video installation (digital SLR, 2:35; encaustic over lace on panel on astroturf)
Communion (Eng., noun)
. the service of Christian worship - the Sacrement of Eucharist in Catholicism - at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared
. the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level
In May of 1971, 49 women took a train from Belfast, loaded with as many condoms as they could purchase, and were arrested on the platform in Dublin. Contraception was still illegal in the Republic women had helped to liberate, although 240 women actively fought 100 years ago in the Easter Rising of 1916. Like many revolutionary societies, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, women fought for the cause of nationality only to be disenfranchised under the religious patriarchy of the new regime. When condoms were illegal contraband from British occupied Northern Ireland, the Contraception Train was a watershed act of defiance by the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement.
From the Magdalene Laundries to the marriage bar to the primacy of women as bearer of children, the Catholic Church in Ireland has a long stronghold over women’s autonomy over their own bodies. And although women were kept to the home, poor daughters supported their families as domestic servants and in the needlepoint, weaving, and lace-making industries, only to receive little or nothing in family inheritance.
Inghinidhe na hÉireann, or Daughters of Ireland, references both the first group of women who ran guns for the Easter Rising as well as the continued struggle for equal rights. It is inscribed on a panel of encaustic over lace, indicating the toil of women’s labor; laid on a flat plane of grass, the installation mimics the memorial at Arbor Hill Prison that marks the execution site of the Rising leaders.
The sound element is a keening, the traditional wailing cry that was a custom among women in the Irish countryside. Rooted in early Celtic culture as part of a long, celebratory wake for the dead, the tradition was banned by the church and is largely a lost practice today. The wafer and the condom, significantly similar in size, color, and shape, both denote an intimate and sensual experience; a communion where the sacred and profane contradictions of the church wield control over women’s bodies.
This work was commissioned for a 100 year commemorative exhibition of the Easter Rising at the Hillyer Arts Space in DC.
Communion, installation doc