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Meet an Artist Instagram takeover: Corina Duyn

Posted: 7 July, 2020

Corina Duyn took part in our first Meet an Artist Instagram takeover. Over three days, from Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th June 2020, Corina filled Arts & Disability Ireland’s Instagram profile with her work and thoughts.

Here you will find the text from her Instagram posts alongside all of the website links that lived in our bio during the takeover.

You can find Corina’s Meet an Artist interview here.

To see all of Corina’s Meet an Artist takeover posts, simply enter and follow #ADIMeetAnArtist on Instagram.

Post 1 of 12
Day one – Inspiration – The Birds.

‘Becoming ill and mostly housebound with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) 22 years ago I started observing the birds in my garden. Their lives, as well as nature in general, became the main source of inspiration of learning to deal with my utterly changed life. As a result, birds became the main recurring theme appearing in all my creative work from writing, painting, tapestry and puppetry.

No matter what the weather is like, the birds have to source food. They hold on to the branches of the tree in my garden during gale force winds. Resilience. That is what I have learned from my feathered friends. Resilience.’

Singing Lessons

‘Birds singing
while hailstones
are belting down
on top of them

There must be
a lesson
in this’

Singing Lessons can be found on page 168 in Corina’s publication Hatched – a Creative Journey Through M.E.

Post 2 of 12

‘Imagery and the life cycle of birds became my way to explain to myself and in turn to others the effect and fragility of severe illness. At the start I identified my journey to that of an egg hatching, becoming a fledgling and eventually able to fly again – with support.
My early drawings, paintings and collages can be found in my first book Hatched – a Creative Journey Through M.E. Each title of the very short poems have a bird theme.
Later in my practice bird imagery can be found in my tapestry and sculpture.

is like a foreign country
I had no intention
of visiting

Having no choice
I explored its geography
and learn its language

Hand in hand
with nature
my guide

this new world
to follow
my path’

This poem can be found in Corina’s publication Into the Light.

Post 3 of 12

‘I have bird feeders in various parts of my garden so I can always be ‘one with the birds’. I observe their lives from my bed or the recliner in the living room. I am even closer to them while in the garden or resting in my recently transformed studio – retreat room. It is not unusual for me to interrupt a conversation when I see a bird. I am a bird. I dance with the birds…’

Invisible Octopus (abstract)

‘Finding peace in my solitude
I am one with the birds
their beauty and harmony
uplifting and strengthening’

For more information about Invisible Octopus click here.

Post 4 of 12

‘My camera is always near me. Some of the many bird photos make it into my books, my blog or I share them on social media. When working on ‘Invisible Octopus’ I placed my iPad in the garden to film my puppets and the birds. Here is a tiny snippet. ‘I’ am a bird.’

For more information about Corina’s creative mind click here.

Post 5 of 12

Day two – Goal – Stepping out of the box.

‘Over the past six years or so I have been bringing the reality of disability as a result of chronic illness into my work. This more defined focus came after a year of Disability Studies at UCC. I seem to be stepping out of the disability box.’

‘We suffer from chronic illness
battle cancer
fight infections
conquer the disease

Illness is seen as the enemy
Not recovering can lead to feelings
of failure and guilt
We might be labelled
Physically challenged
Differently abled
Special needs

and pursuing
all one can be
regardless of the circumstances
can lead to
fulfilment and pride

Step out of the box
and you are free’

This poem can be found in Corina’s publication Into the Light.

Post 6 of 12

‘On the theme of stepping out of the box. I facilitated a puppet making project with my fellow members of the Irish Wheelchair Association at the Dungarvan resource centre during 2015/16. We made nine puppets and a large disability box. We filmed the puppets (us) stepping out of the box, reclaiming our rightful place in society. It was a project of empowerment for both myself and my fellow members. The poem in the previous post were the only words spoken in the film.

Our short film was shown at our local cinema and at disability festivals in the UK and Canada. A one minute version of the film is shown every three months on the Angelus before RTÉ’s Six One news. The project was also featured on RTÉ’s Nationwide and led to many international lecturing opportunities.

The Life Outside the Box project was funded through the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community scheme managed by Create.’

Post 7 of 12

‘Around the same time as I made the small sculpture and the Life Outside the Box project, I worked on my latest book Into the Light, which is a book in a box.

It became increasingly more challenging to write for longer than 20 minutes on a computer at any one time. Longer essay writing wasn’t possible. After nearly giving up on the project, I came up with the idea to create single sheets, gathered in a box. Each sheet has an image of my artwork, or photograph and short quote by another author. On the reverse is a short poem-like reflection covering disability, illness, fear, hope, gratitude and moments of beauty. It is also available with laminated sheets to be used in clinical settings.’

To watch a short video showing Corina’s Into the Light publication click here.

Post 8 0f 12

‘The Life Outside the Box project certainly brought me out of my box. The project got the attention of puppeteer masters and researchers Dr. Emma Fisher (Ireland) and Laura Purcell-Gates (UK) and led to invitations to give talks about puppetry and disability at the Broken Puppet Symposium on Puppetry Disability & Health in Cork, 2017. It catapulted me into a world I was unaware I was a member of.

Since that first talk, I have given talks in person and via Skype/Zoom in the UK, Ireland, Brazil and Chile. Puppetry brought me the opportunity to share the reality of life with illness and disability to a whole new audience.’

For more information on these talks click here.

Post 9 of 12

Day three – Reality – M.E. and puppetry.

‘Since the Life Outside the Box project and being immersed in the Broken Puppet symposium, I became much more consciously aware of the power of puppets to explore the issues of illness and disability and to bring our experiences to a wider public. I truly believe that our underlying emotions make their way through our hands into the clay and come to the fore in the puppet. The Girls (2015–17) are string marionettes as in Life Outside the Box. They emerged as a reflection of each other: one using canes to walk, the other freer in her movements. One is my reality, the other portraying the invisibility of chronic illness, but also the choice to have freedom of mind.

Due to the increasing inability to hold the marionette’s cross for any length of time, I designed Póilin during 2017. This ‘wheelchair-lap-puppet’ can sit independently, and I can animate her via the rod in her back. Póilin embodies the almost meditative quality of my life lived in enforced solitude. She shows peacefulness, but at the same time seems to have a strong ability to have her thoughts heard.’

To see images of The Girls click here.

Post 10 of 12

‘Last year I had a great opportunity to receive mentoring from Dr. Emma Fisher through the Arts Council’s Arts and Disability Connect scheme managed by Arts & Disability Ireland. With Emma I explored more accessible forms of puppetry, as well as how to develop a film script using my existing puppets. We explored themes like facing death and re-emerging like the phoenix. The word shadow, during the introduction to shadow puppetry, triggered the memory of a story I wrote about an invisible octopus. This led to the creation of a glove puppet, an octopus. Although initially created as a prop, the octopus became the story. Invisible Octopus, like M.E. has control over my life, manipulating the strings of life.’

Invisible Octopus (abstract)

‘M.E. as Invisible Octopus
acting as Puppeteer
Keeping me upright
or let me stumble at will
Inflicting pain
Challenging my brain
Letting go of the strings
leaving me lifeless’

For more information about Invisible Octopus click here.

Post 11 of 12

‘Working on Invisible Octopus made me confront the stark reality of declining health. This project is possibly the most powerful focus on my daily difficulties of life with illness. Although I have used many forms of creativity over the past two decades, I believe puppetry is the most confronting and at the same time the most healing art form of all.

And yet, although my physical world is shrinking rapidly, the Invisible Octopus project brought me to life in a different reality.

I was featured in the Arts & Disability Ireland’s Meet an Artist interview series. Emma Windsor from Puppet Place (Bristol) created a profound in-depth podcast about my work. The project will also feature in Puppet Notebook, a British Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA) publication and the Journal of Applied Arts & Health Special Edition on Puppetry, Object Theatre and Health, Well-being and Disability. The project was discussed in detail during my Power of the Puppet lecture via Zoom at Diplomado Muñecoterapia in Chile. I have been invited to lecture again at the upcoming International Diplomado Muñecoterapia.

Despite the severity of illness, I too rise from the ashes like the phoenix.’

Invisible Octopus (abstract)

‘Rising from the ashes
I fly among the birds
in freedom of mind
If only for brief moments of time

The illusions of life
are fragile
in the shadows
of an Invisible Octopus’

For more information about Invisible Octopus click here.

Post 12 of 12

‘A chronic illness like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is not a linear experience. Due to the fluctuations and a decline in my health I have to constantly revisit how I can do my art and which materials I can use. It is difficult to not be able to make what my heart desires.

Although my mind is not always in agreement what my body can do, nobody can lock my creative mind away. During the most recent relapse the possibilities of exploring shadow puppetry became a reality. It is an art form which is at present the most accessible. I can cut the images while lying in bed or in my recliner. I can access the overhead projector from my wheelchair, or rollator. For this art I do not require a PA, and the results of a few minutes of play are instant and hugely rewarding.

Many, many thanks to Arts & Disability Ireland for inviting me to this Meet an Artist takeover adventure and thank you all for following my work.

Be well.’

To see Corina’s website click here.

To find out about Corina’s puppet making course click here.

Birth Dance by Corina Duyn. Post 3-12 Meet an Artist Instagram takeover.

Invisible Octopus and one of The Girls by Corina Duyn. Post 11-12 Meet an Artist Instagram takeover.

Life Outside the Box workshop. Photo, Nik Palmer. Post 8-12 Meet an Artist Instagram takeover.

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