Nicole Rayburn, How to Identify a Witch, 3:34, 2014
How to Identify a Witch references historically documented methods used to identify and prosecute a witch. The methods presented in the video, although seemingly bizarre, are sourced from witch hunting manuals, such as the Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), which were commonly used reference texts throughout the European justice system during the witch craze.
Simple animations created from illustrations and woodcuts derived from these texts serve to emphasize the absurdity and popular prevalence of the witch craze event, but also gesture towards the problematic belief systems that fostered the emergence of this crazed phenomenon that targeted primarily women and the socially vulnerable as ‘others’.
The continued relevance of this historical topic is manifold. Persecution in the form of repression, exclusion, torture, and execution, premised solely in intolerance of difference, be that physical, behavioral, or spiritual, is still prevalent. As Joseph Klaits poignantly states in Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts, “Plainly, we are not dealing with obsolete issues when we consider such problems as the roots of intolerance, manifestations of prejudice against women and minorities, the use of torture by authoritarian rulers, and attempts by religious and political ideologues to impose their values on society”. The witch is a scapegoat blamed for random misfortunes, but more so persecuted for social position, difference, and otherness – emphasizing the continued importance as an issue of contemplation today.
Audio: Devil’s Waltz Hum by AlucardsBride (freesound.org)
Selected Screenings & Exhibitions:
2016 London Ontario Media Arts Association, Curated by Christina Battle
2016 Cómo reconocer a una bruja, Lima Film Festival, Video Babel Festival Tour Selection, Lima, Peru (Spanish translation)
2015 Video Babel Festival, Cusco, Peru
2015 [.Box] Videoart Project Space Milano, organized by 28th Festival Les Instants Vidéo, Curated by Marc Mercier, Milan, Italy
2015 28th Festival Les Instants Vidéo, [.Box] Program, Marseille, France
2015 Archivo Queer Italia: Religious Bondage, Cuntemporary, London, UK
2014 Which Witch? SOVA Gallery, Dawson City, Yukon
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Nicole Rayburn 2017