This new three-channel video is the final chapter in a trilogy of video work, exploring mourning and memory through the physical act of journeying.
It shows my live performances in the ancient cedar forests of Lebanon and on the Ustyurt plateau and Aral Sea regions of Uzbekistan. These, synthesised with my performances under water and other imagery, form a complex montage with a fragmented but interwoven, repetitive structure. It aims to express a poetic,
metaphorical approach to a meditation on memory.
Repetition, at the heart of the work, draws on Simon Critchley’s references to Hegel’s concept of memory as dynamic process akin to endless motion ‘a wheel that turns, returns and turns again…. Thus, memory is conceived of as endlessly creating novelty out of itself .
The sound, composed by Tom Lane, expresses this sense of perpetual movement developing slowly throughout, using minimalist phasing techniques and textural manipulation.
perpetuum mobile is an immersive three-screen video installation showing her live performances in the ancient cedar forests of Lebanon and on the Ustyurt plateau and Aral Sea regions of Uzbekistan. These, synthesised with her performances under water and other imagery, form a complex montage which- through its fragmented but interwoven, repetitive structure- expresses a poetic, metaphorical approach to a meditation on memory and memorial.
Kirwan is interested in the question of what is memory and how might it function and be visually represented. She explores also the metaphorical construction of memory through travel and it’s textual and visual narratives as expressed by Proust, Walter Benjamin and others. This inspires her performative commitment to long journeys undertaken in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Kirwan’s work is mainly inspired by Simon Critchley’s Memory Theatre. Critchley admires Hegel’s proposition that memory is a dynamic process akin to transportation or endless motion. Rather than a dull recitation of the past on the contrary, memory is ‘A wheel that turns, returns and turns again…‘a kind of perpetuum mobile, a permanently recreating and re-enacting loop.’ 1
Repetition evokes also the ceaseless journeying and yearning which some psychologists consider intrinsic to the bereavement process. Thus the sensorimotor, haptic elements of Kirwan’s performances become metaphors for wayfinding and mapping; feeling literally, the ground and the way through the wilderness and bewilderment of bereavement.
Intrinsic to Kirwan’s performances is an essential incompletion which is itself the mode of fulfilment. This stems from her interest in Friederich Schlegel’s concept of the philosophical fragment as a dynamic, creative practice of fragmentation for its own sake in which totality is both finite and plural at the same time. Thus, memory is a totality, endlessly creating novelty out of itself and opening up questions about the relation between the finite and infinite, unity and chaos.
‘Personal Structures’, European Cultural Centre, Palazzo Bembo, Riva del Carbon 4793, 30124 Venice. Italy: 11.05.19 – 24.11.19
Helen Kirwan speaking about her work and video installation perpetuum mobile
Helen Kirwan speaking about her work and video installation perpetuum
mobile at European Cultural Centre, Palazzo Bembo, Venice, May 2019
perpetuum mobile installation images at FIVAC Festival Internacional de Videoarte de Camagüey, Cuba
perpetuum mobile installation images, European Cultural Centre, Palazzo Bembo during the 58th Venice Biennale 2019.