Alastair Maclennan

Alastair Maclennan, Unseeing Trace, 1999

Alastair Maclennan, Unseeing Trace, 1999

In 1997 Alastair MacLennan (b. 1943, Blair Athall, Scotland) represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale with intermedia work commemorating all those who had died as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland since 1969. Political, social and cultural malfunction have been central themes in MacLennan’s work since his extended performance pieces of the 1970s and ’80s. During most of these performances – which lasted up to 144 hours each – the artist neither ate nor slept.

Maclennan’s work for Liverpool was a week-long ‘actuation’ (MacLennan’s term for performance/installation). Trestle tables running the entire length of his space were set for absent guests. Their uneaten feast included pigs’ heads, fish and other items symbolic in the Catholic tradition. MacLennan’s performance took place, on alternate days, both inside and outside.

Alastair MacLennan's artist statement for TRACE...

A primary function of art is to bridge our spiritual and physical worlds. Through crass materialism we have reduced art to cultural real estate. Actual creativity can neither be bought nor sold, although its husks, shells and skins often are. It is possible in art to use meta-systems without over-reliance on a physical residue with its attendant marketplace hustling, jockeying and squabbling.

Art is the demonstrated wish and will to resolve conflict through action, be it spiritual, religious, political, personal, social or cultural. To heal is to make whole. As well as ecology of natural environment, there is ecology of mind and spirit. Each is a layer of the other, interfused: three in one. The challenge for us today is to live this integration.

Issues remain:

ethics – aesthetics the ‘outsider’ – political/social institutions religious/political bigotry – inclusive tolerance ‘dereliction’ and public/private responsibility oppositional or consensual means of political/social improvement death – decay new life and mutation transformation.

Alastair MacLennan at Liverpool Biennial 1999

Unseeing Trace
, 1999
Actuation (performance/installation), intermedia
Courtesy of the artist