Venice Biennale Explores Female Archetypes, Goddesses & Witches In Iraqi & Irish Pavillions

Mother goddess, presumed to be a Fertility goddess. Returned from Holland in 2010. 5,000 BCE. Courtesy Iraq Museum; Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities; and Ruya Foundation.

Mother goddess, presumed to be a Fertility goddess. Returned from Holland in 2010. 5,000 BCE. Courtesy Iraq Museum; Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities; and Ruya Foundation.

In an interesting juxtaposition of women's history and art and contemporary events, Iraq and Ireland are both channeling feminine archetypes at the 2017 Venice Biennale. 

Iraq

The Ruya Foundation, organizer of the Iraqi pavilion at Venice, is sending a total of 40 ancient Iraqi artifacts, some of them looted and now returned. The antiquities will reside alongside works by eight modern and contemporary Iraqi artists and a new commission by Francis Alÿs, who held art workshops at an Iraqi refugee camp last year.

The ambitious exhibition, titled “Archaic,” will inspire a dialogue between the modern and contemporary works and antiquities loaned by the Iraq Museum spanning six millennia, from the Neolithic Age to the Neo-Babylonian Period.

Ireland

Artist Jesse Jones will represent Ireland at the May 57th Venice Biennale, with her presentation 'Tremble Tremble', curated by Tessa Giblin. The 1970s chant was sung by women in the Italian Wages for Housework movement: “Tremate, tremate, le streghe sono tornate!” (tremble, tremble, the witches have returned!).

Even though the Catholic Church remains dominant in Ireland, there is a rising social movement demanding change between church and state. In 'Tremble, Tremble', the artist calls for a return of the witch as a "feminist archetype and disrupter" with an inherent ability to affect change. 

The artwork envisions a different legal order, "one in which the multitude are brought together in a symbolic, gigantic body, to proclaim a new law, that of 'In Utera Gigantae' writes ArtNet

Jones has researched the ways in which the law transmits memory over time, with a research combining an archeological dig of 3.5 million-year-old female specimen, the oppression of women during the 16th century witch trials, the symphysiotomy (a brutal form of caesarean) trials, and the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.

The film work takes testimony, statements, and written lyrics, blending them into a powerful incantation. The artist is collaborating with theatrical artist Olwen Fouéré and sound artist Susan Stenger to make an “expanded form of cinema.”

Jesse Jones, Tremble Tremble (2017) production image. Photo Ros Kavanagh.

Jesse Jones, Tremble Tremble (2017) production image. Photo Ros Kavanagh.