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Case Studies

Between Land and Water: Outlandish Theatre Platform and women from the Dublin 8 community
Between Land and Water: Outlandish Theatre Platform and women from the Dublin 8 community

Between Land and Water: Outlandish Theatre Platform and women from the Dublin 8 community

In the Grand Canal Community of Dublin 8 Outlandish Theatre Platform invited Arabic/Muslim women through an open and active call out. In total 25 women took part in the project from inception to presentation.

With Between Land and Water, lead artist Maud Hendricks wished to make an inter-media theatre intervention (performance, sound and film) in the public arena of Dublin 8, sharing reflections of Arabic/Muslim women’s interpretations of elements of the landscape with the pedestrian public.

As a resident of Dublin 8, Maud was struck by how people of Arabic/Muslim descent and other residents of this area moved through the public arena like oil and water. Her opening question was “what causes this separation without apparent friction?”. Coming from the Netherlands which has third and fourth generation immigration this pattern felt alien. Maud wanted to invite herself on a daily journey with first generation Arabic/Muslim women and connect in this new way to the landscape familiar to her. Samuel Beckett’s Come and Go was the catalyst for conversation about public living experiences in Dublin 8 from a first generation migrants’ perspective.

Come and Go is a play about 3 women meeting on a bench, whose heads and eyes are covered: Costume direction: Full-length coats, buttoned high, dull violet (RU), dull red (Vi), dull yellow (Flo). Drab non-descript hats with enough brim to shade faces. Apart from colour differentiation three figures as alike as possible. Light shoes with rubber soles. Hands made up to be as visible as possible. No rings apparent.

Between Land and Water: Outlandish Theatre Platform and women from the Dublin 8 community
Between Land and Water: Outlandish Theatre Platform and women from the Dublin 8 community

Outlandish Theatre Platform’s projects start with qualitative conversations with a newly formed group of individuals. Maud and Bernie O’Reilly, assistant director, resist working with existing groups as they feel the group dynamic overpowers the specifics of each individual’s narrative. This process of finding participants is time consuming, as individual connections have to be made and trust gained. After a month a group of fifteen diverse Muslim women from eight diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds was formed.

With mentor Sarah Jane Scaife, a Beckett specialist and theatre director, four Research and Development Come and Go workshops were held at the Lantern Centre in Synge Street, Dublin 8 with a total of 15 participants.

During the research and development, the women decided that Come and Go was “like a prayer, in a world without a God”. They were fascinated with the man Samuel Beckett and wondered if Beckett was Godless or God fearing and why he wrote the way he did.

After the successful research and development phase was over and the long-term project had started, approximately ten participants chose not to continue the project due to precarious living circumstances for some, and religious beliefs preventing taking part in a public performance for others. The five participants now left were of Irish, Syrian/Palestinian, Algerian, Pakistani and British descent. 

The project’s challenges were to marry the vision of the project, to make a public intervention, with the participants’ requests for anonymity and their apprehensions in performing publicly. Creating a rehearsal schedule that matched the chaotic logistics of the participants’ lives and a rehearsal room friendly to participants’ children was challenging. Some of the interview and writing sessions were held in participants’ houses as a result. In addition, organising an outdoor public screening of Between Land and Water proved difficult.

This was a pioneering project resulting in a theatre documentary led by the participants’ - diverse first generation migrants - boundaries in presentation of self on screen and in public. The film, a theatre documentary, connects the visual landscape of Dublin 8 to the women’s aural and physical explorations, anonymously.

Between Land and Water was presented at Create’s National Networking Day, IMMA. December 2014, as well as at Dis/placed Festival, Shoreditch Townhall, London, in collaboration with performance artist Natasha Davis and Counterpoints Arts London, in June 2015. A screening of Between Land and Water was held at the Celebration of Muslim Cultures event at Liberty Hall, January 2016.

Continued collaboration with one of the participants led to the writing and producing of a new play, Megalomaniac: a war play written from a migrant’s perspective in Ireland, which premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival to a mixed audience of non-traditional and traditional theatre go-ers.

About the Artist

Maud Hendricks is artistic director and writer director of Outlandish Theatre Platform. As a theatre maker and collaborator her background in human geography and her experience as a performer informs her. She exercises a theatre of enquiry into physical and social places and environments in Dublin and responds through new theatre work. Her practice depends on quality engagements with community participants.

In her work she creates alternative narratives to the perceived dominant social dynamics, by exploring what it means to live in Ireland in 2018. OT Platform is theatre company in residence at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital in Dublin 8, where there is no theatre. Here we enjoy the use of space and technical support in the development and presentation of new work in conversation with the hospital and its patients from all over Ireland. We form a link between the national hospital and the area it’s positioned in and are committed to the making of new work for new audiences.

 

 

Opening Doors: Susan O’Gorman and the Domestic Workers Action Group
Opening Doors: Susan O’Gorman and the Domestic Workers Action Group

Opening Doors: Susan O’Gorman and the Domestic Workers Action Group

Opening Doors is a collaboration between the Domestic Workers Action Group (previously known as the Domestic Workers Support Group) and artist Susan Gogan, resulting in the creation of six large scale colour photographic pieces, complimented by a series of black & white documentary works.  The project culminated in an exhibition at the Gallery of Photography, Dublin, opening on International Women’s Day, 2007.

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) is a national organisation working to promote justice, empowerment and equality for migrant workers and their families.

The Domestic Workers Action Group was established by MRCI as a response to the growing reports of difficulties experienced by migrant domestic and care workers.  Based in Dublin, this is a heterogeneous and fluid group with a core of approximately 30 women predominantly from the Philippines, but also with members from India, Pakistan, Georgia and Trinidad & Tobago at the time this project took place.  Through the artistic collaboration process, the group seeks to empower themselves, challenge their position of marginality in Irish society, generate publicity about their situation and make visible the positive and invaluable contribution they make to Irish society.  This project ran consecutively with a campaign for statutory protections and a Joint Labour Committee in order to establish minimum pay and conditions for employment for this sector.

The group had a particular interest in engaging with photography as an art practice and I was approached by project co-ordinator Edel McGinley, now Director of MRCI, who was aware of my artistic practice to date.  When approached, I immediately recognised the potential for a new direction in staged photography made possible by the collaborative process.  I realised there was now an important opportunity for the Domestic Workers Action Group to take control of the domestic space and create their own symbolic references within the work we would produce during the course of the project. Through their active participation in cultural production, photographic representation could be placed in the hands of the women themselves.  During two initial key meetings with Edel, we were agreed that the staged format and staging process offered a unique way to truly collaborate where the women could publicly address complex issues of particular concern - lack of privacy, isolation, social control, racism, manipulation, unclear boundaries in relation to working hours - and at the same time I could stay true to, and further develop, my own working methods and artistic practice.

Opening Doors: Susan O’Gorman and the Domestic Workers Action Group
Opening Doors: Susan O’Gorman and the Domestic Workers Action Group

The scale and complexity of the project presented many challenges when it came to the organisation of the final staged photo shoots.  Firstly as project coordinator, Edel had the difficulty of coordinating what is essentially a fluid group whose participants can vary from month to month.  Dividing the group into 6 smaller sub-groups (with each sub-group developing one image) ensured a degree of consistency from one meeting to the next.  Secondly, roles I had suggested the women take on in preparation for the shoots – props, clothing, documentation etc. - proved to be very impractical given the length of time between contact meetings (4 weeks) and the long working hours of most of the group (6 days per week, 12 hours per day on average).  Also the task of transporting the women to shooting locations was immense, as they did not have their own transport, so on occasion the hire of a mini-bus was needed for this purpose.

Despite organisational challenges however, the photo shoots were really where the energy of the project came together and were an extremely rewarding experience for us all.

There was an intense focusing and discussion of ideas in order to finalise decisions about image content, such as props, hair and clothing, body language and how to convey the relationship and bond between the carer and child or older person.  The group as a whole become intensely engaged with the creative process with an enormous amount of attention paid to detail.  The projection of responsibility and professionalism in their working practices was of utmost importance.

Complimenting these collaborations is a series of black & white documentary works.  Some members of the group did not have cameras to complete this part of the project, so to overcome this we purchased four inexpensive 35mm film cameras to be used by the group on a rotation basis.  Through these individual artistic visions, the audience gain access to both public and private spaces that illustrate a diversity of experiences of migration and of living and working in Ireland.  We see images of friendships, Dublin’s city streets, private moments of contemplation, and loving images of family both here in Ireland and abroad.  Migrant domestic workers’ personal narratives and interpretations of place help us to understand both the material realities of migration and the women’s shifting subjectivity from a unique perspective of spatial mobility.

In addition to its launch at the Gallery of Photography, this project has been exhibited a number of times including two other high profile exhibitions, The Mermaid Arts Centre, Co. Wicklow, 2008, and Domestic Workers Action Week, 2010, where it was exhibited at Liberty Hall, Trinity College and Dublin City Council Civic Offices.  Shortly following its completion, members of the Domestic Workers Action Group travelled to the International Labour Organisation Conference using the project as a support while speaking about their personal experience of the issues under discussion.  The images from Opening Doors continue to support their campaigns for equality both as women and as workers.

In the words of Elsa Fontanoz, one of the women who spoke publicly at the Gallery of Photography exhibition opening, “…now we can finally be seen”.

About the Artist

I am an artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Dublin. My practice involves making photographic and film works which deal with the power inherent in the design of our contemporary cities and how we as individuals can interact with our built environment in a political way.  I am currently producing an experimental film work challenging the private corporate ownership of Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz.  I was invited to speak about this work at Art / Memory / Place, Irish Museum of Modern Art, with Dr. Karen Till, Maynooth University Ireland, and visual artist Beth O”Halloran, 2016.  A trailer for this film work  screened at the Irish Film Institute in March 2017 and the research for this work was conducted as part of IADT’s ARC Masters programme, from which I graduated in 2017.

susangogan.com

 

 

The New Normal, John Conway with breast cancer survivors.
The New Normal: John Conway with breast cancer survivors.

 

Artist in the Community Scheme Case Studies

The We Claim Banner, Abbey Theatre, Eden Quay site. We Claim: Kathryn Maguire and Young Migrant Women. Image: Ros Kavanagh.
We Claim: Kathryn Maguire and Young Migrant Women. Image: Ros Kavanagh.

The Arts Council believes that cultural interaction enriches the arts in Ireland by offering opportunities for mutual sharing, questioning, learning, understanding and change. It recognises that Irish society is made up of different strands and identities, which are constantly shifting, and that the process of interaction involves change for all involved, not just for those from new or minority communities. The Arts Council understands the term ‘Cultural Diversity’, as it applies to the arts, to encompass inclusive arts programming and, most particularly, intercultural arts practice that involves artists and/or communities from a range of national, ethnic or cultural groups. The Arts Council aims through the Artist in the Community Scheme to encourage meaningful collaboration between artists and communities of culturally diverse backgrounds, as well as artists working within the context area of cultural diversity.

 

Memory Dress
Memory Dress. Charlotte Donovan and Marie Brett with St. Finbarr’s Hospital.

Arts and health embraces a range of arts practices occurring primarily in healthcare settings, which bring together the skills and priorities of both arts and health professionals. From an Arts Council perspective, good arts and health practice is characterised by a clear artistic vision, goals and outcomes. It aims to promote health and wellbeing by improving quality of life and cultural access in healthcare settings. Arts and health can involve all artforms, and incorporate a variety of approaches, including conventional arts production and presentation, arts participation and environmental enhancement. The Arts Council makes a distinction between arts and health practice and the arts therapies. In the former, the primary focus is on the experience and production of art, in the latter, the primary goal is clinical. The Arts Council supports practice where artistic outcomes are prioritised as a means of enhancing health and wellbeing and does not support practice where therapy is the primary goal or outcome.

 

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