The Trials of Which Witch?

The Sabbath Dance, 0:18 (looping), 2016

***The Trials of Which Witch? is a continuation of my larger research into the figure of the witch. This project will be a drawing-based animation series, which will be the third component in a larger body of work that traces the witch through historical constructions, actual persecutions, and the transformations of this character into contemporary representation. This component focuses specifically on the trial scenarios of three accused witches through a standardized set prosecution questions and explores the possible answers and consequences of each set of responses.

In support of the research component of this upcoming animation project, I received a Yukon College Research Grant for a project titled Women and Prejudice in the Age of the Witch Hunts, which supported travel to The Palace of Inquisition, a museum in Cartagena, Colombia, to gather images and historical documents for the project. The Palace of Inquisition was used during the colonial period as a courthouse, torture chamber, jail, and execution grounds for those accused of witchcraft during the Spanish Inquisition. Research from this excursion will support the development of The Trial of Which Witch?, which will be an animated re-creation of three witch trials based on historical images and documents.

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*** Project in research stages

Photo by Daniel Murray, Cartagena, Colombia

How to Identify a Witch

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.

How to Identify a Witch_7_Orgies

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’.

HOw to Identify a Witch_2_Kissing Butt

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)

How to Identify a Witch_Rayburn

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

Available for distribution through VTape. Please contact: distribution@vtape.org

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Nicole Rayburn 2017

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