Since 2001, Paul Hurley has performed and exhibited in galleries, theatres, festivals and public spaces internationally. Whilst he is best known for his solo performance practice, his work has involved participatory projects and collaborations with other artists, including Clare Thornton, Kathe Izzo, Manuel Vason, Anushiye Yarnell, Caleb Parkin and Uninvited Guests. He is interested in action, ritual, queerness and humour. In 2010, Paul was awarded a PhD for his thesis ‘Reconfiguring the human: the becoming-other of performance’ from the University of Bristol, as part of an AHRC collaborative doctoral award with Arnolfini Gallery, where he was also an Associate Artist between 2008-2010. He has given talks, workshops, lectures and been published internationally, and has been involved with numerous artist-led projects. Paul currently lives and works between Bristol and Yorkshire as well as much more widely, and this site is a place for sharing his thoughts, reflections and news.
My work has been located primarily in action-based performance, with occasion forays into installation, video and collaborative image making. Central to my work is the body and the live moment, the ‘in-betweenness’ that manifests in the mediation of reality and relation between artist and spectator, and between image or text (in its widest sense) and action. I’m interested in what we can do with the clichéd ‘here and now’ of performance, how we can create exchanges of intimacy and how encounters with the / an- other can create openness and empathy instead of closure and fixity.
Recent work has explored ritualised actions that simultaneously perform and interrogate the shamanic function of performance and the aesthetics of classic action art. These performances are often durational, physically and mentally demanding, and teeter between the sacred, the profane and the absurd. They work invariably with process of exertion and transformation, and with materials both common (e.g. metal buckets, poster paint, vegetables, tea spoons) and extraordinary (coloured feathers, drag queen stilettos, ankle bells). Through their sometimes considered, sometimes clumsy, employment of familiarity and disruption, they enact the idiom that ‘everything is sacred and nothing is sacred’. They function on a secular-spiritual level as well as on that of aesthetic ‘queering’, and attempt to bring reflection, empathy, curiousness and humour to the context in which I work (often the gallery, the studio, or the festival). I regard them as part of my wider practice, involving the instigation and co-ordination of artist-run projects, engagement work with community groups through performance art and digital media, and the teaching of practical and theoretical aspects of performance at universities and through informal education at arts centres and galleries.