This performance considered the ‘home’ as the first, gendered, architecture of the state. In the Republic of Ireland, women’s place within the home remains enshrined in constitutional law (1937); in the North, homes were frequently raided during the Troubles by the British army, permitted by the Special Powers Act (1922). The performance considered these double roles of the private domestic space, as a space of potential invasion but also holding the potential for secrecy and solidarity between women around the kitchen table. The performance was staged in a home that was subject to repeated raids by state forces.
Audience members booked by calling a mobile phone number and received directions to a meeting place. On the day of the performance, they were greeted by a woman in this house who took their names as a radio played recent news reports (Symphysiotomy survivors in Ireland; debate about abortion in the North of Ireland; forced sterilisation of women in American prisons) and pop songs from the 1980s. When the group was gathered, they left the house and walked to the venue together. The woman knocked on the door and audience members were led inside and asked to take a seat at the kitchen table. A performer was seated at the head of the table. At most, ten audience members witnessed each performance, which involved voice, touch, sound and movement.
Below is an extract from Of Milk and Marble, written by the artists Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones and performed by Louise Matthews.
What am I made of?
Calcium, calcium, calcium, calcium – Bone
Saccrum, coccyx, ramus, ramus, ischium, illium, pubic symphysis
When calcium is gathered and compressed, it forms these bones. This is the opacity that can be seen in X Rays.
My bones can be broken because they can be seen…
but if I could break this calcium up into tiny parts, loosen it and flood it through my whole body, hold it in liquid suspension, I would move freely, flowing, shifting, evading surveillance.
A moving barrier, protecting the intimacy of my inside.
A continuous, uncongealed agent.
Image: Performer Louise Matthews during Of Milk and Marble, Derry (2016). Photograph: Miriam O’Connor
The performance was informed by a legal drafting workshop with an invited group of women living in the city. Participants in the workshop brought objects to share and discuss tactile memory, exploring the question of what the ‘touch’ of the law feels like, and how it could be touched back.
In Derry, a woman described how she would cook bacon when her home was being raided by British soldiers [during the Troubles].
The smell of bacon cooking still reminds her of it.
Image: A packet of bacon brought to the legal drafting workshop for Of Milk and Marble, Derry (2016). Photograph: Miriam O’Connor