When heading in to the High Street Exhibition Gallery on Thursday afternoon for Where Angels Fear To Tread, there seemed to be a fragility hanging in the atmosphere. In the midst of a low set warm light were 4 pieces of furniture; a chair, a table, a ladder and a trunk, each painted white. By the chair was a large glass bowl containing feathers and I began to anticipate the creation of an angel. Mel Donohoe, the performer, slowly enters the space, weaving in and out of audience members. Allowing the long train of her white wedding dress to clip at people’s knees as she glides past until reaching the chair set close to the front of the audience. Crawling beneath the chair, Mel outstretches her arms and locates a blade placed next to the feathers. As she raises the blade to the fleshiest part of her forearms, I turn to the side, hiding my face in my shoulder and avoiding the sight of her cut herself. Though I haven’t seen, when I turn my head back there seems to be three thick deep cuts in each arm, allowing the blood to pour from her pale skin and roll downwards, threatening to stain and challenge the purity of her perfectly white wedding dress. In this cathartic moment, with which Mel seemingly allows her own pain to escape from her body, I feel my palms become sweaty and my head feel dizzy.
Less than five minutes in, I find that my body had compelled me to get up and leave. From what I found out (through conversations afterwards with those that stayed to watch the whole performance) was that Mel delicately and carefully takes the time to pin individual feathers to the length of her arms; creating the image of a fallen angel weighed down by love and narcissism. I wanted to sit in that moment and allow my full concentration to be on the human construction of a pair of wings, hoping to find out if she ever manages to fly – and if so, how.
I so wish that I could have sat through the performance and fully digested it for what it could have turned out to be or do but my body seemed to physically stop me; unsure if that was through protection or panic. In that moment, and I feel as though in many more moments to come, I am entirely frustrated with the involuntary chemical reaction which happens in my body. This is both an ongoing argument I fear I may always have with graphic body work and something I am very much looking towards to trying to find a solution for.