Derry, Northern Ireland : 1985

Installation with drawings at Orchard Gallery.

11-18 May 1985

The walls of the gallery were punctuated with a repeated arrangement of dolls (wrapped in brown tape and sealed in clear plastic bags), folded sheets of paper, wage packets, shoes and handfuls of dry grass. They were divided at eye level with a line of black tape. In the centre of the room, between two pillars, was an arrangement formed of a crutch and a walking aid – both bandaged, one lying across the top of the other – standing in a small heap of earth with MacLennan’s ‘life mask’ emerging from the soil. Facing this was a pair of boots perched on a clutch of eggs, topped with an object (another doll perhaps) bandaged in white fabric. A light flashed behind the boots, while a tape played the sounds of Irish pipes and helicopters on loop. A series of MacLennan’s ‘doll’ drawings were displayed in an adjacent room.

MacLennan produced a text to accompany the installation, formed of two quotes from a previous interview in High Performance Magazine, 1984. The quotes read as follows:

‘The human world we’re constructed is a direct reflection of how and what we think. If we split our thinking we split our world. We’ve split our world. Many have lost touch with their feeling and are alienated from ‘self’ and ‘other’. We short-circuit meaning and chase effects without discerning precipitating cause. We study aesthetics and ignore ethics. Real art fuses both. A primary function of art is to bridge our spiritual and physical worlds. Through crass materialism we’ve reduced art to cultural real estate. Actual creativity can be neither bought nor sold, though its husks, shells and skins often are. Performance art especially can convey physical/metaphysical ‘link systems’ without over-reliance on physical residue with its attendant marketplace hustling, jockeying and squabbling. Art, after all, is skill in action where skill is the resolution of conflict (within and without the self). To heal is to make whole.’

‘Life simply IS. It is neither intrinsically beautiful nor ugly. These are human terms used to indicate our physical and psychological predispositions to like and dislike within it. Usually we associate beauty with learned or inherited aesthetic ‘sets’, and ugliness with what doesn’t fit. There IS the beauty of actuality, with attendant joys and sorrows, horrors, disasters, aspirations and wonders, etc., we experience in everyday life. My work provides metaphors of hurt and healing brought about by conflicts between humanity’s ill-conceived ideals and this actuality we find ourselves in. Art and, for me, beauty, resides in the resolution of inner and outer conflicts.’