EMIT TIME ITEM by Alastair MacLennan by Frank Comrie


Frank Comrie (in an email to Jenny Strauss)

From: Francis Comrie [fcomrie@sprint.ca]
Sent: Monday, February 22, 1999 8:12 PM
To: Strauss, Jenny
Subject: Alastair's Show

Well, Jenny, Alastair's show was indeed in my [former] studio which gave it even more depth for me.

* Place had been painted white. It is a long room 20' X 60'. Windows were covered with white parchment
* A row of 6 long tables covered with white tableclothes went from corner to corner. On this was strewn out what I believe were the pages of the Belfast telephone directory.
* Down the center of the table was a row of black toques ( which I believe the IRA use to cover their faces). between the toques were alternately a dead fish or a pig's ear, all rotting.
* strewn over all this were strips of paper with names on them, thousands of them like straw.
* at the 2 corners of the room where the tables ended were a speaker. Over these speakers were broadcast names read alternately by a male & female voice.
* Alastair was tall & bald with a white beard. He was dressed in a long black coat and dark glasses. He began the presentation by placing a white dinner plate at 1 corner of table. He then inflated a black balloon and tied it through the handle of a white cup which he placed beside the plate. In the cup he poured water and then put a tea candle to float in it. he then lit the candle.
* He then folded 2 paper airplanes, one of plain white paper & one of what I believe to have been a map of Belfast on white paper. he placed the planes on the dinner plate side by side facing in opposite directions.
* He then wound an alarm clock, set it to ring in 1 hour, and placed it beside the place setting.
* For the next hour he walked slowly around table carrying a dead fish on a wire in one hand and portion of a rotted gourd in other hand. From his shoulder hung a string of toe tags.
* When the alarm went off in an hour he repeated the same procedure until after 29 hours all 30 places were set. He then sat in a corner immobile facing the wall for the final hour.
* I didn't see how he set them but at the end of the 30th hour all the alarms went off. He then went around the table setting all the paper aiplanes ablaze. When all had burned leaving ashes on plates he quietly announced "It is finished"

There were never at any time more than a few people there when I was. For the finale there were about 10 of us including 2 or 3 I think were organizers. they were videotaping the event. It was very moving for me. My friend was brought to tears & claims it has changed her forever. I wanted to talk to Alastair but he left before I was ready. ...



Alastair MacLennan's performance EMIT TIME ITEM was one in a 12-month series of durational performance art works entitled TIME TIME TIME by artists from the UK, US and Canada.

TIME TIME TIME presented works ranging from 12 hours to several days. Ritual, endurance, attention span, community-building, altering states of consciousness, boundaries between public and private, narrative, linearity and transformation were explored in the series by artists presenting their compelling, urgent visions of ourselves and our world at the end of the 20th Century.