Familiar Machines at BACKlit
9th March – 26th May 2019
Featuring work by Guerrilla Girls, Dominique Golden, ORLAN, Hannah Parikh, Sondra Perry, Kembra Pfhaler, Millie Quick, Magali Reus, Global Sistaz, and Martha Wilson.
Familiar Machines presents mechanisms of power and feminine governance through practices that uncover modes of production using raw materiality and the body. The exhibition explores different modes of digital or ‘mechanical’ manipulation; both of the female body and through the challenging of patriarchal systems by encouraging social disobedience as a form of protest…
The Making of Mary The Weeping Machine
Dominique makes installation work about the role of the woman in society and the family unit by a continual exploration of personal history channelled through various female figures. Whether expressed in sculpture, drawing or film the works are a form of self-portraiture. In order to create the works the artist employs automatic techniques to achieve a surrealist quality of style, (such as working with found objects that resemble another form or incorporating mistakes into the process of creating.) Her work is filtered through the female point of view but is wide ranging in content. it encompasses such matters as sexuality, religion, witchcraft and mysticism with the artist masquerading centre stage.
Catholic religion has long remained a source interest for Dominique. She was raised Roman Catholic; attended faith schools and regular masses at her local church. For recent work as commissioned by BACKlit Dominique has turned her attention to Mary The Mother of God.
The suffering mother of devotion is of particular interest to the artist due to Mary’s prominent role in world religion and her position in the holy family unit. Mary’s identity is born from motherhood and this has cemented belief systems for future generations of women in families. There is still widespread expectation that mothers will provide for the children’s emotional needs and her identity will stay within the domestic threshold. Whilst male status will exist primarily in a place of work.
In Mary The Mother of God Dominique has crafted the statue of Mary in a visual narrative that continues the legacy of weeping Mothers as a shrine of worship. The figure of Mary reminds us as Mothers to suffer for our children. Inside Mary Dominique has entombed keepsake objects such as a broken glass from her late Auntie Hilda. The objects hold a dense symbolism of personal spirituality for the artist which is born of an engagement with the universal themes of sex, birth and death.
Miracles just like this happen all over the world and this exhibit is no different. When a weeping statue appears the location becomes a sacred place of worship. This is because visitors think magically around the figure and imbue it with personal meaning. Mary The Mother of God is the first miracle of this kind to exist at BACKlit and we as the viewer are all part of the miracle.
Hi Matt - hope you have had a lovely holiday - and a good rest
Here are a couple of notes on the conversation we had recently -I wrote this soon after I had spoken to you and thought I would send it once I updated my website - however I'm going to start working on this tomorrow (when the kids start school!!) , so will let you know when this its complete/should be soon! - probably next week. As you recognised at the heart of my work is the idea of female identity. Recently I have been exploring this via ‘The Mother’ as identity; and the mother of all mothers; The Virgin Mary. In a recent sculpture Mary The Weeping Machine I have turned her eyes into cones that echo’s the destruction of the statue of Mary in the film the Exorcist. But turning the cones outwards. I did a bit of research about the origins of The film The Exorcist… Regan (which means serpent with the sharpest tooth) is possessed by the demon Pazuzu – a consort of serpent mother Lamia from Babylonian diety. Pazuzu is presented in the opening of the film during the excavation of Iraq tombs and also in drawings made by Regan later in the film. Pazuzu has a serpent penis – which got me thinking about the various switches of gender assignment in the film. The serpent is often associated with male as well as female origins. However coming from Roman Catholic roots Eve and the serpent are inextricably linked and the word cunning forever associated with female genitals. So I tend to imagine the serpent as female. The demon that possesses Regan in the film is apparently male – he speaks in deep tones, which is naturally associated with maleness. Therefore the male of hundreds of years old possesses the 12 year old girl. The virgin girl. She self harms ‘help me’ into her skin from the inside out reminding us of her presence and non-consensual sexual involvement. When I first watched The Exorcist (when I was 18 years old)I was horrified at the sight of the statue of Mary in the church having been vandalised by Pazuzu (or suggestively by him!). However this act in isolation now seems comical – adding pointy boobs and a pointy penis to a religious statue. But it really shocked me when I first saw it! Probably because of my religious upbringing and the blasphemous confidence of the statement expressed through creative vandalism. Over the phone we discussed Madonna and her use of conical bras and how the Catholic Church features in her work; Especially like a prayer video with black Jesus coming to life from a crying statue. Is she taking the phallus and making two of them? Double the power (of the woman) of the one phallus male! I have also been looking into the phenomenum of crying statues and the collective wish tank of need for physical response by ghosts of the past. When the statue of Mary cry's she is present once again, she is back from the dead, she is risen! The imagery of the exorcist is a reoccurring reference in my drawings and writings via phallus/ or the cone shape and the contorted body. I didn’t mention on the phone but another female incarnation I have been paying much homage and attention to recently is the archetypal witch – and I have been exploring the position of the broom stick as phallus – as well as pointed hat, pointed nose and pointed fingers. I think this also bears reference to the extremities of Regan, pushing the body from the inside out (if you imagine a broom stick handle pushing against a white sheet!). I recently completed an online poetry course about the occult and explored the notion of the modern day witch. Have you ever seen ‘love witch’ it’s really good! I have been buying ceramics form charity shops of female figures and transforming them from beautiful girl to green skinned witch. I especially wanted to work with ready made for this particular effect as I have been thinking about transformation. When in NY I visited the Brooklyn Museum and they had an exhibition about gender reassignment in the after -life. It is a recent discovery that Mummies were painted red so that a female could temporarily switch genre to male in the tomb. The colour red was believed to hold magical properties that would allow reassignment. The ancient Egyptians believed that the male had the fetus in sperm form and the female grew the baby after sex. So if the female could transform to male during death he would then be the creator of the baby. I have the text for this exhibition (gender and the tomb) – so can reference this further if you are interested. As well as being influenced by Catholic religion I also include other various myths from Egypt, Greece and Rome – and mix them all up - again I can elaborate further... As we spoke about artists - A couple of artists that I thought of were Sue De Beer - I saw her work recently and was reminded of some photographs she made years ago that are both horror and gore. Also two poetry books that are really good about witches are Savage by Rebecca Tamas (Clinic) and Malkin by Camille Ralphs (Emma Press) http://www.suedebeer.com/photos_1.html I really like radical feminist such as Caolee Schneeman - but I was speaking to Sue and thought it would be good to concentrate more on gender identity - I just included this text as it seemed relevant to the above information about the serpent penis demon Pazuzu. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/mar/10/carole-schneemann-naked-art-performance http://witcombe.sbc.edu/eve-women/schneeman.html
Eye Body, Carolee Schneeman (performance piece) 1963 EVE AND THE IDENTITY OF WOMEN Chris Witcombe | Sweet Briar College | Sweet Briar College
All the best Look forward to hearing from you soon Dom
INITITAL PROJECT BRIEF
Installation – record player with moving sculpture
Disremembering the past – times arrow – what is done cannot be undone – all we have from the past
History is written and neatened up so that the main characters are the main feature and supportive
roles are side-lined. Our collective memory is down to a historic selection process and we carry on
the mantle of remembering and forgetting directed by whatever media coverage is available for
news worthy items.
The mother of Jesus Christ was a virgin mother who witnessed her son’s controversial death wish
behaviour such as that of a person with mental health suffering; ultimately summarising in his
crucifixtion at the age of 38 years old; a man in his prime.
Mary introduces Jesus to the world. We don’t know much about her apart from that she is ‘pure’; a
blank sheet by which her son Jesus can write all over; his doing is her pain. She only presently exists
in hearts and minds because of the strong glare of celebrity light Jesus cast upon everyone who he
was connected with. Yet as his mother, did she not shape him as he went on to shape her?
I would like to make ‘Mary the crying machine’; as Jesus made Mary into the crying machine. The
mother is in pain and exists only in one dimension; to cry for her son.
I will use an existing religious figurine and affect it by applying an outer shell. This is in order to work
on something that exists in the world and for the object to carry on its life with a different lease of
energy. The affected figurine (or Mary the crying machine) will be part of an installation which will
include a bucket (for catching tears) and moving parts.
As part of the installation Nicholas Clifford will assist by creating a vinyl record which will incorporate
the sound of mothers crying. The motion of the record also lends itself to time moving forwards
only. The length of time of the record is visible on the turn table. What is done cannot be undone;
what is heard cannot be unheard.
To accompany the installation I will create written work on the concept of Mary the crying machine/
Mary the forgotten mother and how entropy (times arrow) does not afford a situation such as the
death of a loved one to change. I would also like to perform a spoken word/poetry set as part of the
opening night celebration (or as a timetabled fixture as part of the overall event).