Public feeling by Sarah Browne is an artwork about health and austerity shaped by fitness choreography.
Each class (a circuit class, an aquafit class, and a virtual spin class) was delivered by a qualified fitness instructor: Gareth Francis (Kickstart Fitness); Eleanor Young (Aquafit), and Peter May (Cycle Studio). They instruct the participants throughout the class, which are accompanied by a musical score and scripted soundtrack. Newly commissioned writing by Lynn Ruane and Colm Keegan is incorporated into the sound design throughout the performances.
Public feeling explores the health impacts of austerity on the individual and social body, the politics of ‘resilience’, and considers the gym or leisure centre as a space where these bodies are trained, transformed and cared for. Early research for the project included mapping the growth of independent and commercial gyms in the county, with names such as Macho Gym, Extreme Fitness, and Fit4Less. Many of these gyms are located in industrial estates, alongside new churches that have sprung up over the last decade, creating purposeful new patterns of desire, use and movement through the South Dublin landscape.
This participatory project explores ‘feelings’ – like joy, shame, anger and depression – not only as individual emotions, but as shared social realities, and asks how we can occupy the everyday space of the gym or leisure centre to re-imagine and re-work these collective experiences. Throughout the process of developing and rehearsing the project, the leisure centres were used for reading and writing activities, such as a workshop with poet, and facilitator Colm Keegan, as well as physical movement.
‘My first experiences of South Dublin County were of driving to pools in Clondalkin and Tallaght, for galas and training as I was a competitive swimmer when I was a kid. Once I stopped competing, after spinal surgery and around the time I went to art college, I stopped swimming almost completely for about ten years. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to return to exercise for pleasure without being focused strictly on a hard result: but once I started learning this, I found myself in the company of many other people who came to these places to process their daily experiences through their bodies in some way.
As much as bodies can hold onto trauma, there is the possibility of learning and practicing different ways to move. Certain gyms and leisure centres, as much as sea-swimming spots and well-cycled tarmacked hills, hold the energy accumulated through the repetition and effort of so many individual bodies. Some of the experiences that move through these places are unique to the person—remembered on a home screen, or held in a tattoo or a keychain memorial. Other experiences are more easily shared, due to the conditions of the time and place we find ourselves surviving in. The Taoiseach claims that ‘welfare cheats cheat us all’ and is photographed in post-workout exercise wear. A gym owner and retired mixed martial arts fighter is elected as a local councillor in Tallaght. The gym is often thought of as an offstage space outside of politics, but it can also be a concentration of it: what values are being trained into muscle memory? Which bodies are able to be worked and cared for, and by whom?’
– Sarah Browne
Tallaght Leisure Centre
3rd & 10th November
14:15 FALLOUT (Circuit), 16:30 RESILIENCE (Aqua)
Clondalkin Leisure Centre
17th & 24th November
14:15 FALLOUT (Circuit), 16:30 RESILIENCE (Aqua)
BREAKDOWN (Available for download, later in winter 2019)
Please note: Public feeling is a participatory experience. By booking a ticket, you are agreeing to take part in a fitness class, with an understanding of the risks involved in undertaking physical exercise. Please see www.publicfeeling.org for further details.
Follow the project online:
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Sarah Browne uses social and sculptural processes of engagement to address non-verbal, bodily experiences of knowledge, labour and justice. She works with film, sculpture and performance.
Her recent solo exhibitions include Report to an Academy, Marabouparken, Stockholm (2017); Hand to Mouth, CCA Derry~Londonderry & IMA, Brisbane (2014) and The Invisible Limb, basis, Frankfurt (2014). Selected group exhibitions include TOUCH, nGbK, Berlin; Strange Foreign Bodies at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow (both 2018), and One Foot in the Real World, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2013). In 2016, with Jesse Jones, she made In the Shadow of the State, a major co-commission by Artangel and Create. This involved collaboration with women in the fields of law, music, material culture and midwifery, addressing women’s experience of the ‘touch of the law’ through a series of legal workshops and performances in Derry, Liverpool, Dublin and London. In 2009, Browne co-represented Ireland at the 53rd Venice Biennale with Gareth Kennedy and Kennedy Browne, their shared collaborative practice.
Browne is currently artist in residence at Rua Red, Tallaght.
Public feeling is produced by AOB Arts Management.
Banner image: Sarah Browne, BREAKDOWN, 2017. 45 minute lecture performance / spinning class. Performer: Shirley Harthey Ubilla. Photo: Mikaela Krestesen. Commissioned by Marabouparken.
1: Sarah Browne, From Vinegar into Plastic, 2017. HD video, 12 minutes. Performer: Leah Marojévic.
2-6: Sarah Browne, site visits (research photographs), 2017-18.
7-8: Rehearsal participants in Public feeling by Sarah Browne (aquafit class), at Clondalkin Lesiure Centre. Photo Miriam O’Connor
9-10: Instructor Gareth Francis in rehearsals for Public feeling by Sarah Browne, at Tallaght Lesiure Centre. Photo Miriam O’Connor
11-12: Neil Fleming in rehearsals for Public feeling by Sarah Browne, at Tallaght Lesiure Centre. Photo Miriam O’Connor
13-14: Rehearsals for Public feeling by Sarah Browne, at Tallaght Lesiure Centre. Photo Miriam O’Connor