For Burns night 2013 artist Morgan Cahn and I performed at the Hospitalfield’s Burns Supper.
Hospitalfield House in Arbroath facilitates and hosts artists, writers and other creatives working within contemporary art and design, providing residencies, art courses and education programmes to promote the cultural ecology of Scotland. The Burns Supper, organised by artist Jacqueline Donachie, brought together artists from all over Scotland and people from Arbroath in celebration of Scotland’s favourite bard.
Our performances for the evening were inspired by our personal experience of Robert Burns. Morgan, having spent her life in Pittsburgh, had never encountered Burns, while I had come across him during high school english lessons spent dissecting poetry.
The performance was therefore entitled:
An English Woman, an American and a Scotsman: Consider a Bard.
I played the part of the English Woman, Morgan played the American and the part of the Scotsman was played by Burns, the Haggis and the audience at various points of the evening.
The English Woman – dressed in black as a mourner with a surgical mask and latex gloves, I engaged in a process of dissecting and reconfiguring Burns’ poems. Through repeatedly writing a chosen line, then overwriting it with another then another from each poem, I created condensed poems with new meanings.
Following the process I ended up with two lines:
Lament the mourning Mailie’s dead
Wee, sleekit, broken schemes o’ mice an’ fear
The American – Morgan spent the evening researching Burns through books, poems and conversation with the guests. She took notes and did drawings as she learnt and encountered the spectacle of the Burns Supper.
She also tweeted about the evenings events and her findings @performingnow
The Scotsman – played at various points by the Haggis, the speakers, the poems, the guests and Burns himself. This role was filled by whatever/whoever was the subject of our consideration at any given time over the evening.