making gestures that basically mean I have a big nose and I’m sad in Irish Sign Language. I’m possibly thinking of them too concretely. So now I’m trying to think about tension and ‘swimming in mud’, as I move; and attempting to also remember to smile and grimace on the beats, as directed; and getting it all messed up! ‘ Too naturalistic Amanda’ he shouts through the microphone at me. Humpf, it’s far from the Abbey stage this performer was reared!
Sure it’s all good! A
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The following postcards will be posted next Friday 24th December.
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The Life and Death of Marina Abramović
9 – 16 July 2011 The Lowry, Manchester.
Manchester International Festival and Teatro Real Madrid present the world premiere of a startling new piece for the stage: The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, a biography of the godmother of performance art, re-imagined by visionary director Robert Wilson.
Robert Wilson Concept, Director, Designer , Marina Abramović Co-creator , Antony Composer and music curator, William Basinski Composer and music curator , Jacques Reynaud Costume Designer, Ann-Christin Rommen Associate Director, Wolfgang Wiens Dramaturg , AJ Weissbard Lighting Designer, Annick Lavallée-Benny Set Design Assistant, Julia von Leliwa Costume Design Assistant, Thomas Hescott Assistant Director
Performers: Marina Abramović, Ivan Civic, Amanda Coogan, Willem Dafoe, Andrew Gilchrist, Antony, Elke Luyten, Christopher Nell, Kira O’Reilly, Antony Rizzi, Carlos Soto, Svetlana Spajic, Svetlana Spajic Group (Minja Nikolic, Zorana Bantic and Dragana Tomic)
Coogan’s solo performance was reperformed by six artists for the Dublin Theatre Festival, 2010. A woman dressed in a large yellow dress, continuously washing her enormous skirt in a bucket of soap water over 4 hours, to the intermittent strains of a piano composition by Franz Schubert, examining the frail and yet indomitable nature of human spirit; survival and rebirth.