Sandra Johnston, Chérie Driver, and Paula BlairMay 16, 2022
Actional Poetics-Ash She He
The Performance Actuations of Alastair MacLennan, 1971-2020
A retrospective monograph of Alastair MacLennan’s performance art practice, its influence on the Belfast art scene, and its relationships with wider art histories. Actional Poetics-Ash She He: The Performance Actuations of Alastair MacLennan, 1971-2020 (Intellect, 2022) (Intellect, 2022) is the most comprehensive and complete legacy monograph about Alastair MacLennan’s extensive performance practice.
Alastair MacLennan is emeritus professor of fine art, School of Art and Design, Ulster University in Belfast. He is one of Britain’s major practitioners in live art, and travels extensively in Eastern and Western Europe, also America and Canada, presenting ‘Actuations’ (his term for performance/installations). MacLennan is a founding member of Belfast's Art and Research Exchange, of Belfast's Bbeyond performance collective and is a member of the performance art entity Black Market International. He has represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale (1997) and is an honorary associate of the National Review of Live Art, Glasgow, Scotland.
There is a wide variety of approach in the essays, ranging from descriptive to interpretive. Some set the work in historical context and others provide pertinent biography. This variety is appropriate – and perhaps even necessary – in looking at the work of a living artist whose work is particularly complex. The selection of essays presents a complex body of work in an understandable way, with each writer allowed to address the art in their own terms. Placing the work in historical context is important but presenting MacLennan as an influential teacher is also important.
Includes a significant contribution from Adrian Heathfield (professor of performance and visual culture at Roehampton, UK) who has written an extended essay on MacLennan’s oeuvre, focusing on its use of materials and its creation of sculptural environments. Discussing the artist’s deployment of slow-time action and contemplative space, Heathfield sees MacLennan’s work as activating sustained contact with the elemental and locates MacLennan’s work as a significant intervention in performance art history globally and discusses the politics of its engagement with local history, violence, social conflict and memory.
The primary readership will be academics, researchers and scholars working in performance art and contemporary art in general. Also valuable to students in performance art, visual arts and related practices.
Of relevance to academics and artists in the interrelated fields of performance art, art and philosophy, critical theory, conflict studies and Zen philosophy.
Brandon Sward is an artist, writer, and doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago