Critics’ Picks

Amanda Coogan, The Fall, 2009/2015, Performance view, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin, 2015.


Amanda Coogan

RHA Gallery
Royal Hibernian Academy 15 Ely Place
September 4–October 18, 2015

A mesmerizing presence, Amanda Coogan commands her space during her performances: a considerable feat, as twelve dramatic spotlit installations share the gallery. Each is a costume of sorts—the residue of past performances. On opening night, Coogan stood atop a mountain of a dress: painted fabric draped over a scaffold. And throughout the run of the exhibition, Coogan will re-create six additional performances, building to an intensity anticipated via the bank of video screens in the next space that play footage of Coogan’s works, from the witty performance The Birds, 2003, in which flocks of birds escape from the rear of her silk dress, to Adoration, 2006, wherein singers venerate a Chloe handbag, to the bathos of The Fall, 2009, for which the artist’s dramatic plunge from a staircase at the Whitworth Art Gallery is undermined by the flat thud of her landing.

More recently, Coogan has focused on durational performance. Alongside the videos, 24 Hours in the Museum, 2011, documents in text, hour by hour, a separate 2011 performance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Passing¬, for which she climbed up and down the museum’s stairs. From the artist’s initial sense of playfulness to her vulnerable awareness of her tired body and of the audience (“I pick a young man,” she says. “I’m breathing him in, out, in . . . It refreshes me. It’s better than honey or water”) to her ultimate exhaustion, this is performance art at its best.