Actional Poetics – ASH SHE HE (Book)

The Performance Actuations of Alastair MacLennan, 1971–2020

Authoritative study of the Scottish born artist Alastair MacLennan who has achieved worldwide renown as a performance artist. Includes comprehensive visual documentation of his performative practice drawn extensively from his archival resources, with essays from leading national and international scholars in the field. 350 colour illustrations.

Category: Performing Arts


A retrospective monograph on the pioneering performance artist and teacher Alastair MacLennan

This is the most comprehensive study of Alastair MacLennan’s extensive performance practice, nationally and internationally renowned for its contribution to the field of performance art. The essays in this collection explore MacLennan’s art practice, its influence on the Belfast art scene, and its relationships with wider art histories. 

 The book places MacLennan’s work in its proper historical context, featuring outstanding archival visual documentation alongside new commissioned essays and interviews, none of which have been previously published. The essays range from descriptive to interpretive: some set the work in historical context while others provide pertinent biography. This variety is appropriate—and perhaps even necessary—in looking at the work of a living artist whose work is particularly complex and challenging. Each writer addresses the art on their own terms, and the resulting essays provide an approachable presentation of a multilayered body of work. 

Dr. Chérie Driver is a Lecturer in Art Theory at Ulster University. Driver has worked as a painter, arts administrator and as a researcher on a number of collaborative research projects in the area of ‘art and its locations’ and specializing in art in contested spaces and art and documentation.

Dr. Sandra Johnston is a visual artist from Northern Ireland active internationally since 1992, working predominantly in the areas of site-responsive performance and installation. Johnston’s actions have often involved exploring the aftermath of trauma, through developing acts of commemoration that exist as forms of testimony and empathetic encounter.

Dr. Paula Blair is a researcher, writer, and podcaster who experiments with performative written and spoken documentation of live performance art.

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Actional Poetics – ASH SHE HE: The Performance Actuations of Alastair MacLennan, 1971–2018

Sandra Johnston and Paula Blair

Alastair MacLennan: Troubled Time

Nick Stewart

‘Maybe you don’t need the paintbrush…?’ In Conversation

Declan McGonagle and Alastair MacLennan

Elemental qualities in the work of Alastair MacLennan

Denys Blacker

Sensible Transcendence

Chérie Driver

Alastair MacLennan: A life seen as a form of Pedagogy

Brian Connolly

‘Sometimes you need help from other people’s ghosts’: Alastair MacLennan’s multi-disciplinary and ‘instituting’ practice as civil action

Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes

Alastair MacLennan: Universal Nomad

Nigel Rolfe

Actuations: Alastair MacLennan’s Influence on Bbeyond

Brian Patterson

Tender Dwelling in the Strewn

Adrian Heathfield

What Shall We Ask For? Considering the Transformative Moment in Alastair MacLennan’s Actuations

Sandra Johnston

Death, Transience and Duration – Alastair MacLennan

Helge Meyer

Proximity and Perpetrators: Reflecting on implications of registering perpetrators in the performance art of Alastair MacLennan

Dominic Thorpe

Triple-AAA: Alastair MacLennan, Adrian Hall & André Stitt

Spectral Arc, Vanishing Point and Memoranda: Hauntology and Atemporality in Performances 2011–13

André Stitt

Precarious Aftermaths

Paula Blair

Notes on Contributors 

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