> Metanoia I

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METANOIA I, “And as all that holds together ‘under my hand’, the surgery resembles a manual demiurge at once aggressive and repairing, murderous and loving. The Thing is reconstituted, the cicatrisation comes to it from the very gesture that wounds it.”

Artaud 1932

 

METANOIA I & II, are two artworks based on the life of the French writer and artist Antonin Artaud and his existential journey taken in the hope to heal ones inner self. Artaud who suffered from schizophrenia, wanted to return what he believed was Saint Patrick’s crosier to his homeland and came to Ireland in 1937 in a cathartic journey. His voyage ended dramatically by being deported back to France and spending the rest of his life in a mental asylum. Artaud talked about an “inorganic body” a body without organs, this utopic body which could not be wounded, would be unable to experience pain. Through aspects from the life of the writer, philosopher and playwright, in this work I am investigating the coping mechanisms that come into play when the body and the mind are at pains to mend a trauma. In Greek metanoia means a change of mind, for Karl Jung it stood for a process that the psyche goes through in a spontaneous act towards self-reparation after a breakdown. Through the Jungian suggestion that the experience of psychosis is a journey for the individual to rediscover something that has been lost to them; in this work the concept of METANOIA comes to represent an existential journey towards recovery. The creation of personal mythologies by the individual who is in a state of metanoia, offers a situation from which to explore the nature of the schizophrenic body, self-reparation and the potential of sacred amulets such as Artaud’s crosier, which embody for the holder magical and healing properties.

 

METANOIA I, comprises of a metal structure referencing a surgery table and a funerary-pyre. It contains a porcelain walking stick, which was casted from a wooden one, previously used in a performance/walk through the pilgrimage route to the summit of Croagh Patrick and in New York (METANOIA II, Prelude, video). This structure is surrounded by motorbike mirrors, through which the viewer has to engage in order to view what is placed inside: the broken and stitched porcelain stick. After spending sometime researching at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, I became interested in the practice in which future surgeons practice the incisions and sutures on neoprene material which acts as human skin. Using the same technique and tools, I then proceeded to stitch the porcelain walking stick which rests inside the steel coffin-structure.

 

 


Installation-mild steel, porcelain, surgical thread and needles, surgical pliers, recycled mirrors, video, 2009
dimension variable, metal structure without mirrors: 1,92m X 1,60m X 46cm 
photo by Conor Mckeon
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text by James Merrigan from the exhibition Fractures, Lines and Light, Red Stables, Dublin. Commissioned by Dublin City Council 2011

‘Process–ional’ Geographies- Retraced Geographies, James Merrigan

Whatever has being does not become; whatever becomes does not have being.”

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

 

Geography, travel and work merge together in the art practice of Cecilia Bullo. The artist’s muse is one Antonin Artaud, who was a French poet and theatre director. The troubled persona of Artaud who by all accounts was a talented and charismatic individual (almost usurping André Breton as ringleader of the Surrealist Movement), was plagued with a life long addiction to opiates, which stemmed from being treated for clinical depression and neuralgia. In the end the opiate laudanum would be his undoing.

After a period Peyote abuse in Mexico, Artaud became fixated on reliquary which he perceived as having magical powers. Bullo is inspired by one leg of his extensive travels that landed him the shores of Ireland. Ireland seems the most unlikely place for the ex-Surrealist and avant-garde theatre director to seek out, but he believed that a gifted knotted walking stick, that he had in his possession, belonged to Saint Patrick. So, in 1937, he personally endeavoured to return the stick to the pilgrimage site of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, only to be arrested, put in a straitjacket whilst on the ship, detained by French authorities and imprisoned in an asylum. Artaud is a tragic Joseph Beuys; whose flirting with shamanism has the same mystical insistence of the Frenchman.

I have first- hand experience of one of Bullo’s pilgrimages as a student at the National College of Art & Design in 2008. The artist was one of the first students to up and leave the institution as part of one of her projects. She used her previous experience as a tour guide to lead the group of MFA students out of the college to a rented hotel room at Christchurch, Dublin. The experience of leaving the institution; cramming into a hotel elevator; and standing around in the close parameters of a hotel bedroom, has stayed with me as a chain of ‘process-ional’ events. [6] Other students would follow Bullo’s student ‘pilgrimage’, which in essence is the desired outcome of pilgrimage ––to follow.

In the Croagh Patrick walking performance, Bullo ‘proves’ that she is still committed to following in the ‘imagined’ footsteps of Artaud. The execution of this work seems simple, but there are self-imposed rules evident: the barefoot climb up Croagh Patrick, and hauling of a man-sized ‘doll’ (Artaud signifier); pieced together with hotel towels. Fitting, if you believe the muddled events of Artaud’s arrest which formulate into urban myth, such as: the Frenchman didn’t make the pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick due to being incapacitated in a hotel room. In a previous film edit, Bullo juxtaposed the “Croagh Patrick walking performance” with a similar pilgrimage performed on the streets of New York in 2009.

In Bullo’s studio, plaster molds are cracked open like eggs, revealing the profiles of knotted walking sticks. Leather cases with high-colour foam inserts have the same empty profiles. These cases are almost funerary; a place where the sticks will be laid to rest. The artist’s latest rendition of ‘Artaud’s walking stick’ is in porcelain: that hard, bone-like substance that is easily fractured. Throughout all of Bullo’s sculptures there is an anthropomorphic residue that invites associations with bodily trauma. I believe that this is the final farewell to Artaud from Bullo.

The material of porcelain is decorative rather than utilitarian. Artaud’s walking stick is broken (like the man himself during his lifetime), pieced together with surgical thread, and placed on a stainless steel table in memorium of Artaud’s failed enterprise, but resulting in Bullo’s successful retracing of his myth.

 

6. “Process–ional” is a fracturing and meeting of the words “processional” and “process.”
The reasoning behind the synthesis is to combine the definitions of artistic process of objectivity and the ritualistic processional of human actions in private and public space.

 

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