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Welcome to my Art World

This is the website of the artist Arlene Caffrey, not necessarily the pole dancer Arlene Caffrey. As enmeshed as these identities might be, you can find all things related to my Fine Art practice here.
Arlene Caffrey portrait at LSAD by Brain Arthur

About my practice:

Amongst many things, I am a Kilkenny-based visual artist, dance artist and adult educator. Working across the media of performance, sculpture and the written word, my practice is informed by feminine subjectivity and feminist epistemology, as well as a dash of existential dread and a fondness for Flann O’Brien.
Since graduating from the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2009 with a degree in Visual Communications, I have been working as a dance teacher, creating and performing socially engaged artworks through the medium of pole dance and writing.
In my career as a dance artist, I have been successfully shoe-horning into every discussion of my career that I have performed live in Belfast with Snoop Dogg as part of his ‘I Wanna Thank Me Tour’ in March 2023.
Graduating with First Class Honours from the inaugural MA Fine Art program in September 2023 at Limerick School Of Art & Design, my current research-led practice is inspired by the exploration of embodied experience, identity and autotheory, underpinned by the Deleuzian concept of ‘becoming-woman’ as a conceptual framework. Informed by my experience of growing up in a post-Catholic Celtic Tiger era Ireland, I explore attachments to signifiers in the form of sculptural fragile and fracturing stiletto pole dancing shoes activated through performance.
I am continuing to make experimental enquiries of durational live performance and sculptural works, with resulting performative works in moving image, lens based media and written works in this theme, and I aim to continue my research at PhD level in 2024.

Borderless Digital Museum

Recent performances and exhibitions.

Performances

Misneach

Collaborative live performance art, led by Kathleen Doherty |Arthur's Quay Park, Limerick. 27/01/2022

Images by Padraig Ruane

Some Things Simple / End Start

Live performance art |Church Gallery, Limerick School of Art & Design, Limerick. 12/09/2023

Images by Padraig Ruane & Brian Arthur

The Sweets Of Sin

Live performance art | BIMM Institute, Dublin. 26/08/2023

Images by Stephen White

In the tiny mirror of my eyeshadow palette, I hardly recognise who I am anymore. Red lipstick bleeding into brown over my cheekbones and creeping upwards and across my forehead, hair strewn asunder. I survey the scene; remnants of chocolate are embedded into the carpet in streaks like the imprints of a wild animal roaming about the space, the chair I had been sitting on is not where I expected it to be and the only other person in the room, the photographer, is staring at me with wide eyed wonder.

I should explain how I came to find myself in the above scene. It’s late-August, the setting is a former convent in Dublin and I’m there because I’m making a performance-to-camera piece for my final Fine Art Master’s project. It’s an autotheoretical research-led performance art project that is based on explorations of my embodied experience, identity and attachments to signifiers in the form of sculptural fragile stiletto shoes.

Titled The Sweets Of Sin (a reference to a salacious novel within Joyce’s Ulysses), I begin the performance sitting in a chair wearing a blue sequin gown and holding a pair of stiletto shoes made from chocolate. The room has a stained-glass window, which I cannot see because my back is turned to it, but I know it’s there; a reminder that this used to be a place of quiet and piousness. Time expands as I breathe deeply to settle into the performance. As I put my feet on the chocolate shoes, they become fractured and abstracted. I slowly melt into them and they into me as I slide off the chair and pour myself onto the floor making slow dance-based movements. Running what was a stiletto point across my lips, I think about the wonder and expectation I felt as I played with lipstick as a small child, and then the shame I embodied as a teenager enrolled at a convent school in Drogheda, as my body bloomed into sought-after womanhood; I recall the feeling of knowing that I was inherently sinful, purely for existing in this body.

Although I know that I am only being watched by a photographer for this performance-to-camera piece, I imagine that I am being watched by the nuns who used to occupy this space. Biting, licking and smearing the melting shoes across my softly parted wet mouth, my body feels heavy on the floor as I writhe and rise. Completely melted, I don’t know how long I am in this flow state and at times I am not even aware of what I am doing. Yet I know when it is finished, a sense of completion free from shame.

Nemeton / Notion

Live performance art | Mullach Rua, Co. Mayo. 22/08/2023

Images by Padraig Ruane

Daycency (Part 2)

Live performance art | Pharmacia, Limerick. 15/08/2023

Images by Laura O’Loughlin

Confession

Live performance art | Church Gallery, Limerick School of Art & Design, Limerick. 08/08/2023

Images by Karen Enokibara

Daycency (Part 1)

Performance art to camera | Limerick School of Art & Design, Limerick. 19/07/2023

Images by Laura O’Loughlin

Subjective Object

Live performance art | Church Gallery, Limerick School of Art & Design, Limerick. 26/01/2023

Images by Amanda Dunsmore

This durational performance was made as part of a three day performance workshop with Belfast-based Performance Art organization BBeyond, exploring the concepts of Presence, Subject and Object.

Prompted to use an object to make an improvised performance, I chose a pair of gold 8-inch stilettos.

In writing about Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, TiukaÅ‚o makes the claim that: ‘For the author of The Second Sex an authentic human being is an independent individual expressing both the subjective and objective elements of his/her body’ (2016, p. 82).

Inspired by the writings of De Beauvoir, I used this performance to explore the relationship between my body and my stilettos, as objects and subjects in order to find new ways of moving through space and time.

Exhibitions

International Women's Day Exhibition

Group exhibition. West End Art Studios, Mallow | 08 – 24 March 2024

For this group exhibition celebrating Irish-based artists in the spirit of International Women’s Day, my works ‘The Sweets Of Sin / A Portrait of the Artist as a Chocolate Bog Witch’, ‘Closing Chapter’ and ‘Guilt’ were selected.

‘The Sweets Of Sin / A Portrait of the Artist as a Chocolate Bog Witch’ (2023) Black and white image resulting from ‘The Sweets Of Sin’ live performance. Chromaluxe print on recycled aluminium, 40 x 60 cm.

‘Closing Chapter’ (2023) Paraffin Wax & Pigment, 11 x 21 x 30 cm

‘Guilt’ (2023) Resin & Glitter 21 x 21 x 21 cm

Polyphonic Textures

Group exhibition. Church Gallery, Limerick School of Art & Design | 05 – 12 September 2023

This performance art project is the culmination of my Masters research at Limerick School of Art & Design. It is an autotheoretical research-led exploration of embodied experience and identity, symbolized by sculptural fragile and fracturing stiletto shoes.

Underpinned by the Deleuzian concept of ‘becoming-woman’ as a conceptual framework, this practice seeks to create not only a sense of wonder at what a body can do but to explore the collective consciousness of signifiers, employing feminist epistemology that Jones says ‘…must acknowledge not only the temporality and processual nature of identifying but also the intersectional quality of how and what we identify in ourselves and others’ (2012, p. 177).

In this theme, I have created a series of sculptural artefacts and experimental enquiries of live performance, with resulting performative works in moving image and lens based media employing Fournier’s definition of autotheory as a method for creating artworks that ‘…integrate the personal and the conceptual, the theoretical and the autobiographical, the creative and the critical, in ways attuned to interdisciplinary, feminist histories’ (2021, p. 18).

Anemoia

Group exhibition. Church Gallery, Limerick School of Art & Design | 21 – 24 March 2023

Exhibited as part of ‘Anemoia’, an exhibition of works in progress by the MA Fine Art students at Limerick School Of Art & Design, in the Church Gallery, the ‘Untitled’ performative moving image piece approximately 7 minutes in duration along with the resulting broken plaster stilettos.

Creative Postgraduate Showcase

Group exhibition. Limerick School of Art & Design | 28 – 31 March 2023

‘Untitled’: This is a performative work using sculpture and moving image with pole dance as a movement methodology, exploring the inevitable deterioration and breakdown of stiletto heels created from plaster.

Using these stiletto heels as tools and art objects, I explore how this destruction may ‘…give rise to opportunities for creative behaviour’ as the process of dancing in shoes which are designed to break forces me to reassess my prior embodied knowledge and skill in pole dancing (Engman, 2018, n.p.).

writings:

Arlene Caffrey, taking the final bow after her closing performance at 'Polyphonic Textures' exhibition at Limerick School of Art

A Reflection On My MA in Fine Art Journey

This is me, after taking the final bow and closing the show having made my performance at the closing night of our ‘Polyphonic Textures’ graduation exhibition at Limerick School of Art & Design, 12/09/2023. ‘But do you really need to go back to art school?’ one of my colleagues seated at the boardroom table asks...
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arlene caffrey masters fine art exhibition at limerick school of art

Vlog: My Masters in Fine Art Exhibition Walk-Through

It’s an emotional time as I have just completed my Masters Degree in Fine Art at Limerick School of Art & Design. My classmates and I opened our graduation exhibition, ‘Polyphonic Textures’, which is a culmination of our work over the past 12 months, at the Church Gallery at LSAD in Limerick city. This Fine...
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‘Every Gowl Has A Podcast’

Public speaking is just a vocal act of storytelling, a performance in itself. Since I am comfortable with talking out of my arts, I have been thinking that it would be advantageous to start a podcast about the social history of pole dancing in Ireland, through an autotheoretical lens. However, to my horror, I saw...
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Performative Work – An Academic Reflection

According to performance artist Amanda Coogan in her writing What is Performance Art?, there is an important distinction between live performance art and performative work; the former being a durational presentation that takes place in a location involving an audience to witness it, and the latter a recording or representation of a live performance work...
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Why you won’t find my art on social media

Carolina Are has written extensively about the use of social media, in particular that of Instagram, in the dissemination of content by sex-positive, sex-work and sex-work adjacent creators. According to Are ‘…women’s bodies and their performance of specific activities can both be a form of expression and a source of income’ (2019). She highlights that...
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