ArtFunkl Alumni Profiles No 3: Marina Y Kelly

Marina Y Kelly (USA) is a performance artist with a deep interest in exploring communication and connection. Her work, fluid and unpredictable in its output, is somewhat akin to a scientific experiment, setting up a premise, and allowing for a resulting form to emerge. Kelly creates performance work which is responsive to site, ambience, surrounding people, and thus is open to ever changing reactions and chain reactions between each element involved.

The pieces start with a structure. This varies depending on the circumstances The structure could evolve in response to a particular venue or environment, or, when in collaboration with other artists, it is often the result of dialogue with her partner or partners. Kelly has experimented with many starting points in the past, some quite pared down i.e. a set of instructions, a reading, or a piece of music, but at times has commenced with something more physical, such as the creation of an environment or character, that the audience is invited to connected with.

Once the original premise has been set up, what takes place after that is open to interpretation, and is a product of both performer and viewer reaction. Kelly is rarely a performer in the traditional manner i.e. in the sense of being on a stage, and separate from the audience. Rather, the very essence of her work relies on looping interactions between herself and the music, environment, or reading, between herself and any other collaborating artist, and between her (their) performance, and the response of the audience. She likes to create intense situations where the audience will be deeply engaged, resulting in a provocative, and challenging experience for all participants.

During her residency at ArtFunkl in 2014, Kelly, along with local Manchester performance artist Ruby Tingle, built a strange, primal feeling garden in her studio, filled with earth, and organic looking sculptures. The two artists were dressed dryad style, wearing toga-like costumes, and with flowers in their hair. There was a low, humming noise in the background, adding to the uncanny ambience. The audience were charged to enter the space and sit for 8 minutes, while the performers took up different stances, which responded to each other. Each performance culminated in a long period of non-movement, while they stayed still and became part of the sculptural arrangement. The experience for the audience was fascinating, and often disquieting. Some people found it difficult to fathom how to respond, what they should do or feel, and some found it unbearably claustrophobic to be in such a small space with two people engaged in a bizarre tableau. To some of the participants 8 minutes was endless and uncomfortable, while others allowed themselves to be carried by the performance, and found it blissful to lose their sense of time perception.

Since then Kelly has taken part in several projects, some of like nature to her piece at ArtFunkl. Her collaborative work has branched out to include performances with multiple artists of different disciplines, and she has also developed her two person works. Of similar form to Helix Duette was Subterranean Garden, 2016. She and fellow artist, Helen Hawley, moved in unison with each other, in reaction to a piece of music, Harmonica Curse by Dieter Roth. The set they created for themselves was again an imaginary garden of delights, complete with ambient forest recordings, swan decoys, and projections. The performance took place in a huge empty municipal building in Madison, Wisconsin, which was used as an exhibition and performance space for hundreds of artists during one day in December, 2016, a charged environment which added an extra layer of excitement to the atmosphere of the piece.

Marina Y Kelly is based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Her work can be found on her website In early December, Kelly will take part in a performance conceived and directed by the legendary performance artist Linda Montano, in celebration of the New Museum’s 40th Anniversary (2nd December, 2017, New York).