Which Witch? A Memorial

Which Witch?: A Memorial, Photo Series of 1001, 2015

The photo series Which Witch? A Memorial, consists of 1001 found images of witches. These images are homage to 1001 executed individuals – a fraction of the estimated 100,000 witches tortured and put to death during the European witch craze from 1550-1750. 90% of the images are female witches and 10% are male, reflecting a historically accurate estimate of the ratio of female-male witch executions. The images depict fictional witch-characters of contemporary culture yet simultaneously reflect real individuals tortured and murdered on the premise of a constructed attribution – that of being a witch.

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.

WhichWitch_Installation_exhibition

Which Witch? is an exhibition of photo and video work (including How to Identify a Witch & How to Deal with a Witch) which traces the figure of the witch through historical constructions, actual persecutions, and the transformations of this character into contemporary representation.

 Exhibitions:

2014 Which Witch? SOVA Gallery, Dawson City, Yukon

Nicole Rayburn 2015

re|signed

Nicole Rayburn, re|signed, Series of 50 Photographs, 2012

re|signed is a series of 50 photographs depicting religious public road signage presented in conjunction with the following text panel. This series highlights the mechanisms of advertising present in contemporary religious signage and adopts this same technique for use in personal artistic promotional material. This series is presented both as photographic prints and as business cards. The cards are a series of 50 and have the photographic images on one side, and the re|signed text panel on the reverse.

Print

Although the images have been aesthetically adjusted and identifying names and addresses have been removed, the contents of the texts are original and remain unaltered. All images were located and photographically documented in Canadian public spaces in London, Ontario.

These signs effectively employ mechanisms of humour, fear, and literary pun, as well as reflections on current events and modern technologies, to target, appeal to, and recruit a new generation of worshippers. I have chosen to appropriate these techniques used by the church for my own advertisement method, which is, rather ironically, the personal artist business card.

I utilize this technique although it is somewhat disingenuous, both in terms of my belief in an artistic practice as a business endeavour, and in reference to my personal rejection of organized religion and its systematic attempts to recruit and convert new followers. The appropriation of such advertisement slogans for use as promotional material in an artistic project, which has little economic benefit, and which is critical of organized religion for both its attempts towards social homogenization and its historical and continued persecution of adherents of other faiths, non-believers, and innumerable ‘others’, is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Although the method and desire for the spread of ideas in re|signed superficially mimic those of religion, the goal for awareness of socio-political forces and freedom of expression, premised in difference rather than sameness, is of radically different origin. This is a resignation of silence in the face absurdity.

This project, although critical, is not necessarily intended to target a particular religious group – it is meant to function as a catalyst to open discussion on a topic of social relevance where it seems that there is little room.

Exhibitions:

2013 re|signed. Harcourt House, Front Room, Edmonton, AB (solo)

2012 re|signed. Gallery Connexion, Annex Gallery, Fredericton, NB (solo)

Reviews:

Vue Weekly, Agnieszka Matejko, Looking for a Sign, October 10, 2013

http://www.vueweekly.com/looking_for_a_sign/

Nicole Rayburn 2015