Final Chapter – Offering the ribbons (trailer)

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Currently artist in residence with the Cyprus Academy of Arts Residency Programme, Kirwan proudly presents the seventh and final performance in her new series of online performances to be broadcasted live to a global audience.
Grief-Work, is a new development in Kirwan’s Memory Theatre series and her direct response to the poignancy of the global pandemic. She has introduced this innovative, virtual approach to the experience of performance art so as to reach out to audiences around the world. During this period of much grief and death, her performances allow a space and time for moments of con- templation.
Kirwan is known for her quiet, meditative performances and moving image installations on the themes of memory and loss; and journeying as a metaphor for loss. Her most recent work explor- ing these themes, includes her trilogy of videos collectively known as Memory Theatre which were each unveiled at the European Cultural Centre during last three editions of the Venice Biennale.
Grief-Work is part of Kirwan’s ongoing inquiry into mourning and loss. During her seventh perfor- mance, Kirwan will offer ribbons to men in black in an outdoor setting at an archaeological site. Since ancient times, during funeral and burial practices in many cultures, including Ancient Greece, ribbons (‘tainia’) and cloth were used as popular grave offerings and as tangible expres- sions of grief in the face of death. Often these were vermillion red and a number of late Classical and Hellenistic stone markers are decorated with painted and/or low relief images of red ribbons, but other bright colours were also used.
During this performance, viewers will again become immersed in a compelling, absorbing experi- ence as they watch these seemingly infinite repetitions. Kirwan regards these repetitive tasks and absurd processes as metaphors for the mourning process and as a medium for the metaphorical construction of memory.
Kirwan’s work draws on her own experience of mourning the loss of a loved one. In The Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeare powerfully expresses how difficult it is for Hamlet to explain the depths of his personal, singular experience of grief and for others to understand it. ‘Grief is a Mouse’, hidden and quiet, in Western cultures especially. And yet, as Derrida points out, death takes not only a par- ticular life within the world but each death, each time, will have opened up a world of other deaths in both finite and infinite ways. Kirwan thinks that however difficult, grief needs attention; it’s due time and respect especially now, when over 2.5 million people have died during the Covid pandemic and countless more are in mourning. It seems also that people are becoming more introspective and open to contemplative work; perhaps after decades of sensory overload, loosing their appetite for the sensational and a perpetual craving for the ‘new’.
The restrictive measures introduced to overcome the pandemic, especially on communication with the sick and dying have intensified and complicated the experience of grief for many. The basic human need and desire to touch has often been denied completely and being forbidden to touch and hug a dying loved one must be one of the most unutterably painful and poignant features of the pandemic across the globe. Kirwan’s performances attempt, if only for fleeting moments, to give grief expression and to open up spaces and time for quiet moments for the contemplation of grief and mourning.

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