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THE CORN DOLLY TRIPTYCH

Technical details

ORIGINAL TITLE:

THE CORN DOLLY TRIPTYCH

REGISTRATION NUMBER:

S0005

ARTIST:

LETITIA HILL

DATE CREATED:

2019-2021

OBJECT TYPE:

Immersive Installation

MEDIA:

Mixed media installation including Straw, Water Reed, Metal, Dyes, Sound, Scent, Ground Fog Machine, Contemplation Bench, 100 LED Candles and Pinspots. Wall Paint: #16122b

DIMENSIONS:

The Corn Dolly Triptych - Renenutet
304.8cm height x 76.2cm width  (120" height x 30" width)

The Corn Dolly Triptych - Tailtiu

304.8cm height x 76.2cm width  (120" height x 30" width)

The Corn Dolly Triptych - AKA Robot Maria

304.8cm height x 76.2cm width  (120" height x 30" width)

CREDITS:

Thatcher: Tomas Collins | Irish Reed Supply Co.

Design Consultant: Deirdre Dwyer

Carpenter: Tom Elwood at Woodcut

Master Thatcher: Dave Gallery

Sound Consultant: Ling Liu

Blacksmith: Tom Reardon

The Dream Team

COPYRIGHT:

©LETITIA HILL, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A friend had suggested an ancient shared ritual, hybridized from many places and times, and turned to the particular frequency of here, in an effort to ease her increasing debilitation and paralysis. Her friends set to work, in a gesture of care and solidarity, firstly gathering straw from many places and then learning the craft of thatching. Building straw to benevolent giants, towering goddesses that heal and cure. As her episodes became more ferocious and brutal, their work rate quickened and the goddesses grew to ten feet tall.

excerpt from:  áit  ait - strange place along the N67 by Laura Ni Fhlaibhín

Framing A Ritual

The frame is at the core of this graduate research. Philosophically it is explored not as a container, not as a given, nor as a stable form, but as a means for juxtaposing the ritual theory, fictioning theory, and the Moebius theory (Castells, 2012). It investigates the harvest ritual's migration through four thousand years of its evolution and inquires into its continued relevancy in world culture communities as an annual celebration. It attempts to demonstrate the structures of ritual and the complex methodologies that it supports. Through an interdisciplinary approach, it reinterprets traditional painting, sculpture, photography, sound, video and installation through new technology that inspires and challenges the conventional methods and material uses. This art practice is embedded in rigorous research, navigating local histories, herstories, rituals and mythologies. Collaboration with local craftspeople and traditional makers is critical in influencing each work's creative process and material selection. The installations pay homage to people past, present and future, celebrating the universality of the human condition, commemorating lives lived and tales untold. The work is created from a deep sense of empathy and intention to provide nourishing and safe environments for stories to be told and heard.

Rituals are humankind's evolutionary companion. They bring grounded structure to complex emotions and dramatic change, strengthening the peoples' connection with their community and the divine while promoting a deeper meaning of life beyond the everyday mundane. They reinforce beliefs, behaviours, and values and support a specific frame of thought. Whether a ritual is religious or not, it strengthens conformity, social bonds and a sense of belonging (Stephenson, 2015). It provides humanity with the stability that, in nature, is indescribable, unstable and heterogeneous (Bell, 1992; Handelman, 2004; Stephenson, 2015).

Ritual is still not fully understood or defined but is often highly contentious in academic circles (Stephenson, 2015). Nevertheless, it has been duplicated and adapted as a kleptocracy to cohere, congeal, control, misguide and abuse the masses. (Kertzer, 1989) When a plutocratic strategy takes advantage of the people's intrinsic need for ritual, it is possible to lose what binds a society; individuals become disconnected from one another and 'fall out of meaning' (Bell, 1992; Blackie, 2018; Habermas, 1983; Stephenson, 2015 p. 102).
 
It is a fertile landscape to sow seeds of corruption, exploitation, and injustice through ritual in a world of political instability and the hubris of climate change denial. Civilisation, for centuries, has methodically disbanded from its cultural identity. (Said, 1978) Decades of war, colonialism, contemporary ideology and philosophical dogma have cleansed most societies of their indigenous roots, intuitive inclination to connect with nature, create and express. The consequences encourage cultures to reject and doubt the anima mundi, conditioning us to dismiss our instincts and the compelling urge to merge with the infinite (Blackie, 2018). This disguise and dismissal of ritual obstruct our visceral understanding of universal paradigms such as unity, continuity, connectivity, reverence and awe.

At some point in human history, the indigenous western cornerstones of spirituality were overwritten and committed to myth (Blackie, 2019). These myths, which were imprinted generation after generation by the collective unconscious, developed social structure event symbols and assumptions that were then ingrained into the human psyche and defined by archetypes (Bell, 1992, p. vii; Jung, 1991; Campbell, 1968).
 

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In a climate of "posts", it is an opportunity to re-envision a fictioning of the modus operandi to embrace collaboration as its model, where ownership and value synonymously create empathy, hybrid cultures, new personal archetypes and mythologies. (Burrows 2019) Through a delicate dance of agency, modality, and ritual, engaging a feminist lens builds empathy for the protagonists. Similar to Jill Soloway, this art championed the cause, challenging the creative industry to "make space for women to take the lead in shaping female protagonism." Clarifying that "the Female Gaze is not a camera trick; it is a privilege generator that positions the woman as the subject… not the object…protagonism is propaganda that protects and perpetuates privilege." (Soloway, 2016) Writing our mythology allows us to become the protagonist. Therefore, we are creating self-propaganda; internally, this creates an opportunity for empathy, giving us access to privilege without objectification or marginalization. We then fall back into myth, which provides meaning, depth, and connection. Therefore, consciously create empathy through art as a political tool to counter privilege and rewrite mythology to recognize matriarchy (Blackman, 1922; Burrows, 2019; Chicago, 1997; Danaher, 1994; Davis, 1917, Gimgutas, 2005 Mulvey, 1975).

The Corn Dolly Triptych is a homage to humans' instinctual and compelling urge to merge with something greater than ourselves through ritual, bringing us closer to that visceral understanding of universal paradigms such as unity, continuity, connectivity, reverence and awe. Assembled from traditional water reed and straw materials, The Corn Dolly Triptych embodies the complex framework and methodologies surrounding ritual theory, fictioning theory, and the Moebius theory. Based on the monumental fibre art installations of Jagoda Buić, the masterful material manipulation of Tara Donovan and the sculptural integrity of Arlene Shechet, these twelve-foot sculptures radiating in their temple imbue a goddess presence for those in their midst, whispering blessings upon those who seek their guidance and comfort. Their journey commences in ancient Egypt tombs during the 18th Dynasty, through early century Gaelic Irish folklore of Putting in the Hare, followed by a fictioning of a contemporary restrictive embodiment informed by the overall arc of reclamation of the universal heritage of the feminine divine. The triptych shadows the harvest ritual's legacy through place and historical tropes through thousands of years of human evolution.

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Judy Chicago
Judy Chicago

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Hilma af Klint
Hilma af Klint

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The first corn dolly, Renenutet, represents the Egyptian goddess of the harvest – traced back to Egypt's 18th Dynasty. Her garment is embellished and fashioned from the ancient craft of marquetry. Each straw veneer is hand-dyed from natural pigments and is cut with precision to form the surface pattern, influenced by Egypt's primary architecture, the pyramid, and the religious symbolism of the Ra, the Sun God. The design on the front of the garment emulates the work of Hilma af Klint and Judy Chicago. The garment's back hints toward the geometry of future influences of Agnes Martin and Dannielle Tegeder. A Wesekh, a broad collar of hand-dyed straw in indigo, complements her dress, giving her a regal demeanour.

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The second dolly, Tailtiu, the great Celtic earth goddess, honours the earth's elemental force and innate abundance. Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes and a Belarussian fashion designer Ludmila Chakunova inspire Tailtiu's garment. Embellished in circular shapes of stained birch wood, beads and fringe swathed in a traditional Galway Shawl interpreted through a South Korean process called Dansaekhwa. The paisley designed shawl historically made in Scotland was a family heirloom for the women of Ireland. The Moebius theory employed a "single frame which is both external and internal, outside and inside to itself". (Rosen, 1994) A paste of oil paint mixed with beeswax is applied from the back of the hessian potato sack, pushing the paste through the weft and warp, creating impasto filament on the front, then manipulating the filaments into a texture of line and form dissolving the rigidity of the frame, creating a polymorphic methodology contained within itself. The repetitive ritual of the process highlights the infinite complexity and multiple opportunities available to frame the ritual (Bateson, 1972; Handelman, 2004).

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The third dolly, aka Robot Maria, is the radical goddess of the harvest future. She is imbuing modern industry and biotechnological elements whilst alluding to a restrictive political, economic, social and environmental paradigm we currently face. A metallic corset covets her form Transcending through fictioning theory. Inspired by Lithuanian artist Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene and Spanish fashion designer Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo, the square metal tiles embroidered gently with delicate thread made of straw, adding to the tension by softening the hard metal edges of the confines of her corset and linked by chainmail.

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The Corn Dolly Triptych resides in the Temple of the Harvest, the Harvestum. In attendance at the Harvestum are members of the Cult of the Corn Dolly, ushering the way for both pilgrims and worshippers from far and wide. From a theatrical design background, the design of the Harvestum is a sanctuary of visual delight and wonder through light, scent, sound and atmospheric techniques transporting the viewer to a place of reverence and connection, tugging at the collective peripheral memories primal ritual and our instinctual connection to nature. Inspired by the iconic visualization of Jesse Jones, Tremble Tremble, an immersive installation produced for the 57th Venice Biennale, sets the tone of the Harvestum. Influenced by Philipp Contag-Lada, a projectionist and media artist who develops digital content for theatre and Robert Irwin's site-specific, architectural interventions that alter the physical, sensory and temporal by using scrims have directed the material choices used in the development of the installation. The vast body of work from Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, both creators of immersive multimedia sound installations and audio/video walks, have influenced this project's dissemination. Finally, Florian Hecker's dramatized sonic theory on placement and control of sound, throwing sound around spaces using mirrors, informs this immersive installation's sound component. Despite this project's complexities, it is always important to return to the intent. To facilitate an opportunity for the viewer to experience a deep sense of empathy in a nourishing and safe environment.

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Ritual is as strong and influential as ever and comes in many forms; religion, faith, entertainment, sports, politics, education, farming, households, and childrearing. As with nature, ritual is pluralistic and complex yet described as flexible, intuitive, sustainable and eternal (Stephenson, 2015; Handelman, 2004). So, what happens when a ritual fails, when calamity strikes, leaving a disruptive path of trauma, migration, exile, and death? How does the removal of people and place reshape the act or its memory? Is it the removal of communal rituals that brings the most significant trauma? Through this body of work, The Corn Dolly Triptych, this art practice investigates these complex questions through multi-sensory experiences reminding us to remember.

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