Lian Bell

Two months in Paris

by Lian on June 14, 2018, no comments

I’ve been meaning to post this for ages, but only getting round to it now. Even though it was months ago, I’m still dreaming of my time on a wonderful two-month residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. Firstly, a huge thank you to the CCI for giving me the time there.

When I applied, I hoped for a chance to ringfence some time to be creative – something that I find very difficult to do with a dual career as an artist and a manager. In fact, the last time I’ve allowed myself to indulge (is it really indulgence?!) in reading, drawing, thinking, seeing things, and meeting people in such a dedicated way may have been at university. I’m talking about the turn of the century here, people.

The CCI residency itself is luxuriously simple: they fly you over, put you up in the beautiful building in the fancy 5th arrondissement, and give you a stipend of €700 per month to keep you going. I was also given access to my own studio (bliss) across the courtyard. While you have to give an outline in your application of what you’d like to do, when you’re there you are left to you own devices, which is wonderfully freeing. And does feel like a luxury. It was an extraordinary feeling to be taken seriously enough as an artist to be supported in this way. For me, it means I take my own creativity more seriously too. Which I’m normally not great at.

And what did I do? A big part of what I’d wanted to do was get to know the city a bit better – I threw away 4 new pairs of socks over the two months, worn out with all the walking. Towards the end of my time there I had a small panic that I’d not really done anything, so I started to make a list. Phew. Exhibitions, talks (given and attended), performances, books, music, countless excellent, thought-provoking chats. And lots of time in the studio, sitting staring out the window, writing, drawing, and (a little surprisingly) painting.

One result was a series of simple portraits on cardboard. Not sure where it’s leading me, but it was really, really refreshing to just try things out with no ultimate agenda. Another small revelation for me was to understand the imperative of safe-guarding the time I need to transition from the ‘admin’ way of thinking to the creative way of thinking. A hugely valuable lesson for me. Now the trick is to find a way to transpose some of the creative, relaxed, invigorating Paris energy into Dublin life. Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

Two years of talking

by Lian on September 19, 2017, no comments

My website has been quite neglected of late. But I have a good excuse in the form of #WakingTheFeminists.

Other than all the practical logistics of being involved in the core team that coordinated the whole campaign (that small thing), I also dove head-first into the world of public speaking – not something I took to easily, but managed to get through it thanks to a lot of peer support and endless preparation. I hadn’t spoken much in public before, at all. All I can say is that it gets easier (and even enjoyable) over time – and I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity for a lot of practice over the past two years.

Here’s (more or less) all the things I’ve spoken at to date in relation to #WakingTheFeminists – from small groups of students in seminar rooms, to 1500+ people in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. There are probably a few I’ve missed, but you get the idea.

And that doesn’t count radio, TV or print media interviews. But that’s a whole other story…

Photo by Kate Horgan

  • #WakingTheFeminists public meeting, Abbey Theatre 2015
  • Theatre Upstairs post show discussion 2015
  • Trinity Drama & Theatre studies Contemporary Irish Theatre in Context seminars 2015 & 16
  • NUI Galway seminars 2015 & 16
  • Theatre of Change Symposium presentation, Abbey Theatre 2016
  • UCD Arts Administration seminar 2016
  • Lir Academy seminar 2016
  • Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards acceptance speech, National Concert Hall 2016
  • IETM plenary meetings, Amsterdam, Valencia, Bucharest 2015-17
  • #WakingTheFeminists Spring Forward public event, Liberty Hall 2016
  • TCD Law Society panel discussion 2016
  • F Festival panel discussion, Back Loft 2016
  • Luoghi Comuni Festival panel discussion, Milan 2016
  • Dublin Junior Chamber International awards 2016
  • Offset panel discussion, Bord Gais Energy Theatre 2016
  • Drogheda Arts Festival ‘Dissenters’ event 2016
  • Gaiety School of Acting seminar 2016
  • Nottingham European Arts and Theatre Festival presentation 2016
  • All Ireland Performing Arts Conference panel discussion, Town Hall Theatre Galway 2016
  • Body and Soul Festival, panel discussion 2016
  • Visual Arts Workers Forum presentation, Gluksman Gallery, 2016
  • Cork Midsummer Festival presentation, Triskel 2016
  • Inspirefest presentation, Bord Gais Energy Theatre 2016
  • UC Berkeley seminar Dublin 2016
  • Culture Night panel discussion for RTE Arena, Dublin Castle 2016
  • University of Limerick seminar 2016
  • Creative Minds series panel discussion, US Ambassador’s residence 2016
  • #WakingTheFeminists One Thing More event, Abbey Theatre 2016
  • Sibeal Conference in conversation, NUI Galway 2016
  • TCD Philosophical Society presentation 2017
  • Creative Ireland Gender Policy workshop 2017
  • Women of the World festival presentation & panel discussion, Hull 2017
  • Rough Magic’s ‘The Train’ panel discussion, Abbey Theatre 2017
  • Circus & Gender conference presentation, Mercat de los Flores Barcelona 2017
  • Arts Council’s Future Retrospectives panel discussion, Science Gallery 2017
  • UCD theatre studies seminar 2017
  • Sandymount Study Group & Curious Dolls Study Group presentations 2017
  • Sugarglass Theatre post show discussion 2017
  • Pori Theatre Festival in conversation, Finland 2017

 

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Prague Quadrennial 2015

by Lian on October 21, 2015, no comments

Thanks to Travel and Training support from the Arts Council of Ireland, I was able to attend the Prague Quadrennial earlier this June. PQ is the world’s largest exhibition of design for performance that takes place in Prague every four years. In 2007 Ireland was represented officially for the first time, and as Exhibition Coordinator, I was lucky enough to get to go, also for the first time.

‘The Submission’ – Vladislav Nastavshev – Latvian national exhibit

A lot has changed in the intervening 12 years. The big, beautiful Výstaviště Palace, which was used as the exhibition space up to 2007, was badly damaged in a fire the following year. This forced the PQ to stretch across multiple venues in 2011, and even more so this year – insinuating itself into the daily life of the city centre for a couple of weeks. The tone of the exhibition has changed too. There is less of the stall-to-stall ‘best of’ of each country’s design, as national curators now tend towards focusing on specific designers or companies, or stand-alone (kinda) artistic installations – with very mixed results. This one by a Latvian designer was one of my favourites.

Russian potatoes

Detail from the Russian exhibit

Then again, I’ve always had an ambivalent feeling about the exhibition. I think it partly comes from how unevenly curated it can be – each country having a hugely varied capacity and budget for their exhibit. Each year I’ve come with high hopes and am often struck by the amount of work I really dislike, or consider bad design. It takes me a long time to root out things that I connect with aesthetically, and often that truffle hunt feels like too much effort. The exhibition is huge, and just navigating the city centre Prague mid-June tourist hordes is exhausting. That said, I know no other opportunity like it to see such a breadth of international design work, so I really shouldn’t grumble.

This year, for the first time, I signed up for two day-long workshops at DAMU, the Theatre faculty at the Academy of Performing Arts – partly to meet people at what can be a lonely event where you sometimes feel everyone else is having more fun that you. In one, a group of us spent a day building a giant two-storey Rube Goldberg machine, and in the other we worked with UK artist James Leadbitter aka the vacuum cleaner to design our ideal asylum, as part of his Madlove project. Highly recommended. Nothing like playing with ideas to cheer you up.

Part of the Rube Goldberg machine at DAMU

Part of the Rube Goldberg machine at DAMU

Daily flags

Idea of running up daily flags to tell the world how you feel

It’s all go.

by Lian on September 10, 2015, no comments

A bit of an overview post of the past couple of months. It’s been busy.

2015-04-22 10.16.28– A Girl is a Half-formed Thing won a Fringe First and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2015 during its run at the Traverse this August. Aoife Duffin also won the Award for Acting Excellence from The Stage. The London run at the Young Vic for early 2016 has been announced.

– I designed for performances in more dusty disused spaces: a doll factory in Crolly, Co. Donegal, and an unused shop unit in Smithfield, Dublin. More to follow on these.

– My photo (right) was used for the front cover of the Earagail Arts Festival brochure.

– I’ve been selected to take part in the Theatre Forum/Dublin Theatre Festival Next Stage programme later this month – aka theatre bootcamp.

– I was invited to take part in a lovely Dinner and Dialogue event to talk about good design in a beautiful Georgian house in Dublin’s city centre, as part of the year of Irish Design.

– Moonfish Theatre’s Star of the Sea is fitting up again this week for its national tour, including a few days as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

– Thanks to grants from the Arts Council’s Theatre Artist Development Scheme I’m developing a pilot initiative with Mermaid Arts Centre called Gap Days for freelance theatre workers to take paid days to think, dream and plan for later this year, as well as preparing for year four of the Pan Pan International Mentorship programme.

Like I said, all go.

Design for Stage and Screen Ireland website

by Lian on July 9, 2015, no comments

Earlier this year I worked with Ewa Segner and Siobhán Bourke of Irish Theatre Institute to compile a website to highlight stage and screen designers coming from and working in Ireland.

You can access the website here. It is in Beta mode for the next few weeks, and the content is being updated and added to every day – an ever-growing catalogue of the work of costume, set, lighting and sound designers/composers who design for the stage, and production, hair, makeup and costume designers who design for screen.

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing horizon ideas sketch

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing horizon ideas sketch

Most exciting (for me) is the chance to see some of the sketches side by side with the final production images – it’s always a treat to see the development of ideas, and the idiosyncratic ways that designers approach their work.

The timing of the website going live in June was to coincide with both the year of Irish Design and the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. However, it is a resource that will be kept up by ITI, along the same lines as their Playography and Irishtheatre.ie sites.

NCAD evening class exhibition

by Lian on July 9, 2015, no comments

For the past two years I’ve been taking evening classes in the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and this year I did a course called Drawing and Sculptural Processes.

I submitted some pieces for the end of year exhibition at NCAD this July, and won the “ESU Extra Prize” – one of ten prizes awarded for outstanding work. Here are two of the pieces that were exhibited.

Untitled I

Untitled I

A Place for Everything

A Place for Everything