New Finish Line

Last Wednesday morning Eleanor and I learned of the passing of a greatly loved and very popular member of St Josephs Hospital Staff, Tommy. Tommy was only 57 and his sudden death came as a great shock to all his colleagues and the residents of St Josephs. In light of this the decision was made to postpone the Circle Of Life exhibition, which was due to take place yesterday and today in gl贸r.

Our new date for the show is 25/26 June. This we have decided, while happening under very sad circumstances, is ok. We will try to produce a better show than we would have done for this weekend, even though we were ready to go and had the logistics of installing and the tech side organised.

On the plus side I have 40 memory cards made and will try to add 10 more by our new June date. I will be masters free by then (cannot quite comprehend this) and will enjoy resolving our exhibition without the other areas I’ve been dividing my time between being a factor. The power of the memory cards is in the numbers. Each is a glimpse into a conversation I or Eleanor has had with a resident or staff member. If you think of how many staff and residents are within the walls of St Josephs it becomes clear why volume is the key to the power of the memory cards.

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Some of the memory cards for our COL memory wall installation

Eleanor had arranged the found objects and had perfected her story telling performance. I had been looking forward to seeing this and I am going to ask her if she wants to try out performing and I will be her audience. We had booked a morning with Eddie, sound and lighting technician extraordinaire in gl贸r for last Thursday, so we went ahead with our meeting despite the postponing of the show. Eddie spent 2 hours patiently teaching me how to construct our soundscape on the program Q lab. It has been great to gain a working knowledge of this program that I have never used before, and to be able to produce a piece of work in a new medium. Eleanor sat in and together we worked out sequencing ideas of the sounds as we went along.

We are going to focus now on sending out invites to the new dates for the show to as many people as we can, so as by the law of averages we will have some attendees 馃檪

It was both a productive and tiring week.

Our Press Release- it’s getting to that time..

The Circle of Life– Opens 10th May, 2019

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The Circle of Life is a collaborative exhibition at gl贸r, Ennis, Co Clare featuring the work of Eleanor Feely and Rachel Macmanus, facilitated by Clare Arts Office. The exhibition will showcase drawing, photography, sound, performance and found objects.

The artists are responding to the residents, staff and surrounding community of St Josephs Hospital, Ennis, Co Clare.

 

Exhibition: The Circle of Life

Venue: gl贸r, Causeway Link, Ennis, Co Clare. V95VHP0

Location: gl贸r Studio, Ground Floor.

Dates: Friday 10 September from 10 鈥 5pm and Saturday 11th September 10- 5pm.

Live Performance by Eleanor Feely at 2pm both days.

Artists Talk by Rachel Macmanus at 11am both days

 

The Circle of Life is a collaborative exhibition at gl贸r, Ennis, Co Clare featuring the work of Eleanor Feely and Rachel Macmanus. The exhibition will showcase drawing, photography, sound, performance and found objects.

St. Josephs Hospital Ennis聽is a residential facility for older people, managed by the HSE, which provides care to older people from Co Clare and also has a Day Hospital services to the local area.

Two artists, Eleanor Feely, Artist in Residence at St Josephs, and Rachel Macmanus, a locally based artist, have collaborated on a creative project with the residents and staff of St Josephs. Time was spent weekly with the residents reflecting on memories of their lives, and discussing their views on what life is like for them now in the present day.

The project is named The Circle of Life as it mimics how the hospital works, and how life there as a resident is cyclical, and definitely non linear. The dance of life, and how the end becomes the beginning of something new. Asking the questions what is

memory? What is now?

Visiting St Josephs is a sensory experience, walking through long corridors bathed in light, echoing footsteps of brisk nurses and the slower shuffle of residents. The smell of dinner and the distant sound of singing from the chapel, the laughter from an open door and the rattling of a tea trolley. The familiar voices of staff and residents rising and falling, a nurse crouched down low to someone in a wheelchair.聽 All of life is within this place, and its residents are community shapers from a generation ago, with incredible stories of times from a different era.

The Circle Of Life project in gl贸r seeks to showcase the rich tapestry of experience and life we have witnessed in St Josephs, and allow the viewer to experience this through sound, visuals, story telling and sculpture.

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Artist鈥檚 talk by Rachel Macmanus

Friday and Saturday at 11am
Rachel Macmanus is a locally based artist who works through the medium of drawing, painting and live art. Rachel studied Visual Communications at NCAD Dublin and is currently completing a Fine Art MA with Open College of the Arts, Barnsley, UK.

 

Live Performance with Eleanor Feely
Friday and Saturday at 2pm
Eleanor Feely is the Artist in Residence of St Josephs Hospital, and also the Director of Clare Youth Theatre. Using her theatrical professional background, Eleanor will be using the found objects within the exhibit for the basis of this story telling performance.

Visitor Information

Admission is free. The exhibition is open daily from Friday 10th May until Saturday 11 May, 10am – 5pm. Exhibition information will be available at gl贸r.

The artists have also written a blog about the project which can be viewed at https://stjosephshospitalcircleoflifeproject.wordpress.com/

 

Exhibition Sponsored by Clare Arts Office

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Rachel Macmanus

rackmack@gmail.com

 

gl贸r

info@glor.ie

To be or not to be..

Wednesday 10 April- Eleanor
This morning being lovely Rach and I took a left turn and had our state of the nation meeting outdoors. Just prior to this one of the nurses had told me of the passing of one of the ladies who had been eleven years in their care. There were tears in her eyes. The same lady was a bright-eyed, witty person, who was a constant source of inspiration to me over the years. I am writing this at home where lambs gambol in the field across the road…exactly as described by another lady resident who knowledge of Nature is unparalled..including humans!
Anyway, Rach and I worked out the logistics re installation of the work in Gl贸r. I rang Eddie and all is in hand. It is a relief to us both, to know there will be a guiding hand in that department, while we concentrate on the positioning of the combined media. Rach asked one of the staff if she could possibly find out about residents who may not be able to communicate as well as others, to find a way for her to portray something of importance to them. There is always a way.. if one wants to find it. Rach is always so kind and inclusive. I had an Eureka moment during the week, while talking to residents. I think I have a ‘voice’. We’ll see…
As one of my heroes, Bruce Springsteen puts it
‘You don’t know what you’re doing til you’re done’.
Indeed! 馃檪
Just as I was about to send this off, Theresa, one of the activities staff rang me.. she has sourced a Holy Water bottle and a statue of The Infant of Prague , already!.. after I just asked her this am to keep an eye out for material that residents might have on bedside lockers. She’s great. I will have to explain the Infant’s nomenclature to Rach.. as, no more than myself, she is not card-carrying :-):-)
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Statue of The Infant Of Prague

Testing out the work on the team- today’s visit

Eleanor and I had scheduled a feedback session with the residents of St Josephs today.聽 Our plan was to play them the sound scape, show them some of the drawings that will make up the memory wall and discuss the ongoing project with them with a view to getting some feedback. We had planned all along to do this, so as to ensure that the residents stayed in the loop and actively engaged in the work. Without their input and feedback the project loses its power. We needed to make sure that the work we’ve made so far, or at least elements of it, was resonating with those who we’d communicated with to make it.

We had a large crowd of 15 or so who kindly made themselves available in the Sun room this morning. All our ‘key players’ were there, those individuals who we have spent the most time with and who have been the most willing to engage with us and the project and share stories, memories and opinions with us.

As I set up my laptop and speakers to play the sound scape, I suddenly felt apprehensive and nervous. What if people did not like it? What if someone was offended or embarrassed? Taking a memory or a story and moving it from the intimate, shared moment by a bedside where it was shared, to a public, shared broadcasted soundscape for all to hear, suddenly made me worried I might not have done justice to the wonderful stories and memories we’d been trusted with. Highlighting and honouring the lives of these individuals was all we hoped to do, and at that moment it seemed pivotal that it be well received.

As we played the sound scape, we got some positive reactions, and also some yawns, which was to be expected in the warm room which was catching the mid morning sunshine 馃檪 We stopped it and Eleanor talked more about our plans for the show and asked around the room for feedback. She reminded all that it’s not easy to describe art, especially art in the making. We were fortunate to get some feedback and one Lady was kind enough to sing a ballad which Eleanor had been trying to catch her for for a while, so we were happy to get that.

I showed the circular memory cards I’d brought with me to some of the residents, who had inspired me to make them.

In summary, the first showing of any work is always a vulnerable time for an artist, as it emerges from the safety of your own mind, where of course it makes perfect sense, to a wider audience who may not have the same vested interest in it that you do. It was good to get the feedback and response that we did today, and we emerged with more ideas and information that can be harvested to add to the work.

Eleanor took this shot, see below, this morning. “An act of serendipity. This gentleman has a wonderful capacity for friendship. I like to think I captured through the rhyming footsteps, the kindness and trust of two caring people.”

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Leaving the Sun Room. Eleanor.聽

Getting closer..

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Above is a hastily put together graphic for Glor website. We had to send on photos and some text to update the website with details of the upcoming show in May. Actually we were both quite happy with how this looks- the long corridor of St Josephs draws you in and the circle is our nod to the projects name. I chose a restrained font to keep the connotations contemporary.

Today was a decision-making session.

When to schedule our in-house feedback session with residents: 3 April was agreed. We will set up in the sunroom and play some of our sound scape and hang some of the memory wall. We hope residents can give us some feedback on how this looks and what they think.

Performance times for Glor show: we agreed 2pm on the Friday and Saturday.

As we were exiting St Josephs we came across Roger the caretaker. He agreed to look for some out of use bedside lockers that we could borrow as plinths for the show.

Now to draw more memory wall pieces, and finish compiling the soundscape..

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Using the same logo idea with Eleanor’s beautiful twilight photo..

Handwriting- a dying art form

Eleanor and I were back in St Josephs for our Wednesday meet up. We had arranged to meet with whichever residents were amenable and available this morning to talk more about life now, and to try to glean some handwriting from those willing.

I wanted to ask the residents (and staff for that matter, to write out some pharases by hand. For our upcoming show in Gl贸r, yy original plan was to type phrases onto the back of the memory cards, with the related drawing on the other side. However the idea of the residents handwriting featuring on the cards seemed to me to be a far superior solution. Eleanor went off travelling around the wards to those less mobile and managed to get some wonderful writing, not to mention some memorable phrases. One in particular from a gentleman whom revealed he had secured a pilots licence from Shannon a long time ago. He said,

“When flying I felt myself to be part of another world”

He translated this into abbreviated Irish and wrote this down too,聽 but I need to check with my mother in law who is a retired Irish teacher on the correct spelling and phrasing of this so as to do this particular gentleman justice.

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Sure enough Eleanor and I were thrilled with the variety of styles we had collected, from only a relatively few residents whom we had seen that day. From spidery wandering cursive script, to careful printing by shaky hands, bent low to the page, to confident scrawls across the page, to quavery lines just about decipherable, like fading memories or a forgotten conversation. I have always been fascinated by handwriting and have found that you can usually see a lot of a person’s character in their writing. I know nothing about the business of analysing handwriting professionally but the very breadth of the spectrum of the styles of writing we garnered today are a reflection of the various personalities and varying lives of the residents who are working with us on The Circle Of Life. .

I copied some of the phrases we’d been donated out onto a piece of card, see above. The white script against the black increases their aesthetic power. The act of carefully copying out the script, trying to follow the pattern the original writers pen made, reenforced my realization that we need to work harder at preserving the practise of聽 handwriting, which essentially is a dying art. Now we tap and scroll instead. Eleanor intends to collect more handwriting when she is in and out of St Josephs which will be great, as we will benefit from as many people contributing as possible.

How we See. Rachel

Eleanor and I met up again yesterday morning in St Josephs, and had a very productive morning. I find with these projects that you can progress along, at a steady pace, then suddenly you can accelerate forward through having come up with a few ideas that make perfect sense. Also how we see is key. We talked about how we need to anchor this work to the residents and make it accessible for all levels, the residents, the staff, the wider St Josephs Community, and a general audience. We also reminded ourselves that we are responding, as Artists, to St Josephs and it is the artistic response that makes this project unique. It is not a straightforward reiteration of information, it’s the responsibility of the聽 creative licence that we are using to make work, that must be exercised with subtlety and with care.

Keeping this in mind we talked about the parts of the project that we feel we have successfully found a way to convey this duality of meaning, such as the soundscape and the memory wall. These elements are aesthetically pleasurable, but will have personal resonance for the residents as well as a wider appeal for a general audience. These are unfinished but are coming along nicely.

Eleanor brought up again the idea of tactile objects that we could introduce to the show. As I am currently being obliged to subject the work I have created for my Masters Degree Show to a rigorous editing process we discussed how we might apply the same editing to what we choose to display in our 2 day exhibition in Gl贸r in May. Eleanor mentioned the idea of showing objects that have meaning and power to the residents. For example,聽 showing some dolls, as minded and cared for tenderly by a couple of the ladies in St Josephs. I thought about the idea of taking it a step further and using the bedside lockers that the residents have beside their beds in the wards. I find these very poignant as there is not a lot of space for personal items in St Josephs, or for that matter in any hospital obviously. So when entering a ward you see these personal items resting on the bedside tables and on top of the bedside lockers.

You can see how an individual’s personality can be seen clearly through the objects they have on their bedside table, or on top of a locker. We discussed the idea of exhibiting some of these bedside lockers with chosen items on them, as part of the show. I think it could work as the other elements of the show are mainly visual and auditory. We want the show, like the experience of visiting St Josephs Hospital, to be immersive on a sensory level, through sound, visuals, performance and 3d objects to negotiate.

Eleanor felt like she had a performance related breakthrough聽using the idea of objects with power and memory. The objects idea got her thinking about how she could use these for a story telling performance piece for the show. She mentioned the transformational element of taking these objects into聽 a different context and harnessing their power to tell a story, which I liked a lot.

We had managed all the above in the foyer of the Hospital, in front of reception. We then travelled down and visited some of the residents, who allowed us to photograph their bedside tables, see above and Eleanor’s post. Next Wednesday we will meet a group of residents and ask them about memory and life now, while I get them to do some writing for me, as I want to use real handwriting of those who wish to contribute for part of the memory wall cards.

We were leaving the building when we stopped outside the chapel, drawn by the beauty of the stained glass projecting onto the wooden benches. The closing bars of Pie Jesu were playing. Eleanor asked the聽 Priest to play it again for us so as we could record it, which he very kindly did. I am devoid of any religious intent or belief but it was a very tranquil and transcendant few minutes spent sitting in the chapel, surrounded by light, listening and recording the music. All in all a very productive morning.

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Stained glass light on the benches in St Josephs Chapel

And grace as well as peace, comes dropping slow. Eleanor.

This morning was an Eureka moment for me..Rach and i were having our usual ‘ state of the union’ meeting before doing down to the wards to meet residents. i was thinking of our piece working on two simultaneous levels..like a good book when one rereads it and finds hidden depths. so I was toying with the idea of objects etc being placed in the art installation space, when Rach came up with the idea of bedside lockers being there in situ…I loved the idea immediately because it ties in with my own artistic methodology which is to juxtapose seeming incompatible people, scenes , objects, ideas etc in order to ‘see’ more clearly and also,聽taking an object out of its familiar surroundings it..and you the viewer or participant are transformed and led to a ‘new way of seeing ( with respect to John Berger)…it’s rather like E.M. Pei’s聽 revolutionary concept of building a glass pyramid within the pre mediaeval Louvre building..an architectural bold stroke which had ‘le tout Paris’ up in arms, but turned out to be inspired.
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A bedside table in St Josephs Hospital
We are not in the same league as the Louvre, but the premise is the same.

Then…that brought me to thinking of a way to engage in performance by placing objects in the space..back in the days of my training as an actor in the Stanislavski method, object and sense memory exercises were de rigueur..and I thought of a way of encompassing my performance with residents at its core..also the work of Marina Abramovitch, in particular the piece she did, i think in New York where she sat at a table and engaged with strangers etc etc.also played its part.

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Bedside Table, St Josephs Hospital

Rach and I took off to visit some ladies..in high good form..both them and us and we photographed, with their permission the ‘ world beside their beds..and we felt privileged to know and be welcomed by these wonderful people, who in their seeming simplicity, have so enriched us..in so many ways.

February: assembling and creating

Eleanor and I had a great meet up today at St Josephs. We sat down and had an update , as last week I’d been working on the memory wall in the studio and Eleanor was leading the Spring Awakening Concert with guest musicians.

We are meeting this Friday in the Studio in Gl贸r, which is where we are showing the work in May. We are going to play some of the recordings we have collected so far, which I am going to attempt to assemble into a rough sequence of a soundscape, using the audio software that Eddie the lighting and sound technician from Gl贸r kindly gave me some lessons in how to use. Hopefully I will remember these 馃檪聽 This will allow us to hear the quality of the sound in the exhibition venue. I will bring along some of the pieces Ive made so far for the memory wall and we will take stock of the size and layout of the room and how we are going to place the work. Also Eleanor has written three little vignettes based on residents’ stories that we will record.聽 Also Eleanor had an idea for a silent movie type visual..a woman setting a table..and a Buster Keaton like response to each of her movements and objects she handles. Provisionally called The Table Tableau.

Being in Gl贸r will be a valuable opportunity for us- to get some perspective on how the work we have made so far fits in the space that we will be showing it in.

Meanwhile in St Josephs today we talked about context. I mentioned something I’d read about how, as contemporary art is no longer necessarily ‘just’ decorative or aesthetically pleasing, people look for meaning as a way to understand it. I thought we should apply this to the work we are making. Yes it is evocative and yes some of it could be said to be aesthetically pleasing, but what is it for? What is the meaning of the work? We thought about this and Eleanor responded by saying she initially wanted the project to be about bearing witness. Bearing witness to the highs and lows of everyday life that goes on inside St Josephs, just like it does every other space humans occupy. She put it so well that I could only agree.

We agreed again that when we get to the exhibiting stage, we want people to come to see the work and be transformed in some way. This sounds quite ambitious but by making an experience immersive and multi sensory it can become a transformative one.

We also got two great chats with 2 wonderful residents who happened to be up, in good form and receptive to chatting. They were also kind enough to let us record them reminiscing about their respective careers, in and have enough fascinating stories and recollections between them that we could easily make a series of works based on them alone.

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Tea Trolley

As we were exiting we discussed how you have to let go of a rigid schedule to a degree when working in St Josephs, as you cannot expect things to always go to plan. Some days the residents you have come to see might not be up, or might be under the weather, or otherwise engaged. So we were felt very fortunate to have gathered so much rich material today.

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Light Filled Ward Corridor St Josephs Hospital

Visit 30 January

Eleanor and I tucked ourselves away in a small dining room for a tactical meeting re what, how, when, and where regarding the work so far.

What: we’ve collected and made so far, and what remains to be collected

How: the practicalities of how we will put together and create the rest of the work for the exhibition

When: when we will do this and for what dates

Where- this will be done- in St Josephs, my studio, Gl贸r and several off site locations to collect a few more images and sounds.

We spent an hour getting this worked out, had a quick walk around and said hello to a few people, then caught a couple of residents in the hair salon. Eleanor took some great photos, see below:

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And we talked about the type of visual imagery we want to get for the slideshow. It will involve some shots of residents and staff, and some of the hospital and its surrounds that convey the ambience and atmosphere at different times of the day. See below:

I am thinking about other ways to portray the residents as well as photos- I dmade a drawing from photo Eleanor took- the idea is to give an idea of the atmosphere and the moment but not to make the drawing too personal or identifiable. I would like the residents to recognise parts of their daily lives and routines from these drawings but not necessarily to recognise themselves or their fellow residents literally from the drawing. That is why drawing is such a great transformatve tool. See below:

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Hands with rosary
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Salon time

I am going to motor away with the memory wall panels in my studio and we are planning to access Gl贸r if we can in a couple of weeks time,聽 to sound check our preliminary sound scape in the studio to hear how it sounds over the amps. I will string together some of our sound files using the software that Eddie from Gl贸r kindly taught me how to navigate, and we will use this as our starting point for our soundscape. Eleanor is collecting visuals and the remaining sounds we need we will collect between us. It’s exciting as now we are starting to see the project come together and the fruits of our labours materialise.