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The multiscreen installation (A)IFREANN (2018) was my debut choreographed performance video, and a considerable learning curve in my academic practice, indebted to the poignant performances by the three women artists seen in the video.

My work concerns a faux Irish folklore, inspired by the absurdity behind modern Irish history. Using drawing and video-works, I allude to modern historical subjects like the Dirty Protest and the Magdalene Laundries in my own invented hybrid mythological cycles, entitled ‘Aifreann’ (Mass) and ‘Ifreann’ (Hell).

Aifreann and Ifreann mimic early and middle Irish epic sagas, describing parallel stories about the ‘clean’ and the ‘filthy’. The ‘clean’ myths invoke the laundries, baptisms and septic tanks, while the ‘filthy’ myths inhabit the H block, mass graves and peat bogs.

I struggled with the female figure, not the anatomy, but the identity. I felt conflicted about commenting on or portraying the feminine, and its devoted socio-historical subject matter.

In my own work, I used the female figure less abstractly than the male, I also didn’t want to entertain the male gaze. But the conflict of interest then enters where I am exploring raw, primal, sexualized subject matter with the masculine/archaic/filthy and theatrical entities, but wouldn’t (or at least hadn’t) treat the female figure the same way, or with as much consideration.

Does elaborating on abstracting the female figure (identity and/or body) inadvertently support a patriarchal sensibility? This experiment was an attempt to resolve my interrogation of concepts of purity/oppression/sexuality/gender/responsibility etc through the lens of a myth-making practice concerning the politics of the female figure/identity/body in both contemporary and historic Ireland. 

The durational, molasses slow pacing, bleached colour palette quality of the video is designed to cooperate with or respond to my more classical, measured and rational drawings on the same subject. I decided to challenge voyeurism and threaten my own cowardly, and inherently condescending approach. The three women speak to me of the Fates, the Graeae, the Morrigan, or Shakespeare's Weird Sisters

 © Paul Connell 2019

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