lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Theatrum Silvaticae, 1992

performed November 7, 1992
Native Amerian Centre for the Living Arts
Niagara Falls, New York

Part of Two Row Wampum Project – click  TRW brochure to open pdf of project brochure and see entire program of events*

Artist’s Statement
We are marking 500 years of resistance to colonization by North America’s native peoples, using 1492 as a marker. This work draws also as its source that in 1492, Pope Innocent VIII died. His Papal Bull of 1484 authorized the Malleus Maleficarum, the document of woman-hatred that gave rise to the witch trials of Europe.

The persecution sanctioned by medieval patriarchal Christianity in Europe of women and their traditional healing practices and beliefs may inform our interpretation of the persecution of North American indigenous peoples and our world today. In both histories the dominant European culture sought to annihilate cultures and spiritualities rooted in a relationship to nature and the Earth.

The title of this work is based in the etymological origin of the word, savage, which the English gave to native North Americans. The word did not have the pejorative meaning it has today; its root is the Latin, silvaticus, meaning man of the woods. This work is titled in Latin and translates as, Theatre of the Woman of the Woods.

I have used three texts in this work; two are incantations from a 12th century English medical treatise and are examples of Goddess-based healing tradition. The third is from, The Voyages of Jacques Cartier, translated from the French original by the Public Archives of Canada.
– 1992

*Thanks to Lesley Bell for the scan. Dedicated to the memory of Ann Pineault who in the 1990s founded the women’s drum group that grew into Winds of Change.

While I can see that they were part of work curious about nature/culture, twenty-five years later, I have forgotten the precise intent behind the theatrum which appeared in this performance and later, with a different colour fabric, in the installation, Breath and the Heart, Listen. It was built with faux tree trunks on either side and a velvet curtain into which were cut holes representing the sense organs, with slides or video of plant life projected behind them. These were the first appearance of representations of the senses and consciousness which became a key visual theme during my work of the 1990s. Theatrum Silvaticae was the first use of the text from The Voyages of Jacques Cartier, which was also used in Breath and the Heart, Listen and the unrealized Le jardin de Jacques Cartier.

The costume was by Shelagh Young and created for Lake (1990).
– 2017


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