Until 19 February 2022, Wednesday – Saturday 11am-4pm.
The artist Daniela Ortiz’s exhibition They Will Burn with the Flame of the Mother’s Torment and in Ashes Transform features works concerned with racist and patriarchal attitudes and practices, both historical and contemporary. The core of the presentation is a commissioned, new series of banners informed by research conducted in Ireland and made in collaboration with Peruvian women of Indigenous origin (Peru is the artist’s native country).
Ortiz examines nationalism, class and gender divides, racism, and the construction of identity amid the legacies of colonialism and patriarchy. She specifically addresses morality codes, citizenship, and border control systems as enacted through the exclusion—and sometimes exploitation—of migrant communities, and racialized people more broadly. She is known for using her own lived experience as subject matter, for instance motherhood, displacement, feminist engagement, and the production of deviant and insurgent subjectivity.
Ortiz’s new series of banners deals with misreadings and appropriations of biblical references that have subsequently led to the subjugation of women. In each piece, Ortiz relates a historical religious painting to contemporary challenges faced by mothers and children. She took her inspiration from stories of the Magdalene Laundries—the Catholic Church-led, workhouse-style operations that existed in Ireland from 1765 to 1996. These institutions were intended to house “fallen women” such as unmarried mothers, prostitutes, and young girls who had been abused but effectively imprisoned them, forcing their labor and isolating them from their communities. Ortiz’s enquiry led her to investigate state family policies—particularly custody laws authorizing the removal of children from their mothers, an action that is disproportionately applied to racialized people—as well as other intellectual and sociological references, from religion to the Western pictorial tradition.
Other works in the exhibition include The ABC of Racist Europe (2017), which manifests the exhibition’s themes through the lenses of European Union migration control policies. The work is a series of prints originally conceived and produced as a children’s book responding to nineteenth-century racist pedagogies. A classic example is An ABC for Baby Patriots by Mrs. Ernest Ames, an 1899 children’s book whose images and blurbs demonstrate the imperialist and xenophobic values of Victorian Britain. Ortiz rewrote An ABC for Baby Patriots against its colonialist and white supremacist ideologies. She suggests that many of the same prejudices exist now as when Ames’s children’s book was published more than a century ago. The artist reveals this type of children’s books as not only a tool for learning but also a means of instilling racist and patriarchal ideals among the young, contributing to the biased Western imagination of the “other” that still prevails today.
Ortiz finds art useful for her political investigations. She is not only alert to narratives of oppression but also collaborates with others through activism, bringing practices of emancipation into effect. Her key projects explore questions of struggle against mechanisms of power, including patriarchy and white supremacy. All of the featured works in this exhibition relate to spirituality, iconography, and knowledge through which the artist sheds light on human belief systems outside of the Western mindset, as well as persistent social injustices across the globe.
Curated by Miguel Amado, director of SIRUS.
Produced by SIRIUS.