I am not afraid to get dirty, I am not afraid of the cold – I have a high discomfort tolerance, I am not shy about the limited and different way my body moves, I am curious to see just how I do move & I want to explore that. I want to explore what it is to be human and anticipate how we might next evolve.

Really I am not performing, I am experiencing. I do not rehearse, I do not learn lines – this is an authentic event, I embody contemplation. I am not an entertainer, I am not an exhibitionist the performance becomes a group contemplation.

My performances have had me hanging upside down, spinning in a circle & spilt out of a barrel of 60 gallons of crude oil, but this one, DUST TO DUST was epic, pushing me to a new level of understanding. I am recovering still. Cuts & grazes on my hands, arms and shoulders. Wounds in places never before open, like the tips of my thumbs, the tops of my shoulders.

In the months before the performance I was reading about the power of dirt, of topsoil and then including it in my painting: hair, ink, water, dirt absorbed into paper. Hair swept along, as we humans are – at the mercy of cyclones, earthquakes – nature. Using the focus of painting I recalled back and further back beyond human antecedents, to the moment when I gained osmotic independence, when will alone moved me no longer tied to the sea or rooted in the earth.

In “Dust To Dust” I rose from the mud, pulled myself along the 30 foot long stage, rolling, lurching, dragging my body, cutting my hair, tossing pigmented dust, spilling ink, water misting me from above. I was completely in the zone, contemplating the beginning of life, the surge of will and the end of it. I was so focused rising from the mud, moving with it & returning to it.

Micro managing for a month to make it happen: calling in people to help, writing releases, amassing hardware, commanding crews – tension mounting from producing to performing within a breath.

Finally I found solace in the mud. When I was put in the pit it was cold but soon the mud was warm like my flesh. It softly and quickly responded to my shape, my heat like the perfect body pillow – it copied me until it became me. I began to drift and I was in the womb – the womb of the earth.

The 30 foot path was a life, the effort & the stress, passing through limits to find a way, to inch along. And at the end was another pit of mud. When I pulled myself into that pit it was death and release, and it felt like going home.

Performance over, I was lifted out of the mud & carried outside to be hosed off. Left alone for a moment I began to panic – like being ripped from the womb I began to shiver and wail. I was disorientated and nauseous, the sand, dirt & pigment were gritty in my teeth.

This was not hypothermia this was shock.

I had traveled to the beginning of my life force and forged a new understanding of the end of one lifespan. Earth, dirt, dust soil was a shape shifting device. It nurtured, composted and transformed.

Something snapped in me and I screamed like a banshee. Maybe it was the open wounds absorbing dirt and pigment, maybe it was the release of pressure after a month of organizing, maybe it was the jolt of temperatures and of reality, maybe it was the power of contemplation reaching understanding, maybe it was the combination that caused me to go into shock, to convulse, tremble & babble incoherently.

Now my wounds heal rapidly and my muscles ache healthy like after a good workout. Although exhausted I plan my space around the massive performance installation so to continue the contemplation, further informed, in paintings.

The Performance Installation is on view thru December 31st 2011.
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 3 – 8pm
Or by appointment contact –

SUFFER – 616 E9th Street (B & C) NYC

About Theresa

Australian-born, New York based artist Theresa Byrnes began to exhibit her paintings in 1986 at the age of 16. She has had over 30 solo shows at spaces including Saatchi & Saatchi in New York and Sydney, Cristianne Nienaber Contemporary Art NYC and the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C. Theresa’s work is primarily about and is the exploration of natures force. Her performance pieces are described as “wondrous,” “purist,” and “uncompromising,” by London's Daily Mirror. Theresa has performed at Saint Marks Church @ The Bowery and for the Queens Council for the Arts. In 1993 Byrnes was adopted by an Aboriginal community in Arhem Land (Aust.). In 1996, Byrnes was a Young Australian of the Year. She published her autobiography, The Divine Mistake in 1999.She moved from Sydney to New York in 2000 and received Pollock-Krasner awards in 2003 and 2006. Currently The Production company Amala Films in LA are producing a bio-pic based on her book. Byrnes paints in her East Village studio, writes her second memoir and is mother to her toddler son.
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