date: 1996 09-20
location: Rotterdam Holland
Creator: Sonya Rapoport Marie-Jose Sat
In this poster session, we propose to discuss our use of the Internet as a medium for presenting our interactive artwork: Brutal Myths. This piece is inspired by the Malleus Maleficarum: The Hammer of Witches, a medieval manual for witch-hunting from which fallacious myths were derived. Brutal Myths is about misogynous mythology and the physical and mental mutilations that developed as a consequence of their perpetuation. Our collaboration as artists is part of this project.. The presentation will initially introduce our artwork "Brutal Myths" with a selection of slide projections and audio excerpts of conversation recorded during the creation of the piece. The scope of "Brutal Myths" includes educating and raising awareness of the mythological fallacies that plague women in the US and elsewhere in the world. We contend that these myths originate in our culture from the Judeo-Christian tale of Genesis and from the assumption of the guilt of Eve, motivating misogynous practices grown out of men's fears of women. The myths we describe and the measures of control, mutilation or brutality used in their names to subdue women, follow a plan inspired by the sadistic fantasies about women found in the Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), a manual for witch-hunting written in the XVth century. The witch is the embodiment of the "guilty daughter of Eve." The witchcraze is the epitome of the resentment over women thatlasted from the XlVth to the XVIth century. As well as historical sources, contemporary examples of mutilation and repression of women are described in the work, such as: limited female education in Muslim countries, sexual mutilation in Africa, and the obsession with fad diets and cosmetic surgery in the USA In Genesis, God condemns man "to toil in the field to eat of the herb". As well, women were traditionally the lay healers in ancient herbal medicinal practice. These support our use of herbs as a metaphoric interface throughout the piece. The first half of "Brutal Myths" describes which "evil" herbs contaminate the minds of men into believing the Malleus Malificarum dictums. In the second half of the work a "blissful" herbal garden is created by planting "blessed" herbs. Interactive rituals acted out by the viewer are intended to destroy the prejudicial myths and allay the fears of men. Creating this work presented many challenges that are reflected in the audio "arguments" that we shall then discuss. First, as women we are aware of the unequal representation of female art and work in the official scene, dominated by male artists. The Web represents a "free" and easy outlet for women's work, by-passing the galleries, buyers and museums. This is our contribution as women to the development of the Web as a new artistic and technological medium free of sexual prejudices and differences. We wish to maximize the interactive potential offered by the internet and hope to reach an audience who might never go to an exhibition. The attractive features of the web allow us to link our work to botany, women's history and anatomy, mythology and religionE and proposes, as well, that participants further their and our knowledge by contributing misogynous examples to our piece, or links to related material. Secondly, the making of this project involved the interaction of two very different women, with disparate attitudes. Although we are separated by age (a generation apart), by culture (Mediterranean and Bostonian), by religion (Catholic and Jewish), by social background (provincial petite-bourgeoisie and urban uppermiddle class), and by nationalities (French and American), we managed to meet on common ground both as women and as artists. It is the history and exceptional quality of this seemingly unlikely collaboration that will be commented here as illustrated in the audio recordings. Especially difficult were our opposition on feminist and artistic issues. Implied in the interaction is our attitude about the role of men and women in contemporary society, correlated by our individual fights to control the art work. Finally, was the difficulty of creating an original artwork that transcends the political, cultural and educational implication of the material. Our discussions reflect the bi-polarity of the following questions: what is an artwork now? what can and will be an artwork on the web? what will differentiate our work from a dry dissertation or an expos�? What should the proportion of verbal to visual material be? All these are eventually answered in the structure of Brutal Myths as a fantasy and metaphoric exploration of the origins of misogynous myths and their alleged cures.