What do Ireland’s Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale and the last Fragmenta Malta event have in common?
Witches, that’s what!
Tremble Tremble by Irish artist Jesse Jones was a large cinematic-installation collaborative work, created with theatre artist Olwen Fouéré, and sound artist Susan Stenger. In an interview with RTÉ’s John Kelly, Jones talks about investigating what justice might mean from a female perspective. Tremble Tremble, that’s now on show at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin, presents the figure of the female disrupter; as Jones says “staging a feminist version of the law” by an artist that is part of the “20th generation of women since the witch trials”.
Public folklorist, scholar and performance artist Kay Turner was invited to perform in Malta by Fragmenta’s Bettina Hutschek. Her work, Goddess, Madonna and Witch, took the form of a creative procession in Tarxien Temples; prefaced by a short insight into the legacy of these three female figures. All three resonate in many parts of the world, but Turner told us that Malta is one of the few places where all three co-exist so closely!
Malta and Ireland – islands off the European mainland, both once ruled by Great Britain and both once strongly Catholic countries – have their own, quite different witch legends and folklore. But, at the risk of oversimplifying, it seems that the female self-determination is still something that artists feel needs addressing.
PS, I can't resist a small mention of the iconography of The Pageant of the Seas, held in Malta's Grand Harbour a few days after the Fragmenta event - a huge, slightly droopy, headless female figure, presumably a representation of the 'Venus' statuette found at Ħagar Qim. The figure seemed to be hung by the neck from a crane on a barge in the harbour; so much for female self-determination.