RITUAL, REPETITION, AND CATHARSIS: AN EXAMINATION OF THE POWER AND PERSECUTION OF 16TH CENTURY WITCHES
My thesis work seeks to honor the individuals, the vast majority of them women, who have been lost to the history of witch persecutions. I have taken the full appendix of those persecuted in present day French-speaking Switzerland, known as the Jura region, and printed them on broadsides. My thesis installation will display these names and their fates prominently, even when that fate is as unsatisfying as the single word, “unknown”.
When witches were executed, they were not mourned. Grief for the death of an individual possessed by the devil was a sign of allegiance with satanic forces. As such, convicted witches were tortured, executed, and promptly forgotten. Their families moved on, holding to the conviction that their loved one was in heaven, finally free of the devil inside. In printing hundreds of these broadsides and hand cross-stitching the names of every witch tried in the Jura from the 1520s to 1680, I seek to reclaim the identities of these women and men who were erased from society for deviating from the norm. The repetitive nature of these actions is not atypical for my work, as I often exercise my personal anxiety through ritual behaviors. The ritual of labor is essential to my practice, just as it was to the safety of women in the age of witch panic; a productive woman was a value to society, and not a threat to men. The installation reflects the historical work of women, the means to identify them as witches, and my personal cathartic processes. As the cross-stitch work is continually in process,I will continue to stitch through the opening, and in the gallery, until the names have been completely documented.
SECTOR C: Art Practice & Technology
Advisers: Matt Neff (FNAR) | Lance Wahlert (MED)