Caoimhe Lavelle – Bluebottle Collective
(photo by Holly Leddy Flood)
Roisin Power Hackett spoke to Caoimhe of the Bluebottle Collective, a literature collective that is a little bit of a crush of ours here at H&G.
6th August 2015
RPH Tell me a bit about yourself, where did you go to college? What got you so interested in literature?
CL Well I studied in Trinity College. I studied English studies, but I guess I’ve always been interested in literature. As a child I read a lot of poetry. The poetry that you read at school and I guess I developed it as a personal interest then. There’s a school report that I have from when I was in fourth class…it says I have a great interest in poetry and it should be encouraged. A few years after that, when I was still quite young, I read Allen Ginsberg because my cousin had told me all about Beatniks and gotten us a book of postcards of photographs. Rathmines Library kindly allowed me to borrow from the adults section, which I mean not the Adult section, but the, you know, not the children’s section, which wasn’t supposed to be allowed. So then I read it and there was some kind of rather adult stuff in it, it was White Shroud and there was a line about a ‘poo stained cock’ and it just blew my mind that you could call this stuff poetry, but it was very obviously poetry to me. What was very interesting to me was the way it used form. At that stage I hadn’t read Walt Whitman or anything so the kind of flexibility of the structure was something I hadn’t seen before at all so I guess Allen Ginsberg was the poet that made me feel that there was a lot more potential to poetry than what I learned at school…Walt Whitman… he did, I think, something quite similar to poetry and the idea of what poetry could be, but I didn’t read him until I was at college, until he was on my reading list, I had no idea about him.
RPH Bluebottle was formed in 2013 by yourself, Rosi Leonard, and Justin Murphy. What was the impetus for forming it? Did you think there was a gap in Dublin for such a venture?
CL Yea, well I do feel there was a gap because we did do something that was individual to our own interests… I mean we had the opportunity to use a building on Thomas Street, Emmet House. The Landlord kindly agreed to let us use it as a studio space and yea I guess there is a big movement now of artists using vacant spaces and I guess that was really exciting to us as three people who had just finished at Trinity College, it was really exciting to us, but I guess the impetus was for us to just seek out some kind of platform, whatever platform was available, to do projects that we had thought up and wanted to run with.
RPH Usually it’s visual art collectives rather than literature collectives..?
CL Yea, I mean we’d definitely begun with an angle on literature. Our first event was a spoken word event, but then I think now at the moment our most recent work has been audio work. I think the context for these kinds of works are not mutually exclusive. If we had the space for longer we could have used it for visual exhibitions. I think as a writer you’re expected to work in whatever spaces are available to you in your daily life, but I mean it’s difficult to find spaces to write in… It doesn’t quite have the same demands as like a visual artist’s would have, the practical demands, the demands are comparatively lower sometimes, but then the potential of a studio space for making work is huge… to get away from your personal spaces… Sometimes I will do some work in coffee shops and lots of writers use coffee shops, but the public space is similarly difficult as well to work in, even sometimes libraries, there not conducive to your focus … I like to be able to walk around have a dance, talk to myself, maybe have a cigarette. Just do whatever I want and you can’t do that in a library. Another thing about working in coffee shops is that people will interrupt you, often well meaning people, but they’ll want to know what you’re working on. While that’s really pleasant, it’s not conducive or productive. Just as an artist, a writer just as much as a visual artist or any other kind of artist, it’s just as important to have a space. I wish I had a studio space now.
RPH Since its formation Bluebottle has hosted events, workshops and various projects including Hibernation radio and poem line. Which of the things you hosted were you most interested in? And why?
CL I wouldn’t like to say that I was more interested in any one than the other, but I guess to choose one to speak about the Poem Line was more my own project so I feel more qualified to discuss it than Hibernation Radio. It’s my work as well, it was Rosie’s conception. Rosie did work with me on the Poem Line as well. It was mostly my baby within Bluebottle… so basically there were a couple of inspirations behind Poem Line as a project, I was attracted to the idea of hot lines, you know party lines and stuff like that. At first it started off as a joke, you know, ‘Melancholy girls in your area want to write you a poem’, I was intending to do a husky voice, and I used elements of that in how I promoted the Poem Line. I was also inspired by a project called Dial a Poem Poets that John Giorno did, essentially it’s now known as a bunch of compilations, but at one point he installed spoken word and music installations into New York telephone booths. They were eventually removed because the work was pretty out there and there were lots of obscenities, but there were lots of really great writers and musicians and spoken word artists of the time were involved… I was attracted to the idea of experiencing poetry over the telephone. Another poet I am really fond of is Leonard Cohen and he often uses the image of the telephone both in his prose and his poetry. I was thinking about poetry over the telephone. I also heard a song; it’s staged like a phone call, by__ . So when I started the Poem Line at first I had no idea how it was going to go. I was as nervous as the person who had called and I think there is a sort of tension that neither party knows how the conversation’s going to go, so there’s mutual curiosity. It is such a weird thing to do and it is equally weird for both parties and then I have this great hold music. I like how someone can just come along and give me a stimulus and then I can make something. I was thinking that it’s possible that this will be some pretty terrible art, but at least it would be a fun thing to do for ten minutes on a Sunday. People were also very shy about calling the poem line. People expressed interest, but weren’t quite courageous enough to call. I got a few text messages from people. The Poem Line doesn’t have any credit so the Poem Line can’t respond to you if you send a text so there’s no point in doing that, you won’t get a poem out of it. Some people were frustrated about that, but I think that the process of the phone call is essential to the weirdness of the whole thing. One piece I like to use for hold music is by Paul DeMarinis called ‘If God Were Alive and He Is You Could Reach Him by Telephone’, and that another piece that inspired me to do the Poem Line. I was quite pleased with the work that came out of it.
RPH Which was the most successful project in your opinion?
CL I definitely think Hibernation Radio is our most successful project. Just in terms of the work we received, the quality of it, the fact that it wasn’t just what we received either, there was stuff produced for the podcast so I think as a body of work we’re really proud of it … there was some kind of strand that did hold it together quite well. Besides how happy we were with the material and the listenership we got just by posting it on line and how people engaged with the theme. Besides that we were really happy to be invited to exhibit it in IMMA as part of the ‘More Than One Maker’ project. It was really nice to have that recognition of work that we’d already put in, seeing some work that we had produced go out into the world and continue some kind of journey was quite humbling. I was really shy about including one of my own pieces in it because we just had so much great material. Something I think as a project, before we released it in its brief, in its theme, might have confused people, once it was a package it made sense and people really engaged with it. I would personally be most proud of that.
RPH Which was the most difficult to pull off – in terms of gathering an audience or setting up technically?
CL One load of difficulties that we had was, we did this thing called the Book of Grievances, it just wasn’t that well thought out, but we just wanted to put some kind of presence on the streets in the form of a book, where people could just leave their grievances. The difficulties with that were pretty obvious because it was lashing rain that day so it was just quite a mess. We didn’t promote it that much … It didn’t work out, the books were left in the rain, we got a couple of things, and we just scanned them and put them on our website. It wasn’t up to much as a project, but you know, that’s fine, just move on.
RPH The Bluebottle Collective often focuses on web based or non physical space media such as radio, why is this?
CL It’s because we’re not merely interested in what we can do live in person in a show because that isn’t always available to us. We don’t always have a space to work with first of all, but also because it has this reach. It seems a good platform for sharing writing. Even when we had our live performances in Hendron Collider we had people from different countries via Skype so that just expanded the potential of the project. The internet in terms of Hibernation Radio expanded the potential of which artists we could include or engage with. I guess we found it appealing because Hibernation Radio was connected with the idea of solitude, sitting with your lap top or whenever you’re kind of having this indoor interior time with your headphones on. It just seemed as you’d be sitting listing to music, having this personal time to yourself maybe that was why streaming it on line suited us as a medium.
RPH Do you think poetry and different performing arts have been helped by the internet?
CL Yeah, I do think so. It helps with certain art and certain projects and it probably hinders others. There are also lots of artists who are less savvy in how to use the internet in ways that are beneficial to their work depending on what medium that they’re working in. Things like reach and marketing, they’re not necessarily what artists are thinking about. But I guess it’s really usefully for artists that are working in a medium that kind of engages or connects easily with the internet. I certainly in my own work would, I don’t know, I’m probably not the best at using the internet or incorporating the internet into my work. There are artists whose work is entirely internet related.
RPH Most recently Hibernation Radio was in IMMA as part of the More Than One Maker exhibition, what was that whole experience like for you?
CL It was a great experience. We didn’t actually do the installation ourselves because of the nature of the exhibition. IMMA organised things like the installation, the speakers and stuff like that. So really it was like having work that we had already done put into this new context. So we had to edit together about an hour’s sample of Hibernation Radio. I guess that was an experience. Essentially the difficulty of it was choosing what that one hour would be out of all the material that we had. Then after that we sent it off to IMMA and they organised all the rest of it and we just went to see it once it was up. It was pretty great.
RPH Are there any new projects lined up for Bluebottle at the moment?
CL We have some ideas that we are kind of sitting on at the moment, I guess in kind of keeping an art collective going, we have maybe jobs and other priorities and stuff. We generally tend to have a couple of ideas that we sit on and wait for the opportunity and the time to get going on it. So, no, there’s nothing really in particular that I’d like to announce at the moment. I’ve mostly been working on my own work.
RPH Can you talk to me about your work?
CL So I’ve been doing some pretty interesting performances recently. So as a performer I’ve generally just been a two dimensional performer, in that I’ll just read my work off a page and have it only consisting of that element. In the past few months I’ve done some collaborative performances that I’ve been really happy with how it’s coming along, they’ve also been spontaneous as well. So I’ve done two performances in an event called Concrete Cathedral, which takes place in a warehouse. So what we did there was I, at the first, Stu Mollusc who is a noise artist essentially did his thing while I did mine and it was really atmospheric, an interesting space to work in, a very industrial spaces, it was to a small crowd, but it was a great place to experiment with how my work can work with music, even though it it’s not the most musical of music. Then at the next one I collaborated with Seb from Deathness Injection which I think worked better yet. Basically these performances have made me realise that having these extra audio elements is really helping my work. I’m working on performance which incorporates my own audio material to compliment my written work and then I think I might have some kind of dance or physical aspect to it as well. I’ve been doing a lot of hula hooping. I recently hula hooped with School Tour at a recent gig which was a lot of fun. At this point I’m just trying to combine all the elements, all the different forms of art and just lump them into one. So if there is a way of combining my interest in music and DJing and spoken word and hula hooping, maybe even drawing, if I could just basically combine all the elements of all the separate things I’m doing all at once that would be great. I’m just trying to figure it out at the moment anyway. Doing experimental performances has been really great recently.
RPH Do you know why you want to join the different arts together?
CL Sometimes it makes a whole lot of sense and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes hula hooping and poetry maybe that doesn’t make any sense. [RPH Rhythm?] Yeah, there definitely could be something hypnotic about both. There’s potential there, but the only way you can know if it’ll work or not is to try. In terms of writing and visual art, I do a lot of drawing as well so I’ve been trying to do comics. I’d love to write a little comic book or something that would just combine these two elements that really complement each other. I guess I’m attracted to the idea of incorporating music into my spoken word because a lot of my favourite musicians would have started off as spoken word artists or at least would have been spoken word artists parallel to their career or there’s always been spoken word element in their music. One of my favourite poets, Lydia Tomkiw, from Algebra Suicide, she was a spoken word poet and Don Hedeker played the music. It’s minimal wave music, but it works so well and she’s not even singing. I’ve seen how it can work for other artists and I also think these days, it’s probably the best time to make music if you can’t play an instrument. It’s probably really attractive to me because it involves learning a new skill.
Words: Roisin Power Hackett