Nenagh Watson is a puppeteer currently researching into what she calls ephemeral animation. She is fascinated by objects that move without human control at the mercy of the elements. Consider the following umbrellas as they are carried by the wind. Their movement is created by natural forces rather than the hands of a puppeteer. Watson uses this motion to inspire works of puppetry:
Observing umbrellas, as well as her earlier work with Polish theatre director Tadeusz Kantor (whom she describes as having said that the umbrella’s metal skeleton explodes like fireworks) inspired Conversations with an Umbrella, a collaboration between Nenagh Watson and sound artist Kaffe Matthews.
Umbrellas, plastic bags, pieces of rope… all discarded items of human debris that fly in the wind or float in the water. From Watson’s Duchampian notion of ‘found’ movement that has been created by chance, she examines moments of tension and freedom, stillness and motion and uses these to inform her work in puppetry. She says her eyes have become opened to the world of random movement around her. For Watson, this is all part of making herself and her presence obsolete in the work, in striving to be without ego.
In her Plastic Bag Labyrinth, shown below, she uses her observation of how air fills discarded carrier bags to create an installation in which the bags are caused to move through the actions of visitors to the installation.
For more information about her working practices, see a review of Nenagh Watson’s Ephemeral Animation workshop at the Central School of Speech and Drama and another account of an earlier workshop.
This post was written in response to her presentation at the Talking Objects Symposium at Loughborough University on 9th March 2012.