For "Disorders"
at St. Thomas' Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London, UK.

24 hour non-stop actuation

Dawn 15th - Dawn 16th August 1996

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From "Low Tide - Writings On Artists' Collaborations"
Jeni Walwin

Alastair MacLennan is best known for his durational performances and this event gave him the ability to demonstrate his commitment to this practice in an especially appropriate work. His was perhaps one of the most ambitious and physically demanding presentations. He maintained a waking presence in one of two sites in the hospital for the entire twenty-four hours. Changing locations on the hour every hour he performed alternately in the Central Hall of the South Wing and in the Old Pharmacy of the Lambeth Wing. In the Central Hall, a large tiled Victorian space housing a small collection of stone statues and a grand piano, MacLennan introduced a number of items. He arranged around the space many helium filled balloons (mostly black and a smaller number of white), two Zimmer frames, black and white photographic negatives, twenty-five silver bowls, some remaining empty, and some containing water, leaves, marbles, a small metal rowing boat and a dismantled child's shoe. MacLennan moved slowly, almost imperceptibly, around this space, sometimes gently pushing a wheel chair decorated with white balloons. The only other action was the slow and barely visible deflation of the balloons. The atmosphere generated was intense yet calm, unnerving yet contemplative. Whilst the visual evidence confronting us was loaded with expectation and heavy with symbolism, the sombre character of the artefacts was transformed by the grace and serenity of the action itself. Out of the sinister and disturbing environment there came a possibility of spiritual renewal.

Only the wheelchair, a section of the child's shoe, and a smaller selection of balloons were installed in MacLennan's second space which was already filled with artefacts from its own history. The Old Pharmacy represents a small piece of hospital archaeology on display in the corner of a large waiting room. In front of the glazed screen, spectators were able to witness MacLennan's precise, meditative actions in this tiny space. Flasks, scales, phials, measuring jugs, storage jars and bottles were continually repositioned. On a formal level the space was constantly sculpted into new dimensions as each shelf or table was dismantled and reassembled elsewhere. But in the process of this action which was both careful and deliberate we contemplated the history and use of each item as its new display spot was allocated. Medicine has progressed far and fast in technological terms since the containers in this pharmacy were in daily use and yet the MacLennan additions to the space (the wheelchair, etc.) reminded us that the afflictions are just the same.