Women’s struggle for power at heart of art shows

A mythical giantess, colourful marching banners, and a macabre device used to humiliate medieval women combine to create two politically-charged shows.

Tremble Tremble / At the Gates is free and runs at the University's Talbot Rice Gallery from 27 October until 26 January 2019.

Ireland’s recent referendum on abortion provides the backdrop for Tremble Tremble, Jesse Jones’ arresting artwork that represented her country at the prestigious 2017 Venice Biennale.

A second show, At the Gates – which runs concurrently with Tremble Tremble – brings together artists whose work reflects the growing global struggle for female self-empowerment. 

Highly charged 

Both exhibitions present striking challenges to historically male-dominated areas of life, including the law, anthropology and even terrorism.

Tremble Tremble – a mixture of sculpture, film and theatre – centres on a video of a giantess who prowls a courtroom, reciting testimonies from women burned for witchcraft. Her performance is projected on to two monolithic screens in Talbot Rice’s Georgian Gallery.

Tessa Giblin, the Director of the Talbot Rice Gallery, was the Pavilion of Ireland’s commissioner and curator at the Venice Biennale – the world’s biggest international art exhibition – in 2017. 

She worked with the artist Jesse Jones to represent Ireland and present the film and performance work Tremble Tremble.

Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins – an Edinburgh honorary graduate – visited the opening of the pavilion.

New additions

The Edinburgh show contains new additions to the version that made its debut in Venice last year.

An ornate replica iron muzzle – known as a Scold’s bridal – which was used to humiliate and torture women suspected of witchcraft will be on display. It has been made with staff from Edinburgh College of Art.

Plumes of smoke will billow from a gap in the floor – inspired by a painting of the Greek legend of the Oracle of Delphi, a high priestess who spoke on behalf of the gods. A physical performer will move around the gallery, pulling curtains and carving a circle at regular intervals.

Challenging artworks

At The Gates features seven artists or groups of artists whose work challenges the law, or institutions of power.

Work by Teresa Margolles, for instance, takes actual shrouds thrown over Mexican women who have died violently and, working with other women, decorates them with vibrant threads.

The results are displayed on a plinth like sacred objects. A video work in a nearby room shows the women discussing violence and power structures within their communities.

Powerful messages

Twelve banners created by the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment will dominate Talbot Rice’s White Gallery. Assembled to recreate the sensation of being in a march, the banners are emblazoned with slogans that urged the Irish electorate to overturn the country’s abortion law in May.

Elsewhere, Navine G Kahn-Dossos will create 90 target cards designed for shooting ranges, which she has painted using a combination of symbols.

Her work, which takes up an entire wall of the gallery, reflects the forced public exposure of HIV-positive sex workers in Athens.

Public events

Other artists within At the Gates are Maja Bajevic, Georgia Horgan, Olivia Plender and Suzanne Treister.

The public programme of events linked to the exhibitions includes a lecture by Italian historian and feminist Silvia Federici at Edinburgh College of Art.

There will also be a panel discussion involving the artists of both exhibitions.

Related links

Talbot Rice Gallery 

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