Susan Buttner, Orphaned From Belonging, 2021, video still, courtesy the artist, Luan Gallery, Athlone
Susan Buttner, Orphaned From Belonging, 2021, HD Film 15.34 min, with sound.
TEXT/ Orphaned From Belonging
Orphaned From Belonging was shot on location at the Luan Gallery, the film was completed under COVID restrictions and was produced with the support of funding from Creative Ireland, Westmeath County Council and Arts Council Ireland.
The film is the second stage of a 2year collaborative research based project. It explores bodily pain in relation to registers of mediation, pain as a cultural signifier, one presented to another in a moment of communication exchange. The issue of how we relate to and make meaning in relation to other bodies, how we respond to mediations of pain to come to an understanding of other bodies and how in an art context it can function politically and poetically. The artist would like to express her heartfelt thanks to the women who shared their experience of vulnerability and pain, these open conversations helped influence and inform the making of the installation, and to Luan Gallery, Draíocht Gallery, RHA and Flax Art Studios who facilitated the research and the making of this extensive body of work.
Sontag suggests that illness and metaphor have a long and dubious common history, and that making illness symbolic, causes misunderstanding and pain. "Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place"….
For Woolf, illness as metaphor can help us make sense of the world, the sudden awareness of elemental truth renders the ill as seer, imbued with mystical understanding of existence, beyond intellectual interpretation. “In illness words seem to possess a mystic quality. We grasp what is beyond their surface meaning, gather instinctively this, that, and the other — a sound, a colour, here a stress, there a pause — which the poet, knowing words to be meagre in comparison with ideas, has strewn about his page to evoke, when collected, a state of mind which neither words can express nor the reason explain. Incomprehensibility has an enormous power over us in illness, more legitimately perhaps than the upright will allow”..
Set within a contemporary art context, the artist creates fluid platforms of encounter between sculpture, body, sound and text, as constructive material, the artist utilises performative processes to tease out these fundamental questions, on how we respond to mediations of pain to come to an understanding of other bodies. Buttner exposes the limitations of existing discourse and through this work she attempts to invite new figurations.
L O U D C R E V I C E
This sound—it belongs to the split bark of an aged tree where fresh sap comes thick and
Or else, it belongs to a slow tongue testing the edges of the mouth it lives in while teeth click wetly within their pinkish gums. This sound is the sound of a mouth where enamel roots have come loose and turned fibrous: a wefted, gauzy canopy that catches the voice of a throat already stoppered with pellets of breath that misfire and catapult.
No; it’s something else. This sound, this sound.
It’s a refrain that simmers up from the gut.
No, not the gut. From an organ with a deeper core.
An organ where red apples are often crunching, where rules are written in red ink and thereafter
This sound. It is what you hear when a pelvis tilts and speaks its verse: a pulsing sequence of chords that rushes rivulet-veins and sees them flash pale blue, flash violet. It is a sequence that loops and loops, that taps and glitches until, until, until—here, now: a discharge of rubber, an expulsion of linen.
Once dispossessed of fistula and fissure this is what happens in the taut, ebony-dark between a pair of hips and a single heart: wild birth comes toppling forth. The nuts and bolts of old hurts push, push and this is the sound they make, this sound of membrane held in wet suspension
between twin knots of bone: torn.
Of a puncture, a siphoning.
Of a suture making kiss two tender strips of rosy flesh.
It is a sound that can only be heard from within a cave, a cavern, a chamber, a cleft, a crease, a
The sound of a veil coming off, a second skin sloughing. Its fibres so quick to soften to a pool of cream and cream-coloured pulp, only ankle-deep but deep enough to glisten as it flows towards lips that are fused, lips that are parting.
Lips that come apart and sip on the nectar of a flower that hot blood has set blooming.
This sound, this sound.
Of a pomegranate’s thousand seeds finally spilling.
This sound of a knowing wound whose pattern is the pattern of the ocean, whose reach is the
reach of an endless ribbon.
From where does it unspool?
A cave, a cavern, a chamber.
A cleft, a crease.
Special thanks to invited writer Sue Rainsford, to Regan O’Brien for the original soundscape, and to performers Rebecca Reilly and Sarah Ryan.
Videography - John Shanagher and Cathal Madden; Editing – Helena Gouveia Monteiro at Fire Station Artists’ Studios and Matt Grove.