Simon Fennessy Corcoran: Sáerlaith Molloy.
The Sculpture and Combined Media (SCM) department stood head and shoulders above its peers this year, putting together a cohesive group exhibition which seemed to ebb and flow harmoniously. The installation of work was near flawless, barring a minor infestation of ants with Emma Osterloh’s Ushukela sugar piece, which only added to the experience. Like many other graduate exhibitions the Limerick show entitled ‘be.cause’, produced some challenging and remarkable artworks, none more so than Gurgle, a durational performance by Sáerlaith Molloy.
Gurgle was difficult to watch, as the artist’s mouth filled with water flowing from a mass of nipples suspended above. Molloy, attempting to make sounds, gargle and breathe, would choke and eventually gag, ejecting the water, on occasion splashing the audience. The experience intensified as the artist became more practised in her actions, progressing towards what felt like a premeditated climax. This made for difficult viewing, particularly for those new to this durational form of performance which by its nature, seeks to provoke and challenge its audience.
Molloy, one of three performance artists in SCM, created an uncomfortable extrapolation of the physicality of language, referencing the female body and voice as abject and object. With abstracted utterances, vocal reverberations, and physical, gestural actions Gurgle produced an experience which questioned the apparent nature of language. For me Molloy’s performance further investigated notions of female autonomy, through non-verbal and gagged communication: as the water overwhelmed Molloy, she was, by her own action, violently silenced, only to try again and again. This sense of bodily investigation was further compounded by Molloy’s central ‘prop’, a constructed latex and metal object which in its own right was an appealing and well constructed form. This mass of fleshy latex had the vague appearance of breasts which spewed coloured water through nipples. The liquid was then collected in a metal receptacle, which also mapped out the performance space. From Molloy’s multi-coloured hair, which referenced the dyed water, to her uncomfortable constructed latex and metal studded costume, which referenced the mass of breasts and nipples, it combined to create a precise aesthetic flow which was pleasing to experience.
Molloy was one of few young artists who in November 2016 to January 2017 participated in Amanda Coogan’s exhibition, ‘I’ll Sing You a Song from Around the Town’ in Limerick City Gallery of Art. This experience already indicated Molloy’s commitment to this art-form and stood to her in the development of Gurgle. The consideration to what’s left behind perhaps influenced by this experience also. Molloy’s unflinching execution of Gurgle held the attention of its audience engendering a necessity to witness it in its entirety. The piece was roughly 30 minutes long and, to Molloy’s credit, was enacted daily throughout the run of ‘be.cause’.
Gurgle was arduous yet thoroughly considered, building in intensity through considered choreography and repetitive actions, further lifted by a multitude of subtle and deliberate details. All of which came together in a conceptually complex and aesthetically beautiful performance, the impact of which cannot be undervalued.