Eileen Kelly


Artist Statement

 I am a performer, a practitioner of Buddhist meditation and a teacher of Authentic Movement.  I make performances that move between pubic and private spaces.  Sometimes these performances are invisible or hidden even as they are being performed in a public space.  I am interested in perception, in what is seen and what disappears, in time and slowing it down.

My current project ROOT has been performed on public streets and in private art galleries in four cities between 2010-2014: New York, London, Sydney, and Auckland.  The audience becomes part of the performance as street scenes of passers-by reacting is projected in the gallery alongside the live performance.  The work has been presented both as a solo and in collaboration with artists in other mediums including sculpture and video-installation.  In the ongoing accumulation of this work each new setting shifts and influences the improvised performance from a white walled gallery space with a window ledge to a cave in complete darkness in the underground crypt beneath St. Pancreas Church.  As new cities are added film footage from each location will become an active element in the performance allowing a candid-camera glimpse into how people react across cultural boundaries in the urban setting.

In PERFORMANCES FOR ONE, 2001-2009, I created original performances tailor-made specifically for one person and performed for over one hundred individual audiences.  Each performance emerged as a collaboration between actor and audience.  Performances moved throughout New York City public parks and bus stops, through cafes and restaurants and into private spaces of dance studios and homes. 

Walking, taking taxis, subways and buses audience and performer entered into an agreement that the show would be performed in silence for the duration of the sand in the hour-glass held by the audience.  The journey might include a visit to the home of Richard Howard where he would read poetry to both the performer and audience or a waltz in an empty dance studio in Times Square or a foot bath given to the audience by the performer followed by a nap.  When time ran out the show was finished and then followed by a post-performance chat.  In this second half of the performance the audience and performer exchanged roles.  The audience person became the author of this part 2 of the show as their own experience was put center stage engaging the question “What happened for you?”  This exchange was a central part of the performance.  As the audience tells the story of his or her experience gathering and editing what was seen and how it felt she or he created a new version of the show and articulated the lens of their own perception. “It’s all for you.” reads a business card passed from performer to audience.  Holding the secret of the invisible performance taking place just for her or him in the midst of the public space heightened the audience’s perception of the theatre of everyday life.  Under this privileged gaze the ordinary can take on a magical quality almost like falling in love.  Together the performer and the audience create art out of ordinary life and life itself becomes art.

Authentic Movement and Buddhist meditation underlie the creation of these performance pieces.  By framing time and space the performance becomes a meditation.  Events inside that frame open our awareness to the fleeting quality of our awareness.  Now that the photo document becomes the experience, even negates the experience as the image is circulated (via social media) to the world the performance, that ephemeral graffiti, can use the image to recreate the aha! Moment.  The snap shot makes a dent in the surface of reality that allows us to see the illusion of the shape of things.