The Body Electric; An Interview with artist Suzanne Walsh – Part 2
by Marie-Louise Blaney.
Marie-Louise Blaney is the Education Curator at The Model, Sligo.
On rewilding, the Burren and writers who inspire.
MLB I really liked the French origin of the word “interview” (entrevue), which means to ‘to see between’. It appeared to me as the perfect title for this blog as I discover how Walsh’s work continually unveils the hidden realms of the in-between and lesser known states. In today’s blog, I asked Suzanne about what excites and inspires them in these times.
SW I’m always looking for art and writing that excites and disturbs me. I like to get my inspiration from many sources. I’m interested in discourse on ‘rewilding’ in conservation, and I’ve been involved in wildlife rescue myself. George Monbiot writes well on this, in his book ‘Feral’ as does the Irish ecologist Pádraic Fogarty in his book ‘Whittled Away’. I’ve been reading some old mystical texts recently. I don’t consider myself Catholic, but I’m interested in mysticism and saints. I’ve been reading ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, by St. John of the Cross, for example. It interests me that books like this can be both spiritual, and yet heretical in different eras, ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ nearly didn’t make it through the Spanish Inquisition.
I was very moved by reading the diaries of Derek Jarman, and by a closer look at his work in general. His diaries are a mixture of gardening, queer life, his HIV activism, all while living under the shadow of his own coming death. They are a profound read.
I’m generally interested in discourse about capitalism, queerness, trans-inclusive feminism, as it’s getting very hard to live now, for many people, including artists. I’m always looking for examples of a life outside the narrow idea of what you’re supposed to aspire to. But I’m also fueled by poetic texts, music, anything to get the blood up. Recently I’ve been reading McKenzie Wark, Édouard Glissant, Georg Trakl, and listening to Mica Levi. I’m also inspired by the artists, writers, and musicians etc in my circles, too many to mention here, I feel very privileged to know talented and perceptive people. For example recently I have been working with Barbara Knežević, and Christodoulos Makris.
MLB The rich landscape of the Burren in the West of Ireland is a wildly magical place – porous and other worldly. You spent some time there. Tolkien spent time there too which people say inspired the Gollum character in Lord of the Rings, as well as the misty mountains of Middle Earth. What’s your connection with the Burren?
SW I used to live on the edge of the Burren, years ago, so I’m familiar with it. I never thought about Tolkien when I was there, and I didn’t know that connection. I’ve read since that he thought the land of Ireland was naturally evil! I’ve read/watched films of his work, and enjoyed them, but they don’t personally connect with me that much. I think in terms of the fantastical; Ursula Le Guin’s worlds have touched me more, for example. ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and her Earthsea novels are really exciting reads. The Burren is a very special place, the botany, the holy wells, the shape of the rocks, all that porous limestone feels like it soaks things up. It’s quite a charged place.
MLB Is there a hidden element to your work that is unwilling to reveal itself fully?
SW I like to bury references in my work, for other people to find or sometimes not. I’m not sure if what’s concealed is unwilling to reveal itself, except in the way that we’re always chasing something we want to reveal and perhaps not completely succeeding. And so it inspires us to keep attempting. But I think I don’t like to wrap up things comfortably, there is an element of creating a disturbance and then leaving. I’m definitely trying to create holes, portals, sometimes in a kind of light, humorous way (like the audio work for The Body Electric). Often it’s a kind of intense confusion to try and create the possibility of seeing things in a different way.
Tomorrow Walsh tells us about the ‘wickedest man in the world’, who waged a magical battle with an Irish member of the Order of the Golden Dawn.