Alastair MacLennan is a Scottish artist primarily known for his performance work, although his work embraces drawing, sculpture and installation. He established his distinctive form of performance art in the early 1970s and has performed and exhibited extensively since then, individually and collaboratively on an international stage.

MacLennan, was born in Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland in 1943 and trained in Drawing and Painting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art (now Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee) in the 1960s. After completing his Masters’ Degree at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, in 1968, he worked in the USA and Canada and studied/practiced Rinzai Zen before returning to the UK, where he settled permanently in Belfast in 1975. He taught at the School of Art, Ulster University, from then until 2008, including leading the Masters’ programme for 11 years. He is now Emeritus Professor in Fine Art.

MacLennan is best known for his distinctive form of performance art which he terms ‘actuations’, but his artistic practice embraces drawing, installation and the use of found objects, materials and artefacts, which are often combined within his actuations. He has performed and exhibited internationally since the early 1970s, individually and collaboratively. He represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 1997 and among his collaborations is his long association with the performance group, Black Market International.

MacLennan’s art is social and political, concerned with the inter-dependence of self and community, and it explores ethical-aesthetic values, including those of harmony and balance, and the necessity of spiritual well-being. Influenced by Zen doctrines, including sudden (often non-verbal) enlightenment attainable within ordinary experience, MacLennan’s actuations engage everyday realities in ways intended to open his audience to alternative ways of imagining and understanding everyday experience.

In 2018, MacLennan offered his archive to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The transfer was completed in 2019. The archive comprises photographic and digital documentation of more than 600 actuations from the 1970s to the present time, drawings, performance and installation-related artefacts, personal papers and publications. The archive joins a group of 22 student works from the College collection and several works transferred to Dundee University by the Scottish Arts Council. The intention is that the archive be both a research and a teaching resource. Alastair McLennan will continue to donate new material into the future.

Due to the scale of material in the archive and the digitisation & cataloging process, material will be added to this website over time. This process was started by the Digital Arts Studio in Belfast and Locus+ in Newcastle who previously housed parts of the collection before these were brought together at the University of Dundee.