Overstock – A Performative Lecture Series

June 1, 2015 – Culture

Curated by Jennie Taylor

The Overstock three part Performative Lecture Series, which begun on the 29th of April in MART Gallery , caught my attention immediately as something I wanted to investigate. The series is curated by Jennie Taylor an MA graduate from the NCAD course Art in the Contemporary World. She has worked with many art galleries for a number of years and curated exhibitions. Overstock #1 is her first performative curated project. It is a series of performative pieces by many artists including, Suzanne Walsh, Jane Locke, Brenda Kearney,Ella de Burca, James Ó hAodha, Catherine Barragry, Daniel Tuomey, Nicola Whelan and Deborah Madden. The artists were asked to respond to the writings of JL Austin.

John Langshaw Austin is a British philosopher of language. ‘How to Do Things With Words’, the text Jennie Taylor asked the artists to respond to develops the theory of performative utterances. A performative utterance is a speech act. When uttered the words persuade or inspire someone to do or to conceive something. In ‘How to Do Things With Words’, Austin writes,

‘Saying something will often, or even normally, produce certain consequential effects upon the feelings, thoughts, or actions of the audience, or of the speaker, or of other persons: and it may be done with the design, intention, or purpose of producing them.’

So one could say that this series was created to persuade and inspire its audience to act. This doing and acting, this performative, speaking action within the space of visual art is a little interest of mine. So would I be inspired?

Overstock Ella deBurca 'Aphorisms I Knew That Word Once' Photo by Jonathan Sammon

Extremely excited, I attended the Overstock #1 held on the 29th of April, which included the work of Suzanne Walsh, Jane Locke, Ella deBurca and Brenda Kearney. First up  was Jane Lock with a lecture called, ‘The Dissemination of Performative Art Practices’. Overall this performance was the most lecturey of all as it comprised of a power point presentation, but on the other hand also included a red and white striped punch and judy booth. Locke gave a presentation about all the intriguing performance projects she had done, including dying a rabbit’s hair blue, dressing up as a Victorian and stalking a punch and judy puppeteer in Scotland. Despite being the most traditional mini lecture I sat through that evening, she told many engaging stories, I cannot to hear about her next quirky adventure.

Another impressive performance called ‘Aphorisms: I Knew That Word Once’, came from Ella deBurca. It involved four actors, Anthony Colclough, Hugh Hick, Bob Kelly, and John Murphy, who played their part with great humour and enthusiasm. They were historical individuals from the past – Rilke, Wagner, Mann and Beuys. They had all hilariously forgotten to wear their trousers and were just in  shirts, jackets, ties and boxers. DeBurca composed their voices as if they were an orchestra, whilst they talked about a myraid of ideas and argued amongst themselves, at times her control over them collapsed into delightful chaos. It felt like a refreshingly energetic format for combining words and performance art.

Overstock Suzanne Walsh 'All the Beasts' Photo by Jonathan Sammon

Suzanne Walsh’s performance ‘All the Beast’, was a one woman propless show. It was all about what she said and how she delivered it. It was a talk about an animal or a beast. The description she gave of this beast continued to evolve, dissolve and reform, changing continuously, becoming one thing and then another. Sitting through the performance, I had to think hard to keep track of what the beast kept on becoming. It was a fantastic journey and transformation in my mind.

The last performance of the evening, ‘Apanē kāma mērā kāma hai’, was given by Brenda Kearney. It involved many props, including a gas stove, and a host of participants. This was a silent presentation, a how-to of cooking a sort of simple flat bread. There was a lot of repetition, silent shuffling and passing around of very beautiful cut-glass decanters and other utensils. It was silent threatre, led and directed by Kearney and the end result was the warm doughy smell of bread. Overall it pushed the boundaries of a presentation, it was showing rather than telling and rather different to the other three performances in Overstock #1.

Was I persuaded or inspired? Well I wanted to write this article and ask Jennie Taylor some questions. And so I did. Her main reason for creating Overstock was because she wanted to work with the material of spoken word as opposed to objects. On speaking to her, Taylor said:

 ‘I am interested in presenting an object of knowledge in speculative conditions. In other words this project combines a definitive transfer of something from one subject to another whilst questioning the very nature of such an action as it takes place.’

Overstock Jane Locke 'The Dissemination of Performative Art Practices' Photo by Jonathan Sammon


The medium of speech, questioning actions and presenting things under speculative conditions excite me as a fresh way of art making. Within Dublin of late, and perhaps all of Ireland, there seems, or it may be because I seek these things out, a rise in spoken word events. On asking Jennie Taylor if the creation of her Performative Lecture Series had any connection with this rise, she said:

 ‘I certainly drew from the series Foaming at the Mouth that took place last summer. As an audience member I found them to be rich events and an exciting mix of practices through spoken word.’

Foaming at the Mouth was a series of visual art spoken word events. Asking Taylor why she thought this prevalance in using performative lectures has happened in art, she responded:

 ‘Possibly because artist’s practices offer not just alternative ways of being but also alternative ways of knowing through research that goes in various directions because of one particular concern or interest.’

Unfortunately I did not make it to Overstock #2 on May 27th, which included performances by James Ó hAodha and Daniel Tuomey. Overstock #3, the final in the series, will take place on June 24th. I hope to be there. For more information check out http://www.mart.ie/calendar/overstock-3/. This is a free event, but booking is essential.

Words: Roisin Power Hackett

Photos: Jonathan Sammon