Behind the performance

Sculptural installation in the Oregon Maple in Library Square, 2017

During the 2017 exhibition Olivia Hassett created a tendon-like sculptural installation in one of the large Oregon Maples, which collapsed last June. These yellow lycra fabric pieces mirrored the lines of the cable bracing wire system that helped support some of the heavier branches of the tree. Imagery from SEM images taken by Clodagh Dooley of the internal cellular structure of the tree was printed by the artist onto the lycra fabric before it was stretched between the branches.

2017 solo performance Olivia Hassett, lycra sculptural tendon and Oregon Maple

For the 2019 exhibition Olivia decided to re engage with the ‘lycra tendon sculptures’ in another solo performance this time with the Oregon Maple embedded in the Parson’s building. Hassett used two of the tendon-like pieces during the solo performance work that formed part of the Trinity College Trees Exhibition launch event.

Hassett began the performance draped in the fabric works from 2017. The performance took place in the external first floor part of the Parson’s building extension.

An important part of the performance included the attaching and stretching of the fabric pieces from the podium of the building to and around the trunk of the Oregon Maple tree that is embedded and surrounded by the building itself. The connection between the building and the tree and the support provided by the stretched fabric was only possible during the performance and for a short period after.

The main focus of this performative work was Hassett’s continued engagement with water retaining gel as a material. As we know water and the lack of it was highlighted as being one of the key concerns for the trees of TCD. In actual fact David Hackett mentioned that adding water retaining gel to the soil of some of the trees showing signs of dehydration was one of the options open to the grounds staff to help keep the trees healthy. Having used this material before in previous performances Hassett was used to working with and was quite familiar with it’s transformative properties. When fully engorged with water the crystals weigh up to 100 times more than in their original crystalline form. The process of fast hydration and the slow return of the water to the soil is one that can occur numerous times over the life of the material, which is estimated to be about three years.

When Hassett began to workshop and think about what elements she wanted to engage with performatively during this exhibition water retaining gel was the obvious place to start. At the beginning of the performance last week she lifted in and placed two soft plastic buckets half filled with the gel beside the tree on the first floor. She then proceeded to slowly drop, squeeze and deposit the gel onto the grating that surrounds, protects and allows rain to percolate through to the roots of the Oregon Maple tree on the ground floor. Over a period of ten minutes or so Hassett continued to drop and walk on the mounds of water retaining gel forcing the material to seep and fall through the grating onto and into the installation of tube sculptures, which enabled the gel to funnel down to the roots below.

Over the course of the exhibition this gel will continue to hydrate and dehydrate in response to the weather weakening and altering the installation of paper tubes surrounding the Oregon Maple. This transformation of material is of particular interest to the artist and is also replicated in the her choice of paper as a material for the installation of tubes. She does not know how the paper sculptures will fare during the course of the four week exhibition, maybe they will delaminate, buckle and fail as a result of repeated rain showers or maybe they will survive in some shape or other. This element of working with and adapting to the unknown in nature is therefore mirrored in a small way through the choice of her materials. More images to follow from the installation…

In addition to the paper tube installation already in place on the ground floor, Hassett has also added one of the fabric tendon-like yellow lycra pieces from the 2017 exhibition. For this installation she has stretched it from the floor up through the grating on the first floor and ending up enveloping the tree trunk above. More images to follow…..

Reintroducing Olivia Hassett

NO FEE 11 PROBE at TCD

Olivia Hassett’s art practice is interdisciplinary and frequently collaborative, realised through site specific sculptural installations and live performances. These installations and live works draw directly from Hassett’s preoccupation with metaphorical and phenomenological notions of skin as a porous, liminal boundary between public and private aspects of the human body.

Central to Hassett’s ongoing exploration of the visceral body and it’s propensity to be simultaneously grotesque and sublime is her interest in an expanded notion of skin, beyond that of abjection and binaries; inside / outside, public / private, male / female, hard / soft, but as a threshold that is continuously shifting and morphing. Hassett’s practice focuses on developing work that is openly provisional and allows movement back and forth along these edges exploring the unknown and creating a space for transformation.

Olivia Hassett Untitled Details.jpg

Olivia Hassett completed a Masters of Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 2012. Hassett is the inaugural artist in residence in the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Department of Trinity College Dublin. In 2015 Olivia Hassett and Professor David Taylor hosted Endo/ Exo, an exhibition of their collaborative project in Trinity College Dublin. Other one person shows include; In | Between, deAppendix, Dublin, 2014 (part of a three month residency), Somatic reassemblage, Newbridge Arts Centre, January 2014 and Anamorph, Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, June 2013. Recent solo performances include Screened I, MART, Dublin, 2015 and Screened II, PAB Bergen, Norway, 2015. Olivia Hassett was awarded an artists bursary from the South Dublin County Council in 2014.

What is performance art?

Olivia Hasseet 2 lo res

Above image from Olivia Hassett’s solo performance in Bergen, Norway, 2015

Live performances are an integral part of my practice and as I will be doing a live interaction with the Oregon Maple on the opening night of the Exhibition (29th of September at 6.30-6.50 and 8.30-8.50) I thought the pdf document below might be of interest to some.

Click here to open a pdf document written by Amanda Coogan in 2011 entitled What is Performance Art?

Performance by Olivia Hassett – part of TCD European Researchers Night 2017

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Image: Between You and Me, solo performance by Olivia Hassett, part of ON THE SPOT. in RUA RED, 2014.

As part of the official opening of the Trinity College Trees project Olivia Hassett will perform in response to the Oregon Maple in the main square. This performance will be included in the events celebrating European Researchers Night (Probe) in Trinity College Dublin on September 29th 2017.  Exact times to be confirmed. 

If you would like to keep up to date with this event and many more happening as part of European Researchers Night check out the official Probe event facebook page

probe tcd

The art works in progress – Hop Hornbeam

Before undertaking the making of the artwork for the Hop Hornbeam tree I had to figure out how to make it. I could not work directly on the tree while shaping and making the ‘corset’. I also realised that it would be virtually impossible to measure accurately all the curves and bends of the 3D shape. I would therefore need to create a rough mould to work with and on. Normally I would have done this using plaster bandage/ silicone etc, materials that were definitely not suitable for working with a crumbly bark surface. After some thought and a chat with my fellow artist and super mould maker Ayelet Lalor we decided that the malleable and un intrusive properties of tinfoil would work best.

So one fine morning about a month ago Ayelet, Clodagh Dooley and I set about making a temporary tinfoil mould of the selected area. We used copious amounts of tinfoil, selotape and support sticks. See image below of Clodagh and Ayelet busy helping me with the large task. Thanks again to both of them. It was quite a fun task to do and of course we got some interesting looks and comments from passers by.

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As the piece to be moulded was so large we created it in three more manageable sections, which I transferred by car to my studio. I quickly backed the reverse of the mould with plaster bandage to preserve the shape and add strength. See image below.

backing of Mould of Hophornbeam lo res

The next step in the process was somehow to get the mould into a similar set up to the real life tree in my studio. Using a mannequin as a central support and substructure I covered it with chicken to roughly simulate the tree trunk. The mould was gently re-attached and adhered to the substructure.  I set to work trying out various ideas on how I would segment the artwork. See images below.

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After deciding which option to go for I made paper patterns for the corset. This was a quite a tricky process as you can see bellow.

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Finally I placed the pattern sections on the fabric and cut out the individual pieces. Each section was then carefully sewn together. See images below.

The time had come to see how the artwork looked and functioned. I pegged the work onto the mould. At this stage I lightly stuck on some of the blue fabric strips onto the lines delineating the different sections. See images below.

Happy with the progress of the piece so far I now had to remove the blue strips and sew an extra channel into each section to allow the support wire to be inserted. At this stage I felt it was important to bring the piece into Trinity to test it’s fit. Before doing this I reattached the piece to the mould to work out some of the kinks with the wiring and fit before doing this.

On a Saturday the 24th of June I brought the work in progress into Trinity and spent many hours stretching and temporarily tying it into place. It was during this time that I had to make some final decisions on where the tying points should be on the corset. Seeing the piece in place also helped me decide on the need to wire and cover all the edges of the corset with the blue fabric. See a selection of images from the installation.

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Lots more work needs to be done to the surface of the corset. I won’t post any more images of it until it has been finally installed in late September 2017.

The exhibition will officially open to the public on Friday 29th of September. The opening will coincide with the Trinity College European Researchers Night 2017 events. During the evening Olivia Hassett will perform alongside the Oregon Maple in the main square twice and there will be also be a guided walk of the eight artworks spread throughout the Trinity College Campus. I will post the eventbrite details to sign up for the guided walk at a later stage.