Mark Leahy

artist - writer - teacher
United Kingdom (residence), Ireland (citizenship) °1963
research interests: performance, text, voice, writing, gesture

MARK LEAHY is a writer and artist operating among textual practices and performance. Recent performances include ‘subject to gesture’ (Liverpool, Apr 2017); ‘his voice’ (Counter, Plymouth, Oct 2015; Other Room, Manchester, Feb 2016), ’flat-head self-tapping’(London, May 2015) and ‘answering machine’ for Experimentica14 (Cardiff, Nov 2014). He has published texts to accompany work by artists including Nathan Walker, Katy Connor, Steven Paige, and LOW PROFILE; and critical essays in C21 Literature, Open Letter, Performance Research and Writing in Creative Practice. He teaches part-time at Plymouth University and is a director of


Exposition: Objects that Matter - Performance Art and Objects (01/10/2018) by Pilvi Porkola
Mark Leahy 21/05/2019 at 12:38

The following peer review was presented to the author during the process and have influenced the final exposition. It is here presented in a slightly edited form.


Mark Leahy:


The exposition fits the call for proposals and contributions very well; it engages with questions of new materialism, feminism, performance art, and relations to and engagement with objects.


Structurally the exposition outlines a critical / theoretical context; then reviews some particular examples of practice, both older and more recent, that are usefully viewed within that context, and then presents a sequence or series of investigations, experiments, or essays of the author's practice.


These are presented in video form through the exposition, initially without any comment, then are briefly discussed in the closing sections of the text.


The examples of historical and recent performance art chosen are appropriate and relate well to the more recent examples, and to the author’s work.


The critical texts cited, Tillman, Bolt and Alaimo, allow the author to quickly outline a context of new materialist thought and the ‘material turn’ as well as offering specific links to the practices discussed by presenting a nuanced account of objects in relation to matter and agency that is inflected with a feminist understanding, and an awareness of art practices.


The clear and simple form of the videos is very effective within the online context of the research catalogue and uses the potential of this mode of presenting research very well.


The exposition engages with questions of repetition, both the repetitive possibility of the embedded videos, the sense of everyday actions as repeated, and the repetition of generic or inherited forms or actions within the ongoing history of performance art. The chosen performance actions function as examples of practice and as evidence of the investigation undertaken by the author; they have tested particular engagements with things, with materials, and presented these directly to the reader / viewer apparently in an unmediated style. In the three videos the performer engages with things that have specific and different qualities, different responses or ways of being themselves, and different ways in which they are understood or apprehended by human users. The dictionary in its behaviour as a thing, with weight and mass, is different from the cultural weight the author is under when she balances it on her head; the obduracy of the piece of rock, its condition of 'just being' is very different from the 'exchange' that happens with the balloon.


Fabulation is engaged with through the sense of these being recognisable objects, familiar socially and culturally, that we may already have relationships with, may already have used as the artists do. I feel that there is room to expand on the three video performances within the scope and scale of the exposition, and to draw out more of the discoveries that are being made within the investigative process.


I think that the presentation of artistic practice is clear but there is room to develop the exposition in terms of artistic research. If the research context is more developed then the reception of the exposition will be stronger, and the significance to other performance and artistic practices will be higher.


There is room for the author to give some more sense of their methodology in approaching the particular objects and actions they selected for the investigation. They indicate that they are objects in their immediate domestic environment, but there is room for further expansion on the qualities /properties of the different things.


The question of the camera and the relation of the performer / performance to the camera is introduced at the very end of the exposition – there is space for some further consideration of this, both of the camera as another object / thing in the performance space, and perhaps questions of the set-up of the performance situation, 'for' the camera, in the home. The camera is a necessary element of the dissemination of the research, but is it more than merely a tool of documentation?


The presentation of the exposition is clear and works well for the reader-viewer; the videos play automatically, and they can be paused if the reader wishes; the references are accurate and legible and relate clearly to the text. Overall the design is good.


The exposition will benefit from a small amount of editing for flow and fluency in written English.


Overall this is an interesting exposition, that potentially will sit well within the journal issue, bringing a specific clear consideration of an artist's practice into the theoretical and critical frame of the journal.


The presentation of the videos is good, the structure of the essay is clear, and the range of references and selection of examples works well.


I feel there is room for the author to expand somewhat on one or two of the video works, addressing questions of that object, that action, and that performance situation in the light of the thematic focus of the essay – feminist art practice and new materialist thinking. This will make clearer to the reader viewer how these works are being considered as research, as tests or investigations both toward future practice, but also in terms of exploring or gaining insight into how we and objects live and function together in the world.


The author might look to some other examples of practice, e.g. Bobby Baker's Kitchen Show - - where the narrative developed around a specific set of objects puts them into a different frame in terms of both feminist practice, and in terms of materialist thinking. Or perhaps the work of Harrison and Wood, in terms of how these artists work with things, and how they use the camera in making work 'for' and 'to' the video camera.


These additions will make for a richer exposition with wider relevance and will also allow the author to express in more detail or with greater clarity the processes of investigation they are undertaking.