MARK LEAHY is a writer and artist operating among textual practices, performance, and live art. He works with the body as sensing and as affected, using language, models of perception, and objects of everyday use. Including spoken word, task-based actions, and live generation of digital content his performances address the body as desired and as desiring, and the body as a site of inscription and mediation. His textual practice utilizes constraints, structuring rules, and operates to cross or question category and genre divisions including around identity and agency.
In recent performances he has performed vocalisations of material fed to him via headphones, generated live using chance operations on text data. Currently he is working to develop a system of gestures and physical actions that function alongside the verbal performance, operating partly as a notation system that can be scored for his body or for others. An intersection of speaker and self is explored in an engagement with digital and online contexts, and the audience become watchers of the relationship between what is being spoken and the body speaking. The situation of ‘failing to’ speak while being ‘made to’ speak presents an image of our interface with digital environments.
Following a first degree in Fine Art – Sculpture (1985), Mark Leahy worked as a practicing artist, showing work in two-person and group exhibitions in Ireland, and has works in private and public collections there. He was an early member of the artists co-op All + 10 Sorts in Limerick, and took on the role of studio and gallery manager there 1987-1988. He returned to education to pursue a degree in English at University College Dublin, and went on to complete an MA by research on the work of playwright George Fitzmaurice (1994). This research included directing productions of two of Fitzmaurice’s works.
While teaching part-time at UCD and working on The Thomas MacGreevy Archive, a humanities computing research project, he and three colleagues set up a production company, Bright Boy, to produce site-specific theatre works. Their work included Dubl’n Babble’on, a promenade event at Newman House, Dublin, celebrating the work of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett (1995).
The receipt of a research scholarship in American Studies at Leeds University allowed him to pursue PhD research on contemporary American poetry, with particular attention to reading and the reader (1996-1999). This research led to a renewed interest in the intersection of visual and verbal art works and resulted in the joint curation of a day of workshops and papers with accompanying exhibition titled Verbal inter Visual in Birkbeck College and at Central St Martin’s, London (2001).
This work and ongoing freelance work as a design assistant on a number of theatre or performance projects, led to a sustained period of work at Artsadmin in London, as a project manager on work for Bobby Baker and Station House Opera (2001-2003). In parallel with this were three years as visiting lecturer in the Visual Culture and Media Department at the University of Middlesex (2001-2004). This work included development of a module in Writing for Design and Art Students, and engagement with a range of contemporary art and design practices.
Mark Leahy has continued a writing and performance practice and is involved in research in the area of visual and digital poetics, theorisation and practices of voice and voicing, and in critical or theoretical investigations around poetry, art, visual culture and their intersections. He was employed as a Lecturer in Writing at Dartington College of Arts in September 2003, and was appointed Director of Writing there in August 2005. He moved to become MA Programme Leader at Dartington in October 2007, and continued in that role until October 2010 when Dartington was merged with Falmouth University. He taught part-time at Falmouth University on Undergraduate modules in Performance and Creative Writing, and continues to supervise PhD students there.
Since 2014 he has worked part-time at Plymouth University, teaching at BA and MA level on courses in Art, Performance and Creative Writing, and supervising PhD projects. He continues to examine at postgraduate and PhD level, to peer review articles and to present at academic conferences. He is a board member for Take a Part, a Plymouth-based company that develops activity in socially engaged art practice. He is a Director of art.earth, a Devon-based organisation supporting arts practice in the area of nature environment and ecology, and producing academic symposia, short courses and publication in this field.