I recently performed a 60 hour durational performance piece at BUZZCUT festival in Glasgow.

The piece; Integral Care, involved documenting the waste generated by the festival and sorting it into it’s respective recycling/refuse streams. The blog for this work can be found here; polarwoodhill.wordpress.com

This piece marks the start of a new strand of environmental works inspired by the constant stare of my childhood fluffy bear Polar and the feelings of guilt, concern and horror which it has resulted in.


Hugh spirals black circles in charcoal onto the table

The black is immense and deep

I could believe these circles go on, deeper than the table

They are things you can get lost in,

Things to immerse in,

Circles that swallow sight.

They are black holes.


He stands and moves the chair


The legs/feet are screaming,

Screeching against the floor.

This is deliberate, and we are flinching.


When he is still,

Sitting in the chair.

I feel the weight of the leaving, the weight of having been left.

I feel the thickness and length of moments alone,

Moments spent longing for the chair opposite to move.

I hear the frustration of silence,

The thick, mocking lack of noise

And I feel the longing to go through the moment of leaving again –

Just for the salvation of the presence of the other, the moment before the other is gone

That moment, that moment when the other is still there, when everything is not yet lost


Hugh puts on his jacket, and off, and on, and off, and on, and off.

The indecision and pointlessness,

The frustration and uncertainty,

The not knowing what direction you are moving in,

The not knowing what direction anything is moving in.

The incomprehension of what direction might mean, might be.


Standing, Hugh puts his fist in his mouth, pushing until he gags,

Then again, and again, pushing his fist further each time.

While he does this he is pawing at his skin.

Moving his hand over his face with deep intent.

I know this motion, I remember.

I remember pawing at my own skin, gripping my arm to cut the blood off, so the hand wouldn’t feel like my own.

Feeling like it may be a forever until the next touch.

And, missing the grasp of someone else,

Missing the grasp the other,

Trying to fill the vacancy,

Trying to remember their touch.

Trying to recreate them, trying to preserve them, trying to hold on.

Desperate and urgent

The bitter stinging

And there, in this, the desire for pain

To make that which you feel inside, real on the outside

The desire to gag, and stay suspended in the thrust of the gag.

I watch Hugh, and I think, I know this,

I this absence,

I know this longing.


Hugh returns to pushing the chair

The screaming is within my skin now and I am comfortable with it.

The screaming is a singing, a nightmarish lullaby.

He moves to the other side of the room and sits.

Planted on the crest of the audience he returns to his gagging.

We are worried he will succeed and make himself sick,

We are worried we will witness and be splashed.


Hugh moves back to the other side of the room, sits at the table again and draws.

More black holes appear, this time with lines linking them from one side of the table to the other.

As they appear they are in motion, the charcoal’s residue thick and generous, delicious.


Hugh stands and surveys the scene

On the table a cloth covers something.

Under the table, a football boot and a saw.

He pours salt from a large golden tin.

He draws a salt line to enclose it all.

The salt is beautiful in it’s falling,

Its calming shuffle, gentle spill.

Hugh is calm, frowning, considered.


The cloth is removed to reveal a giant heart.

A giant heart.

Hugh pours salt on the heart, salt on his wound,

It is preserved, frozen in false snow.


He raises the football boot high in the air and brings it down

Slamming it into the heart, again, and again, and again.

We are sprayed with salt. I can feel it in my hair, scratching my scalp,

I can taste it on my lips.

I look away, cowering from his vicious smash

Holes in his heart.


He raises the chair now, slams it down.

The noise is louder than,

Harder than black on white.

He does this 2, 3 times

Then he stops.


A human heart is the same size as your clenched fist.

Hugh stands with his in his mouth,

His fist in the air.


Claire Burke

Performance: Absence

Artist: Hugh O’Donnell

Date: 18 September 2014

Venue: Performance Space

Event: Soapbox Session : Gender

I saw you looking, I saw you striving, reaching to your audience before your assault thumped.

I watched your young one, taken by her brush strokes. Have you seen?

When she paints she is painting continuous, flowing in her decisions, spontaneous.

I watched her delicately paw at blue, pulling colour into wispy upended trees, only to paint boxes over them. Deliberate blocks replacing careful, dreamy explorations in colour.

My favourite of her creations the one resembling doodles I’ve done and been ashamed of; the squiggly green line at the top, red holding the structure below. Creativity, stalled.

I want to ask her what she thinks, what she makes of it. How many times, how many chairs and whether she’d like to sit in yours, see what you saw.

You are both deliberate and subject to your motion.

The poem we know, some have forgotten and find fresh insult, unclear of its origin.

Without waiting within it I watch you…

I see your eyes, your deliberate looks

I see your arms, your jerking motion and its biting teeth

I see the muscles in your back contract

I see displeasure and rebellion

I see dissatisfaction and strength

You saw stability off the structure you sit on

I saw the dust.

Down in the basement; a den for serenade.

You hold the hand of a lady. I can see you sharing and only realise later your bond is young, it feels so full, already dependant, genuine, mutual and sincere.

I see you clinging to each other.

Your gift, her gracious receipt

While I am in battle with the flash. My eyes retreat and I seek shelter in the wall.

I read the print; Are we here for self-harm? I had looked to debate this with your proposed self-indulgence. I was wrong; we’re all being harmed here.




Your in-between stance is stolen too soon; we’re too keen to have our moment with you. But I want to watch your chilling psychotic pause.

His turn is not as connecting. Unless I see that just because its no longer my first.

By this point I’m stale. The sickly sweet dregs of my warm cider are thick, the strobe is thicker

I am harmed.

How are you?

I am angry. It is jealousy that pushes me thus.

You are decadent.

Soaked in luxury

Your movements are beautiful, and you: truly statuesque.

The print says you’re rebelling your age. I can’t fathom a guess (at it)

Does it do it?

I remember the head-rush and swell of the first (sic). The desire for more and the satisfaction

The satisfaction at their beauty

Like the moment your back became wings, your body turned inside out

Ours too, vicariously

I am with you there, pining over your freedom. Your obsession quenched, is it?

Your fashion, displayed

I wear mine daily & the urge denied.

Damn you and your exhibition,

Your jealous sister.

Dear Lucy,

What did you find in my eyes, in my attitude when I first looked at you?

No. The first time you saw me look at you?

I imagine your answer would be either ‘I can’t remember’ or wrong.

Because if right you would have dismantled me

These attitudes are secrets I want to know.

Knowledge/Experience I am not privy to. So tell me, what does it feel like to be looked at as a man? & How does it feel delivered by each sex?

(Later he asks; how can you? When I had had no doubt)

I say tell me more.

You held us spellbound

And I loved you.


Claire Burke

Performances by:  Selina Bonelli and Khiara Hewetson, F/K/Alexander, Rocio Boliver, Lucy Hutson

Date: 13 September 2014

Venue: Rich Mix, London

Event: Steakhouse Live 2014

Cut (it) out.

The strongest day in geography was a leopard laying over torn blue, green, red, compliments from physics in a broken memory line.


The eyes I couldn’t smash. The heavy unable-to-stick-to paper & your heavily evident tedium and exasperation: the lack of care from you leading to the forgotten, the left behind; the unfinishable task: the waste.


LOSS. And now Anger, always, the anger


And yet here he came before, crippled and cutting, tired and taken away: to dissect a snail’s shell, to make the flat move, to spell out the curve of a dance, to capture motion & keep it freely encased.


Brilliant. & The book


So, why was your influence buried in the reality and exploration of the syllabus?

The unease we face in making choices

An inseparable format

Big smile. Something on the left?

Metronomes I did not hear til I saw

Beautifully crumpled and pinkish –my hand around paper


Jump up Luciana – we jumped. No change.

Drift wood purple tiger blank x2

All pretty colours – like child’s play.

Woman with feather hat; looks like a nice time



Black steps and piano music

Surprising door

‘The 15th work in an unlimited edition

Plasters – satisfying


Known paper “ARTIST ROOMS’ look 3D

I remember colouring in felt tip, pissed off by lines


Farting, snoring?


Boxes tower – my favourite

Silver in gold out, no, gold in, silver out.

How long did it take to get pen/pencil on paper right?


Work 1393

Like famous out of clouds Jesus angel painting but lots of colours

Strips of colour in wool – what’s this got to do with sheep?

Exploring same as wood.


Love (dust) duet middle C, two halves of a whole.

“I don’t think he’s doing it right” Piano instructions

Shook head at cactus – me – like home.


43.5 £300 shoes

Feather duvet labels. “Shock mount box tower cordoned off. Other precarious tower not.” -‘What’s the point in this?!’


Green stripes on walls – getting thinner, colourful worms in a rush, more wedding cakes in red


7 antitheses of black steps: blue hanging on white steps.




Anon paper works

Shading like the winds coming in

Wood – surprising in width again strips ((go to before beth))


The lights went dark. Suddenly realise why we did not walk in the normal way.

Giggling/talk overhead.

Lights come back

Tables no wire/chairs wire

Balls wire


Broccoli prints – all those colours – how many broccolised?

Finding colour tedious now even if work is nice


Lego tower w/eye

Bronze leaves could crunch


His penis?


Luminous yellow only felt tip coloured pie w/ no lines.

Masking tape not easy and cut something sticky nice shadows.

2 squares

Piano “keep distance at all times”


“Fuck off” 2004 (7 of 10)

Cactus – I’m surprised the pots are gradiented. v. nice to look @. Tall one has crazy animal growing out of it 2 @ end taller than me.


Bricks all diff


“Something in the middle of a wall” Where? – Paper lie.

Nails – 3 shadows


Peach toilet roll. Pyramid. Beautiful, lit triangles of shade, calming: happy.

Curtaining open/close

Cinematic London

Wall, Nat Theat, OXO, Shed, top of towers

My mother admires and thinks about the effort gone into the construction.


Car – live radio

No sign saying stand back for doors.


Balloons – different glass panes I smile at the familiar and hate the suffocation.


Tiles in loo “in useful place”


Carpet tiles all over every wall, ceiling, and floor, look away for dignity/to hide.








Is installing Art like giving everyone the job they want?

What’s money worth?

& How am I happy?

The average human being lives for 589063 hours.     (based on stats from 2010)

I love art. I love new art. Art that doesn’t really look like art, I love the normal, the bland and the plain. I love the unusual, the unimagined and the uncanny.  I like being plunged into a different world and told to walk. I prefer not to speak. I prefer to be shy and wander alone. I like to wonder about the background, the behind scene, the corridors between. Always, I’d like to have assisted in their creation, to be a voice among their echoes. Or to have captured the whole thing, held in black lines on white sheets.

I am reliable, creative and considerate, in every sense of the word.

I think they got it wrong. Education. Or rather, I think the world turns so quickly that methods find it difficult to keep up. I also think it is difficult to make up your mind while you’re still trying to work out what makes it turn.

Where do you perform art, London?    … … …    Where do you perform art gently?

You came

To ask

About the


To hear



To watch



When formed it is a towering spine: My backbone.


The first she holds

Pushing her whole body into it.

Protecting it like it was her pregnancy.

Fingers exploring gaps,

Finding each.

The collapse is to the side & she moved to push it.


She is still until the


The collapse

Is tectonic in it’s



A snake destroying itself


Lost in mine

This one mesmerised in memory

Her eyes are closed

She is too.

 She is somewhere


We are together

Or she is with me

Or I am with her

Or …

I am on the far side of a room

Looking at a door

Knowing of the staircase beyond


I can already feel the hand on my back

Feel its



I am on the far side of a room

Looking at a door.

It nearly falls on top of her.


The first stack with



The jutting edges




Even more like a spine.

 I am glad for this part.

We did go back to pick up the pieces. Try to mend what was broken. Try to patch up and rebuild.

But there is no hiding what has been broken.

The stack is unstable,

The edges precarious,

Jutting out.

Sinéad balances them partly with her face.

She pushes.


Topple before finished stack.

An air of disappointment

This is a quest for reconciliation and cleansing.

There are no shortcuts.


Repeat for foiled attempt,

Not stacked so high,

Pushing just below the chin.

Face to face with her audience she blinks profusely before settling to her mind’s


Again she is still until

Just before the


She starts to sway,

The top starts to



She expects it

And drops only the top half.

The bottom is established and remains until the end.


We grow



The stack



Again we are

Disappointed by this.

We see her face too


I watch her.

I have guessed at these women and they have revealed only a strong resolve.

They have retained their privacy.

She fingers the gaps,

Her hand exploring the edges,

Pawing at the vacancies.

I believe she could

Would stitch them

Her hand


To bridge them

The stack


Surprisingly (Again?)

She moves

Her face.

She seems unresolved




The stacking in between is shocking in its unceremonious pace.

This looks like efficiency, economy, production, and duty.

This is matter of fact.


Bish, Bash, Bosh.

By stack 7 they had found a way to cope.

A way to compensate for the fragments they use.

And on noticing this

I start to write.

There will have been a time when they created or noticed they had already created a method of coping with the


Perhaps it was just something that crept into their person.






Prematurely Collapses

Sinéad gives part of it an extra push

& I agree.

Developing methods of coping was always part of the problem:









She smoothes the floor, creates a space, and lies down.


They begin to bury her.

They are careful, deliberate in their placement. So much care.

They break when her right shoulder is covered.

One returns later to bury her more.

I am in tears.

This is for my sisters who did not survive.

How gently they bury her.

For a while there is a child, a disruption to the silence.

I think of those who keep their bruises to the wall, bite back tears and say ‘Mummy’s ok’


Scoop up a little one

Move them out of the way

Sinéad gets up & we are left to contemplate the destruction.

The reflection of the light hitting the fragments (on the wall) like a glistening lake

One with no ripples.

Across the floor many broken moons…

Claire Burke

Performance: The Art of Begegnung Comes Tomorrow Slowly

Artist: Sinéad O’Donnell

Date: 17 February 2013

Venue: Arnolfini, Bristol

Event: IBT13