The Occluded Sight of Self: The Blind Spot of Searching
(Pilgrimage to the Black Madonna)

Pilgrimage 2015/16 is a filmed record of my search and journey for a Black Madonna statue and chapel,[6]  - a well-documented icon and and space/source of female divinity. 

To experience the work you enter the darkened gallery space, where the video Pilgrimage is projected onto a large suspended semi-transparent circular screen that resembles a large lens, iris or portal in the centre of the room.  The light of the video seemingly emanates out of the lens rather than appearing as a projection of light onto a surface and this creates the effect of a floating, eerily edgeless moving image revealing both sides of itself as you move around the space. 

Pilgrimage is a 7min 45sec looped HD video which presents a dark vignetted vision of a journey inside a building, down stairwells and corridors until finally reaching a closed door. 

It all appears to be seen from someone else’s viewpoint, creating a tight sense of containment and no feeling that the vision will ever expand outside of this frame. 

The lens of the camera has been turned outward, recording its own movement. One becomes aware of the body attached to the camera, which sways with every step. 

I invite the viewer to occupy my eye, look through my pupil and travel down through my channel of vision.  This is a shared journey towards an unknown goal as we travel together through this hazy hanging circle of light.

The projection of Pilgrimage also creates a perfect eclipsing moon shape on the wall. Shimmering and moving but never fully illuminated, the moon is blocked out by the light of the sun. 

The darkened space and the flickering moon shapes echo calls to reclaim, re-envision and re-empower the divine dimensions of female intuitive power and connection to spiritual and material cycles of the lunar moon. The work thus performs a symbolic journey away from the singular bright light of the masculine solar.

Filmed in Flüme, Switzerland at the Mariastein Abbey’s grotto ‘im Stein’ (in the rock)[7] in 2015, the main focus for pilgrimage here is an underground cave – now a chapel – containing a small dark statue of the Madonna.

This is a journey which begins inside, symbolically and also very literally, as we follow my path within the darkened corridors of a well-travelled sacred space. There are markers of the many who have been here before: remnants, tributes, donations and even the swiftly unacknowledged passing bodies of others returning from their own pilgrimage. 

Religious signifiers indicate it is a Christian place of worship as plaques, candles, tapestries, icons and statues of Mary and Jesus are positioned at points along the journey downward. 

The video-image is filtered, its light fragmented and its colours are tweaked to create the feeling of looking through the layers of consciousness, memory or a dream state.

There is a moment when a door is revealed. The threshold suggests a potential end to the journey or a spiritual resolution. Yet, suddenly, the screen goes black, leaving the viewer in the dark. After some moments of only ambient sound the ‘eyes’ open and vision and light returns, revealing a hand closing a door handle as the camera/eye turns to journey back up the corridor. 

Trapped within this lens there is no choice for the viewer but to move away from the knowledge of what lies at the heart or source of the journey and away from what truth may be found behind the door.

My video installation Pilgrimage is named so for the journey that is made to the spirit world through the pitch-black channel of my own eye and operates as a material investigation and expression of my own journey through this gateway in search of divine feminine principles. 

In the late 19th century, theosophy founder Madame Blavatsky[3] connected the concept of sight and knowing by connecting the pineal gland of the brain with the Hindu concept of the Third Eye or Ajna.[4]  

In such traditions, in order to make the journey through the brain to the spirit realm you must traverse through the pitch-black channel represented by the pupil of the eye. You continue through this channel until a threshold is crossed, and spiritual/higher knowledge - comparable to enlightenment is obtained.[5]  

Fundamental to any argument of phallo-occularcentrism is our culture’s dependence upon sight above all other senses, yet we know through science that the eye cannot see everything. ‘The human eye has a blind spot where the optic nerve connects with the retina. Normally ignored because the vision of the other eye compensates for it, the blind spot’s very existence nonetheless suggests a metaphoric ‘hole’ in vision.’[1]

When considering this ‘hole’ in vision, many ancient esoteric philosophies relate it to a passageway within the brain, a gateway rather than a blockage.[2] 

This work evokes a new form of selfie, in which I as the artist seek to make and ‘share’ an internal experience of seeing and knowing the self. I am avoiding a resolved or idealised image and this internal circuit shows the self to be always in flux.

 

 

 

 

[1] Jay, Downcast Eyes : The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought.p. 8
[2] Ibid.p. 12-13
[3] For background on Madame Blavatsky and her teaching see: "Madame Blavatsky," www.blavatsky.net. Accessed 12/8/2016
[4] According to Hindu tradition the Ajna chakra is the location of the third eye which is the conscience. The two physical eyes see the past and the present, while the third eye reveals the insight of the future. "Ajna / Third Eye," http://www.tantra-kundalini.com/ajna.htm. Accessed 27/10/2016
[5] Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton University Press, 1974).p. 227
[6] About 200 Black Madonna statues sit in Catholic churches across Europe as tantalising reminders of the legacy of the Dark Goddess of Divine Principles of ancient cultures. ManoWarren, The Truth Sings in Circles : The Trail of the Black Madonna (UK: Athena Press, 2005).p. 9
[7] For more Information on Mariastein Abbey and links go to "St Mary in the Rock," https://www.postauto.ch/en/leisure/mariastein-abbey.Accessed 07/09/2015