Fragile Tape

A live performance at Bemis Centre for Contemporary Arts

 by Laura Fitzgerald

with special guest The Bogman

Performed at Open Studios 9th March 2023

 

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Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

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Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

In 250 words – Tell us why you need time and space:

 We are a collaborative duo living happily until 300 days ago in Rural County Kerry when a cell phone mast rudely disturbed our peace and serenity making it very difficult to live there at the moment. 

Every morning when I wake up, a figure is standing beside my bed. Although it’s an almost invisibly familiar sight to me, it has been known to cause complications and confusion with many a prospective (or even barely-prospective) partner. On certain occasions pertaining to my successful partner-hunting-expeditions, the body in question might be very-barely-prospective indeed. Such mornings, the situation could be pretty grave.

 

How would you feel waking up in a strange room with a strange person, hardly able to string a thought together after a happy hunt, when suddenly in the dawn you see a dark shadow flit in the corner, hefting what looks to be a Grim Reaper’s scythe? Yes, I’ve heard many a bloodcurdling scream. 

Most times they hardly stir me. Other days they make me see afresh. For the record, The Bogman doesn’t carry a scythe, he carries his slean. Long and lean, with a rough wooden handle which ends in a 12inchish metal spade-like shape, which when nestled between boot and ground cuts a delicious slice of deep dark turf.

He takes it everywhere he goes  it’s with him everywhere — but all the same there is a horror to this creature, a monstrousness. His sadness is leaky and lonely but prickly, like attempting to walk through furze. 

The Bogman insisted that I apply. We need time and space he said. 

ALL THE CELL PHONE MAST WANTS TO DO IS CONNECT.

What does CONNECT mean shout the suspicious members of the local community at the cell phone mast. The pole feels excluded. The pole does not feel welcome. This was not the kind of place that the pole had expected at all. The pole had been through many HR training session on its intrinsic value. It begins to feel a bit hurt. 

Vicious rumours begin to circulate about the pole and it’s desire to connect –  it is spreading the plague, it is spreading sexually transmitted diseases, it is causing wide spread out breaks of tax evasion and tuberculosis. Badgers breathe a sigh of relief and exit their dens to join a local orgy. There are temporarily off the hook. Embarrassed waiting room attendees at local sexual health clinics relax and enjoy the guilt free time reading trashy magazines while getting their cauliflower-like growths attended to. 

Night-time falls and the pole becomes contemplative. It gazes at the stars. It’s beautiful here. Bats and birds swoop down the glen to where it rests. Brushing by its shiny steel sides. This contact is comforting, if not a little arousing. It’s a long time since the pole felt these sensations. A couple kisses underneath it and someone gets fingered in a nice way. A moan of pleasure. The pole is happy. It had wanted this to be a happy place. The pole surveys its surrounds, small lights twinkle from sporadic houses. The dead are sleeping the big sleep in the graveyard across the road. 

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Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

02 Image

Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

CLASSES

Local silage contractors form a pole dancing group on a Wednesday. Up and down and around they curl, their beer sized bellies becoming taut and trim. They look it must be said – sexy. Their wives proudly parade them through the village, drumming their manicures fingers on these new taut tums. Rump, pump, pump, pump.

Based on the success of the pole dancing popularity, further classes started to flourish. The bogman reluctantly agrees to go to a dancercise but damaged his fragile skin in the process and so refuses to go to any further sessions. He is on strike. Set dancing was organised at the pole. A table quiz. Some tourists got married at the pole, mistaking it from some kind of cultural phenomena. The poles reputation starts to build on trip advisor.

But none of this was very fun for the pole. The Silage Contractors although friendly and firm, were also sweaty and smelly. The set dancers are a bit intense also. The Local European Unionised Committee of 154 people did not have a union and there was an ongoing and growing problem with the stark ratio of bores to interesting people in the volunteer group (this was not the opinion of myself the writer but of the pole itself). And so the pole became saddled with my second cousin twice removed as a regular attendee to Pole watch.

 The Pole/CELL PHONE MAST situation was starting to feel like the longest funeral wake in history. Normally at Irish funerals you spend all day one lining up at the funeral home (which oddly often looks very like a Steak House restaurant in the mid-west) while gossiping about the neighbours in low tones, before slowly and solemnly pilling into a room full of sad people who really are grieving, suddenly feeling quite sad, sadly shaking hands with all of the sad people (granted some are just there for a look), exiting and resuming gossiping once again.

All the while the body lies dead in the centre of the room. Dead hands locked in plasticky looking prayer.

We were going to America. I’m not bringing that stone I told him sternly. Slean or stone? I ordered. It’s one or the other. They have very strict luggage restrictions. Also, I’m on a tight budget. The Bogman looked upset. Stone he says sulkily.  Wha? I could barely hear him. Ok emotional support stone it is then. I sucked in a breath. Stones are expensive in terms of luggage allowances.

Get packing I ordered the Bogman. My father passes by throwing an array of various sized cardboard boxes he has been keeping since the 80ties into the studio. Packing has been known to make the Bogman feel philosophical, and I was hoping to miss today’s lecture.

Being single, said the Restless Bogman, is like trying to find the start in a roll of an in use roll of packaging tape. You search endlessly for the invisible starting point. All feels futile, but theoretically it must be there. There must be a beginning. FRAGILE. FRAGILE. FRAGILE. FRAGILE. The Bogman pauses for dramatic effect and my father claps slowly and appreciatively.

Trying to initiate a relationship, the Bogman continues – is like trying to unfurl a length of tape which has become caught in itself, tied up in a sticky bundle at the end.” He added as he continued to pack up my work into a Hotpoint washing machine box from circa 1984. FRAGILE. FRAGILE. FRA. My shipments were starting to look like some kind of experimental poetry after Bob Cobbing. Genius says my father walking away to get more boxes.  Both parties I noted could be very annoying, when I am trying to pack.

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Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

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Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

DEPARTURES

He is badly behaved at the airport. The big green fun bus also known as Aer Lingus will deliver us nonstop from Dublin to Chicago. Did Fisher Price design them? The Bogman whispers in my ear. Sometimes I find it hard to tell if he’s being sarcastic or not. Not wanting to be parted with his Stone even for the flight he is even in futher bad form. The Aer Lingus staff look cynically at the weigh scales, as he mutters to them about being a geologist.

They label it – around and around runs the tape – FRAGILE, FRAGILE, FRAGILE. FRAG. FRA.

But his emotional support Stone is not allowed on the plane. They large land mass people are not happy with its weapon like nature. The Bogman might be a kind of terrorist, they say looking at him without compassion. He cowers. He is not good under this kind of pressure. But I guess they have a point.

Flying

He has flown away. He has become light like how Italo Calvino recommends in his book. Where did he go? The small tinfoil plane taking us from the small island to the big land mass.  I hate American Airlines he grumbled to me looking decidedly sweaty and uncomfortable. Silver cans of doom he called them. Repeatedly, he rings for assistance, asking the confused air hostess – what is the value of life here? A worried looking woman ahead of him shoves her two-year-old into the cabin bins overhead in a moment of confused panic. She squeezes past the Bogman also wondering is he a terrorist.

Would you like another tiny packet of sour cream and chive flavoured pretzels the airhostess asks him kindly? Would you like to watch all eight movies?

Is there any free drink he asks? No, she says sadly, only if you pay for it.

 Over his shoulder I read:

LIST OF GOOD INTENTIONS:

Go to gym.

Tai chi

Yoga

Go to therapy (real, virtual and group)

Write 3 books.

New body of drawings

New video piece (2)

Contact all known relatives living in USA.

Eat well (not too much American shite)

Drive on the right

Find bog

Find Sod house ancestors.

That’s quite ambitious I tell him – for a 12 week stint.

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Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

02 Image

Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

HERE

But where is it? said the Bogman

We were struggling to find either some green space or a grocery store. The eradication of nature is frightening said the Bogman. Is it shrinking? We are sitting quietly by the riverside. It’s a beautiful day. There said the Bogman smugly; I knew that we would find it at last. He squints in the morning sun. Someone has written “be nice and always visit your family” on the pavement. This is really beautiful says the Bogman. The Bogman in American is very sentimental.

What does inclement mean? says the Bogman staring out the window. His papery skin is unsuitable for weather if this kind. His skin is inappropriate for wind chill factor. The skin tends to give way to entropy, slight fissures appearing at first, or a redness that is difficult to experience under his peaty body.

We both lie on the bed. Eyes closed. Holding hands, feet tipped outwards breathing in and out. This is a new ritual we practice, where we imagine the future.

 

 

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Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

 

02 Image

Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

02 Image

Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

02 Image

Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.

02 Image

Fragile Tape performance, 2023. Photo by Ben Semisch.