Samta Benyahia, De Maison Blanche à Maison Blanche, 1997, installation view, Institut Français, Casablanca, © ADAGP, Paris
Artwork is an integral part of most religious liturgies, by way of ritual objects used during ceremonies or the architecture of places of worship, the iconography and ornamentation of which are precious instruments in the establishment of what is considered sacred. As in many other fields of art, only been a minority of women artists have been involved in these productions. However, some were able to reappropriate the realm of the spititual by projecting onto it their own conception of religions and their rituals. Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964), for instance, offers a very melancholic and dark vision of Christianity, which focuses on the depiction of suffering and echoes her work on the body and intimacy. In a very different way, the sculptures of Shirazeh Houshiary (born in 1955) use the aesthetic codes of Islamic architecture to enhance their delicateness and subtlety. In several of her videos and cave sculptures, Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) took an interest in Cuban religions predating European colonisation by visiting caves where goddesses that she associates with her own reflection on the link between nature, physicality and femininity were once worshipped. Mariko Mori (born in 1967), on the other hand, is not fascinated by ancient idols but by new ones; in Miko no inori (Shaman-girl’s prayer, 1996), she filmed herself conducting a futuristic shamanic prayer dressed up as a cybernetic mistress of ceremony.
Whether adopting a critical stance on these beliefs or choosing to exalt them, all these artists propose a commentary on religions, on the way they are practised or the places in which they thrive in order to better make them their own, as well as to encourage us to question our relationship to spirituality and its codes.