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Video courtesy of IMMA

Breaking Cover,

The Breaking Cover Collective is a group of eco social artists working with performance and participatory art. The group emerged from "Breaking Cover, Art and Ecology Encounters", a set of pilot workshops and a six month programme designed and coordinated by Paola Catizone for IMMA.

Exhibited at

IMMA Outdoors

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland.
“Wisdom is the intelligence of the system as a whole”

- Gregory Bateson

The Breaking Cover Collective (BCC), is a group of arts professionals, educators, healers and activists.

Its vision is to activate the power of performance art to communicate the urgency of the ecological crisis and to re-enchant our relations to Earth and the wider community of life. The collective aims to propose participatory performative actions as catalysts for eco-social change.

Central to the ethos of the BCC is the idea that art, and performance art in particular, is uniquely placed to communicate the reality of the ecological emergency.

The BCC is inter- generational, fostering exchange of diverse knowledges and experiences.  It acknowledges the elders, indigenous people of many countries, our ancestors at the frontline of eco-social resistance. A relational and dialogical ethos as well as a favoring of embodied thinking, refusing to focus on intellectual discourse alone, underlies the group’s art processes.

The collective was initiated by artist Paola Catizone with the support of IMMA between 2020-21. Catizone ran some pilot workshops  in 2020 and then designed, coordinated and facilitated Breaking Cover, Art and Ecology Encounters, a six month programme on ecology and performance art at IMMA, which was attended by over 50 people in 2021.The programme title referred to the 2020-21 lockdowns, when humans stepped back and nature seemed to break cover.

At the end of the course, a group of 15 participating artists formed and worked collaboratively to present a two hour performance in the grounds of IMMA, in September of 2021, curated by Catizone.

Individual performances

Photography by Molly Keane
Photography by Molly Keane

These were born from the tension in the group between individuality and  inter-connectedness. This tension was part of the group's discussions through the course and found its way into the work.

The drum

Photography by Molly Keane
Photography by Molly Keane

The heart of the performance was not visible, and even esoteric: Musician/ Sculptor Thomas Duffy made and assembled a drum in the IMMA courtyard during his solo piece. Within the drum each performer wrote their intentions; the spiritual drive behind the making of this work. Thomas' drum called the group to the IMMA courtyard after the solo performances. From there, the group  walked in a slow procession to the formal gardens, holding their intentions in mind, and viewers followed.  A woman reported  later how walking slowly along, to the pace of the drum, had come naturally to her.

The Banquet

Photography by Molly Keane
Photography by Molly Keane

In the formal gardens, Catizone and Carmel Ennis (Garden Artist) had set up a large banquet table. They decorated it with herbs, plant die, animal skulls. After a spoken word piece by Deirdre Lane, focussing on the bogland (Mind me, don't mine me), the formal looking event degenerated into chaos; the group toasted and then poured the multicolored drinks onto the table and then served the meal by emptying three wheelbarrows of earth, (kindly supplied by OPW gardener Mary Condron), onto plates, which were soon overfilled and spilled onto the table, to the sound of "More!". They added electrical and plastic waste and this became layered with more earth, which now resembled a landfill, a tomb..Excessive consumption was the theme of the banquet, and some viewers later expressed that feelings of grief and shame had overwhelmed them while watching.

The Die In

As the once pretty banquet table transformed into a monument to human excess, a keening sound (By Hillary Willians and Catizone), prompted the group's migration towards the meadow. There, XR activist/artist Thomas Morelly, armed with his megaphone (Courtesy of XR Dublin) called out the names of extinct species. The artists fell and rose, dying over and over again, until the last creature, the extinct dodo, was called and everything came to stillness.

The closing gesture of the event represented hope: Catizone lit a small candle in a lantern and the group  walked back to IMMA's Studio 10, with viewers following. A spontaneous Q&A session took place there.

About Breaking Cover

The BCC  continued to collaborate. They produced and presented  a three day programme of individual and group performances and interventions, at Earth Rising, IMMA’s first Ecology and Art Festival, in October of 2022.

The Breaking Cover Programme and the BCC will be included in an upcoming publication : Artist Led Organisations In Ireland, by Megs Morley

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