Video link to Cynthia O’Brien’s performance will be embedded here soon.
Statements and Reviews by Blog Administrator Barbara Cuerden:
Coming to Terms, a performance by Cynthia O’Brien at Blink Gallery, August 10, 2014
Over the first week of the First Blink Gallery Residency, clay artist Cynthia O’Brien created hundreds of unfired white clay flowers, on site at Header House in Major’s Hill Park. Confined in the gallery space, the flowers had dried into white bones, ready to be carried outside on specimen trays.
Onlookers, witnesses and passers-by were drawn in to the rhythmic, sombre ritual where Cynthia set down the clay flowers into an uncovered grave-sized plot of earth on the lawn outside of the gallery. The artist asked people to contribute to the work by making their own flowers out of soft balls of clay, which she provided. O’Brien suggested they think of a person or dream they had lost and that their flower might symbolize, or alternately, a new beginning they had hopes would grow. There was an immediate engagement in the project. It was very moving to see strangers bend and gently place their flowers in the grave. Others who attended could quietly wonder whether they were burying an old loss or planting a new beginning.
Finally, the heavy darkness of the uncovered earth was transformed into a mass frothy with lightness and the fragility of white flowers, like a little Hallelujah against the dark.
As Cynthia silently replaced the sod, covering the flowers, and closing the grave, she was overcome by her own memories and coming-to-terms. Afterwards, at the gallery ‘reception’ she commented on her surprise as she first removed the sod just prior to the performance, that the earth was teeming with life, reminding us of the contradictions inherent in a dark open grave inhabited by life.
Urban Harvest, Last Act
After a few days of being at Blink, the garbage took over. It overwhelmed me and was not something I could control by prettying it up. I could not not see that the ducks who I encountered daily, were standing in a shingle of garbage along the edge of our once beautiful river. I couldn’t just collect the ‘good’ garbage.
So, I listened to what the garbage and the ducks were telling me – Clean It Up . Deal with it and put it to rest. Even though it can never go back to its maker, as it can’t disintegrate like our own human bodies, and go back to earth- it’s here to be kicked about and shat upon forever, we must find a way to put it to rest. What we create spills over, leaks out and refuses to go away. It is telling us something we don’t want to hear, until it gets told.
So, each day I went down to the same part of the river and collected another bag of garbage that had been washed up.
Our final installation looked like this: