No Man's Land Curatorial Statement - A special installation within Erring on the Mount
by Judith A. Mason
When I heard that Public Energy had secured the use of the Mount--a decommissioned convent--for an interdisciplinary community arts event, I began to imagine an intimate exhibition of the work of women artists. As I toured the site, I was particularly drawn to the pinkish corridor on the first floor, once bedrooms of the Sisters, as a rich location to explore the intersection between Christianity and Feminism – both contentious paradigms. This smaller exhibition within the larger Erring on the Mount Festival weaves together aspects of the historical work and lives of the Sisters with the lived experiences of eight contemporary artists.
The title No Man’s Land suggests a liminal space, a space of in-between, a site of transition, an unclaimed interval, and a place without men. Women’s experiences often coalesce in this unclaimed territory. At times, it is difficult to navigate our way to the centre of our own lives. And, as Elizabeth Wright suggests “speaking desires can be dangerous.”1 Communicating through a male-derived language system that continually constructs woman as ‘other,’ minimizes, obscures, annexes, undermines, or simply negates female perspectives.
These mid-career artists create an altered space, a space that communicates private concerns, personal experiences, intimate thoughts and visceral feelings with all the paradox, ambiguity and vagueness that visual picturing allows. This site activates this creative response and the installations activate this site creating a “keeping place”2: enacting a living memory practice that brings all that is held there into the present moment.
Feminist issues of the 60s and 70s have not disappeared in any sense of the word. Far from it, they have grown and multiplied. Our cultural values, ethics, relationships, and economies remain defined by an archaic patriarchal system. The (un)Holy Trinity of Capitalism, Democracy and Christianity has not secured a world of health and well-being for most, but, has and continues to, exploit the majority for the benefit of the few.
1 Wright, Elizabeth, Speaking Desires Can be Dangerous: The Poetics of the Unconscious (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999).
2 See Jonathan Bordo’s essay, “The Keeping Place,” particularly 173-174, in Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003).