Martin O’Brien’s work as a live artist examines the politics of the sick body, using his experience of living with cystic fibrosis to explore what it means to be born with a life-shortening chronic disease.
O’Brien’s performances often feature the infliction of pain on his own body. In It’s Good to Breathe In (This Devon Air) (2015), O’Brien mimics a common treatment for cystic fibrosis by cutting the shape of lungs onto his chest before beating it to loosen mucus, a repeated movement which reflects the sick body’s relentless need for maintenance. By collecting the released mucus and rubbing it onto himself, O’Brien attempts to achieve ownership of his body and illness, turning this byproduct of his treatment, into art.
Examining similar bodily themes, O’Brien developed Mucus Factory (2011), as commissioned by LADA’s event Access All Areas: Live Art and Disability which toured internationally. Breathe For Me (2012), a piece that dealt with ideas of physical endurance, disgust and survival, also toured extensively from London’s Wellcome Collection to Copenhagen’s Dansehallerne.