One for Sorrow, Two for Joy
At the beginning of the 1970s, the British sculptor Rose Finn-Kelcey (*1945, UK) began creating huge flag pieces on which site-specific texts were displayed. She later worked extensively with photographic and live performances, usually solo or occasionally with Tina Keane. These performances are reflections on the role of the performer. For "Mind the Gap", she played with audience expectations by declaring that no performer would be appearing. Towards the end of the 1970s, she developed the concept ‘vacated performance’, which she used for the first time in her performance "Mayday Mayday Mayday" in 1981. Who exerts power and how, are questions that are posed to society through the work of art. Finn-Kelcey was also active in the 1970s in the Women Artists Collective, of which Hannah O’Shea was also a member.
For this performance, Rose Finn-Kelcey spent two days in a gallery in Covent Garden, London, sitting and talking to two magpies in the language of a French transcription of their birdsong while offering them food and objects. The artist felt close to the manifold connotations of ‘magpie’ in English folklore (for instance, their association with witches). She summarises her concept and performance action in the accompanying text. For Finn-Kelcey, this work represents the search for her role as a female artist. In the following year 1977, Finn-Kelcey commissioned a Welsh translation of the 17 French magpie sounds for her performance Her Mistress’s Voice at the National Eisteddfod in Wales during which she screamed the witches’ speech at the end of Shakespeare’s Macbeth while lying on the floor.
Performance: 1976, Covent Garden, London
Courtesy Rose Finn-Kelcey