The artist Helen Kirwan conducted Memory Theatre performances on Sunny Sands Beach, Folkestone on 11th of October and 5th of November 2017 during the Folkestone Triennial Fringe.
During the performances, the artist attempted to empty the sea with buckets. This process of seemingly futile and endless repetition is part of Kirwan’s ongoing exploration into the themes of mourning and memorial. The performances were scheduled according to the tide tables for Sunny Sands Beach as the artist explores tensions between the body, outdoor sites and the haptic. In the fog of bereavement, contact between the body and environment is a form of mapping or re-orientating.
While the artist has often used the landscapes of Kent in her work, this was Kirwan’s second performance series in Folkestone. Kirwan’s And May There Be No Sadness of Farewell (2014), with Simon Pruciak, was shot between Folkestone and Sandgate for the Folkestone Triennial Fringe 2014. Responding to curator Lewis Biggs’ theme ‘Lookout’, for the triennial the video installation incorporated footage of the sea with Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘Crossing the Bar’.
Memory Theatre (2017) consists of a series of videoed performative pieces undertaken by the artist in Dungeness and Joss Bay, Kent, Merzouga, Morocco, and The Burren and Connemara, Ireland. The artist, dressed in black, repeatedly undertakes futile tasks. A sound piece by the award- winning Dublin-based composer Tom Lane was commissioned for the video, and is the product of a long-standing collaboration between the artist and the composer.