Edinburgh, Scotland : 1984

Performance/installation at Edinburgh College of Art, as part of Demarcation ’84 for Edinburgh International Festival.

25-27 August 1984

This performance/installation was part of ‘Demarcation 84’, organised by Richard Demarco for the Edinburgh International Festival. It saw MacLennan dressed in black, sometimes shirtless, with his head blackened and a black vest tied around his neck. He held a cane in his hand and had a sheep’s head suspended from his neck, dangling over his torso. The floor was lined with copies of Belfast newspapers, the pattern marked with dustings of black and white pigments. On the white pigment between the newsprint lay sets of false teeth. Suspended from the ceiling and resting on the floor were other sheep’s heads. A sack sat at the side of the room, for MacLennan to sit on.

‘While in most previous cases when he blackened his head, the indication of hiding was there. Not so here: it rather works as a hood – of an executioner perhaps. If this is admissible then the social mandate this work obtains is as sharp as any political statement. Fear emanates from the blackened head, naked chest, dead sheep’s head and cane. But not fear ‘felt’ – rather fear as a condition of human living.’

Text from ‘Alastair MacLennan: Is No’, ed. Stephen Snoddy, 1988.