Dominic Thorpe is an Irish visual artist who works primarily through performance art in a range of contexts. He also works with drawing, video, photography, installation, collaborative and relational based processes. Much of his recent work addresses contemporary and historical human rights and institutional abuses and he is currently receiving a Vice-Chancellors Scholarship at Ulster University to undertake a practice-based PhD researching performance art and representations of perpetrators. In addition, he has worked extensively in the area of arts and health, addressing suicide, chronic pain, and mental health. Within live performance, Dominic often interacts with everyday objects through improvised processes, bodily gestures, duration, and context, exploring complexities around identity, relationships, trauma, and coping mechanisms. 


Dominic gave a very interesting presentation about performance art and how he approaches things he opened my mind to performance art I had long told myself that it was beyond me that I didn’t get it and didn’t know how people came up with their ideas to do it.    

Dominic spoke about using space and time that it’s the two things that you have in performance art and then the use of materials can be anything to make objects to finding objects. 


The questions he asked where:-

What point are you not performing?

Where does the performance start and end this got me thinking of my clients getting up every day putting on custom and make up a mask and going out and performing to the world while not feeling very good. A performance is standing up and doing a presentation acting brave when you want to cry hiding how you really feel these are all performances and we all do something like this in our normal day to day living. I see this with a client that comes to me she appears strong-willed independent outspoken she is well-dressed makeup is perfect and bold but behind this mask behind her performance to the world, she is lost insecure searching for answers without telling anybody that she wants help. I take a lot of energy to keep these performances up and to fight against yourself of what you want to show the world and hide from it. To hide your true self. So my clients are artists in their own right before they come to art therapy we are just going to use a different medium to unveil what’s hidden beneath. 


What are the behaviors?

How did the person learn these behaviors how do they make them work how to do these behaviors truly make them feel. How driven are they by a behavior how easy is it to go against a behavior. I wonder if some of these behaviors the fight-flight-freeze fawn survival mechanism.


What process have you learned?

Well, I have learned that everyone has behaviors to cover up what they don’t want to expose. It’s finding a way around them in a therapy session or maybe it’s reflecting back to a client what they are doing, maybe they are not aware. It is a process where both I and the client are learning about ourselves and each other. 


Dominic spoke about not letting materials get in your creative way and do not stand in your own creative path. This I think is about less is more don’t have so many materials that you don’t know where to start, it’s so daunting that you are afraid to begin. I think I stand in my creative way a lot I don’t have time, it’s too late, I don’t have the right colors, I have the wrong paper, my desk is a mess, I need to do ……….. Before I can do art. Art is a doddle a sketch arranging nature taking photos there is always time to do something. Another thing I have found myself doing is saying no I can’t it won’t be good enough I hear my clients say it as well we have such high expectations of ourselves that we would rather fail than try. 


“The body is an ongoing record it never forgets, it forgets nothing everything is recorded” This is truly a smell a photo an object a set of words a song can trigger a memory which we will remember. it’s a scar that carries a story a flinch that carries a reaction our bodies have been recording ourselves from when we were created. 


Dominic said “do something quickly so that self-doubt doesn’t sink in” I have been trying to do that since his lecture just gets it on the page don’t look at it just do it then wonder what it is. Sometimes it’s easier said than done as if you think about how you are going to do it I have over-analyzed it and it has lost the Significance of what it was to become. 


“It’s not about good artwork it’s about what did you learn? What where you enquiring about?” this Completely relates to art therapy as we are not looking for a good piece of artwork but looking at what does it mean what does it remind you of how does it feel to do it what didn’t make you think about. Art can be the key that opens the door to our own selves the key for us to truly understand ourselves and discover Who We Are What We Are. 


“Art is not static it’s vibrating all the time”

“Energy can’t be destroyed it can only be transformed” 

“Try not to worry” th_crbst_IMG_DT006

Sit with it until something comes to you everything that happens is art” this I want to take into my own art practice and would like to make some slow art maybe art that involves nature growing in my art so that I have to be patient and wait I’m not in control. I need to take time to sit and wait until I have done something don’t rush the process both in my own work and in the therapy room with clients be patient to sit and wait something will come takes a lot of trusts that comes from within us 

“Artwork is not a destination”

“Don’t be afraid of things you can’t expect improvisation art is a journey of letting go of your explanation”

I have to say I am quite enjoying doing this I now try to make some art when I go for a walk using what I find around me I try to resist the urge to take a photo as I don’t want to be able to recreate it. It not about the end product but the journey there that I’m wanting to explore. 


In the afternoon I took part in Dominic’s workshop. It was quite exhilarating, to begin with exploding with energy Isis extended length of time I’m how we gonna win or was looking how we done it when we thought people were looking how we held our cells back and then embraced it as intimidating to do as a group than it would have been to done individually find the walking exercise quite interesting as I wandered around the room I was giving up the ground and then I started to slow down standing with my eyes closed in one spot myself swing we had to walk backward I was very nervous apprehensive shaky, Flinched reacted to every touch and Sensation to become more comfortable the more I concentrated on my breath and each step the more confident I became as long as I could hold this line of thought and not break it I could do it I could trust myself to place each foot at a time then I started the think in this room has steps I don’t want to fall down the stairs started to react become stiff again could feel it in my whole body and I had to tell myself they won’t let us all down stairs you’re fine you can do this it was all about trusting myself trusting where I was trusting that I could do this. 


The exercise of discovering an object not to know what it is but to explore what it was how it felt how it moved what it smelt like what noise it makes not seeing it as a thing but as an object to truly see what it was. I found this hard at times as I knew exactly what the object was as soon as it touched my hand, no my eyes were closed, I had to try and let go of the thought of this is a ranch and discover what it was like with my eyes closed the metal is heated up on my hand, the sound of a little scary but moving in my hand hi it’s me and the different noise when I moved it how it felt how I moved it. 


From this workshop I found myself trying to free myself from the confines of my expectations of what art should be. I have found myself more freely exploring art galleries and being able to see more to sit wait and experience the art rather than just hovering past it. I now get some interesting looks when I try to see art from different angles but it’s fun to do this in a gallery in a way I feel I am more connected to it. In my artwork I waited observed been more present which has meant that I have added more and I feel made more meaningful art for myself through this process. 


I need to attend more performance art workshops in the future as I really do feel that I learned a lot for myself and for my practice

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