Elisabeth v. Samsonow
The Secrets of Mary Magdalene
Content: Introduction · The Image of the Goddess: Palestinian Prehistory · The Iconography of Mary Magdalene · The carpet, the knot: Territory, Architecture and Enigma · Gender Difference and Mary Magdalene Modern
At the beginning of my talk I like to say that treating Mary Magdalene’s case means for me opening up a perspective on the subject of the femininity of the divine—or the divine of femininity. It means that I will treat this subject as a general one using Mary Magdalene at the same time as an example and an archetype. I will not follow the line of argumentation that became very popular focusing on the story of the person Mary Magdalene as a suppressed and discriminated individual. I will not join the debate of the da Vinci Code because to me there is a double difficulty to catch up with historical truth. On the first hand there is a problem for me as an artist. An artist re-enacts a figure in dressing her up in new material and form. This artistic act carries of course less the personal signature of the figure represented than the signature of the artist him- or herself at a certain historical moment. The second difficulty consists for me in being a cultural philosopher and scientist who has to be aware of the hermeneutic difficulties at stake. “Hermeneutic difficulties” mean that I would have to tell you explicitly what the conditions of my narrative of Mary Magdalene are. Of course I will dive deep into the texture of motives at the backdrop of my research. But it is impossible for me to claim I would show you the “True Magdalene”. What I am trying to do is drawing some lines in a sketch that would visualize and “metaphorize” for you the complexity of a gender role play, in this case within the framework of the sacred story of Mary Magdalene, within a history of long duration and collective importance. What feminists and feminist theologians try to guess by reading and rereading the scripts, by looking and giving a second look to the imagery that has come up to us is the answer how and why one peculiar narrative gets more important than another one. What may be the reason for the scandal of subduing the other sex? Why ever has “matriarchy” become suspicious?
Mary Magdalene stands for the long lineage of a wide-range history of technics, culture and religion. She is transformed, as historians of religions put it in their vast volume dedicated to the case of Mary Magdalene, from an Individual to a symbolic figure or “power”. This is why she can be conceived of as an “aesthetic marker” in the framework of an artistic project as well as in a research dealing with problems of gender or, even more general, with difference. She is not coming back to us from the field of the Real. We will by no means re-establish her real historical life to “fetishize” it again. We let her emerge from the horizon of a highly differenciated european Imaginary where she was—parallel to what was told about her as a figure scolded and dissimulated by priests and popes—actually playing a leading role. Mary Magdalene shares the fate of so many heretics who have been condemned and worshipped secretly at the same time. I do not say that this is a desirable career. In practice surely this is a horror life.
In this lecture I am going give some hints concerning the deep ambivalence that runs trough the life of Mary Magdalene making her a powerful political and spiritual figure still today. As she represents the female lineage and a feminist version of history, she enfolds symbolically “the other narrative”, the potential of a narrative that has not yet been told openly, only tacitly, esoterically. A powerful “secret narrative”.
There are two questions I want to ask:
- First: why couldn’t her story just be told openly? Is this latency a caused by patriarchal conjuration?
- And second question: If this was the fact, what type of power lays in what we call “cultural latency”? May consequently the construction of cultural latency, the “unconscious” and the secondary gender (the feminine) be seen as parallel fantasies which strengthen and support each other?
The Image of the Goddess: Palestinian Prehistory
The story of Mary Magdalene shows clearly that the gender difference at work in her case is not only a common tale of gender play but also a cover myth of a cultural conflict. The cultural conflict the story is about is expressed in the critical relation the “modern religions” and societies had on one hand with the gigantesque reigns hat surrounded them and second with small tribal communities who had polytheistic, totemistic and animistic ideas about the divine. As in most “primitive”- in the sense of “original”, “coming first”—societies there was a feminine deity in Palestine—what the relics found give a proof of. It was only recently that the academic community really started to pay attention to these sculptures made from baked clay representing mostly juvenile women. A show curated by the theologian Otmar Keel, entitled “The divine feminine” was opened last year with enormous public success at the Museum Art and History at Fribourg and moved then to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Keel’s work is dedicated since years to compose an archive of pre-biblical imagery and to demonstrate by an iconography of pictorial standards the continuity of the “design” of the feminine. Though pictorial standards were kept stable for thousands of years the narrative changed dramatically. This means for us today that the images are more slow and lazy to change than word and texts. One who contributed substantially to this question was Aby Warburg who coined the concept of the “Pathosformel”. The “Pathosformel” stands for a habitual pattern that expresses certain attitudes and emotions in the very same way over the ages. The Pathosformel is embodied, automatically repeated and mimetically transferred memory. Aby Warburg showed in his Mnemosyne Atlas—which was by the way reconstructed by Gerhard Fischer in Vienna 1992—how the attitudes presented by the figures of sculptures and paintings from the Late Middle Age on recurred exactly to poses “formulated” already in Antiquity. Inspired by these insights Otmar Keel started his brilliant work on biblical imagery. Following the thesis of pagan heroes and gods having survived in art Keel computed the prefigurations of biblical images finally in a coherent way. It was him who showed the archeological artefacts that had been discovered in the middle east in the right context.
What he had put together in the Catalogue of the show is stunning. Next to attractive coins and small talismanic figures which present clearly a strong and ideal concept of the feminine there are some real surprises. We find a statue from the surroundings of Beer Sheva of elegant contours. A pregnant woman. There is a beautiful, Elizabeth-Taylor-like statue of a fruit-offering girl. Her make-up and attitude is alluring. These beautiful representations of the feminine are touching. It is evident that the feminine at work here must have had not only a decorative function but also symbolic and political power.
As we see in the coupling of Mary and Mary Magdalene there is a bipartition of the model of femininity: on the one hand there are the figures of adolescent grace, the alluring, the attracting, the seducing girls or young women. The statues identified as representation of Ashera for example belong to this category. Ashera herself stands in the genealogy of the young lunar goddess, Ishtar, Inanna, Astarte. Their characteristics is the protuberating breast, as Devereux would put it, the “phallic” breast. The process that has cut off Ashera from the side of her divine bride-groom Jahwe implies certainly that the alluring girl fell under the restriction of cultural respectively moral imperatives. The place of the bliss-full feminine creature of pure lively promise was filled by the negative image of the prostitute. The prostitute then became the paradigm Mary Magdalena was interpreted with. It may have been her misfortune that Pope Gregory conflated her image to the one of the prostitute the bible tells about. But it has also a certain and perfect logic that this had happened to her. Under the horizon of symbolic meaning the prostitute comprises the following conditions:
- She is alluring, but she will not choose by herself, but is chosen
- The option for choice the divine young woman has is changed into passiveness
- Her Allure is at best that of a shiny luxurious good that is exhibited to be purchased
- But being purchased—it means: being paid for her service—is equal to being degraded to being “a thing”
In this context it is important to remember that making woman or girls “prostitutes” still is an effective means of warfare. The change of the code the wonderful alluring young goddess had been marked with into a negative, passive and even non-human (a thing) definition implies necessarily an intercultural, an inter-religious and of course a deeply hostile collision of groups. Those who had worshipped the young woman—the Egyptians, Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans in the figure of Venus—stand for pure hostility to monotheistic religions.
But whilst the young woman as an archetype underwent a deep crisis of devalorisation, the maternal figure still went on blossoming. The continuity to be found from the image of Isis to the image of Mary is remarkable. The young woman had to try her luck in exile. I use “Exile” here not only as metaphor.
The Iconography of Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene’s theological importance is first defined by her testimony of the crucifixion. Many paintings and sculptures present her standing under the cross with Mary and the beloved follower of Christ, St.John. Mostly the depiction of her next to cross is remarkably expressive, see for example the Altar of Grünewald. Second she is the first witness of the Ressurection—together with the two other Maries. The fact that it were the women who saw first the empty tomb and got aware of what had happened allowed them to appear most prominently in the Evangile read on Easter Sunday. The images telling Mary Magdalene being a witness of the life and death of Jesus show Mary Magdalene in quite similar attitude to Mary, dressed up with wide clothes considered to be the original dress of women that time. Whilst Mary was easily to recognize by her floating blue coat covering the red dress tied up with a rope belt Mary Magdalene is shown dressed up in red and green. The red coat is used—as in the image we saw—as an important pictorial element. It seems to be a signal of pure life, erotism and vitality. In contrast to Mary “the cosmic mother” she would thus be “the earthly companion”.
The legend of Mary Magdalene tells us that she went to Ephesus after the death of Jesus und died there later. Another version reports—in perfect congruence with the exile topos of the Feminine—that she landed with two other Maries (the mother of Jacobus the younger and Mary Salome) and her servant, the black Sarah, nearby Marseille in Provence. The legend reports further that she passed then some year in a grotte of the mountains La Ste.Baume. During the centuries to come this grotte had been visited by eight of the Popes, by eleven Kings and by four Sovereigns of France. Pierre Minville says it to be the “point véctoriel” of French religious history. Every 22nd of July there is an important procession, one of the most popular events in Provence. It is a surprising fact to find France the center of spirituality carried by devotion to Mary Magdalene. No other country, even if many countries and counties in today’s Europe celebrated her fame eagerly, arrived at this degree of passion. Looking at the celebtrations and activities around Mary Magdalene still now give us the impression that Mary Magdalene was the most important French Immigrant. She seems to an type of Immigrant that directs the reinvention of a new Identity. This Identity is a Christian one, of course, but in this case Christianity married to the ethics of the Minstrels. The knights and Minstrels of France still seeked the beauty of the Lady to adore. And not only to adore, but also to save. Magdalena who flew from Palestine, the Mistress of all Mistresses—considered having been the Mistress of the Lord—enchanted the nobility of France.
Mary Magdalene in penitence shows us a woman covered beautifully in her long and floating hair. This hair is all too similar to the coat of an animal. Mary Magdalena’s image again is conflated, this time with the one of the “wild woman”, living by her own in the mountains. This makes her a second Eve, living in the Garden with the other creatures, not yet knowing what clothes should be good for.
Like Eve she became first patron of all women, then of all women in penitence, then of course of all prostitutes, of the seducing and the seduced, and finally of the guild of hair dressers. The report that she landed in France and accomplished her life there gave rise to highly speculative narratives. In pure contradiction to what was told about her as a penitent sinner she was even engaged as the original mother of the Merowingian kings. This was supposed to have happened by her daughter Sarah who, as the Legend tells us, was married to a noble man of supreme importance. The idea that Mary Magdalene was therefore identic with the holy Grail comes from this legend. She was said to bear “sang real”, a term that has been changed later to “Saint Grail” or Holy Grail. The imaginary descendence of royal individuals in combination with the Ethos of the Minstrels nourished the construction of noble identities starting from the 12th century. At that moment it was considered a fact that the holy bones of Mary Magdalene were buried in France—either in St.Maximin de la St.Baume which was located near to her grotte of penitence or in Vézélay in Burgundy which had claimed to be the true tomb of the venerated saint. The shift happened to the interpretation of Mary Magdalene caused by her journey over the Mediterranean Sea was obviously one from a spiritual career to a more political one. If she was the original mother of a royal line—what would have of course included Jesus to be the original father—her person carried the legitimation of supreme monarchic power more than an obligation to religious attitude.
Her “official” burial cathedral Vézélay was 1146 the place where Bernhard de Claivaux proclaimed the second crusade. 1190 meet there the armies of King Philippe Auguste and Richard Lionheart for the start of the third crusade to Palestine. The name of Mary Magdalene was connected to the political drive reclaiming an “original territory”. From that moment on the Lily which actually “representing Palestine” as it is of botanical origin from there proliferates on the heraldic weapons and blasons of France. There are hundreds of blazons to be found. The choice of colour, form an combination is breathtaking.
As we remember the Lily being present at the Act of Announciation, the Lily marks the maternal line in Jesus’ Genealogy. The Lily in this Urszene is at the same time medium and message. Especially in France is becomes fashionable, a MUST to show by a Lily on the heraldic weapons that there is a relation to Palestine that reaches far back to a holy story. The Lily means—heraldically speaking—that there is a relation to the new beginnings of chronology at the Year Zero. At the same time it evokes the Holy Blood and the Holy Land. This logic becomes the new content of political ethics.
am extremely grateful and pleased to have LILIUM with Maresa Jung as a guest here who stimulated my research in the relations given with this important flower. Maresa Jung as an artist is—together with Ellen Sinzig of the Group LILIUM—specalized since some years in enchanting people by using Lilies. In the paradigm I try to build in the framework of the artistic project on Mary Magdalene the Lily works as an equivalent to the carpet beater—or the other way round: the carpet beater as the equivalent to the royal Lily. Both of them are a medium that is the message. Both work as an abbreviation of complex symbolic and historical lines. The Lily is a prophetic flower of an ambigue message. As the carpet beater can be seen as a prophetic tool of polymorphic meaning.
In the middle of the thirteenth century the bones supposed to be those of Mary Magdalene are put under suspicion as a fake. In consequence the cathedral of Vézélay loses her remarkable importance as a symbolic center. But still there are claims that at least the burial at StMaximin de la Ste.Baume was original. Anyway the boom of the cult of Mary Magdalene in France is sharply opposed to her image as a low cast person, a seducer or a prostitute. She is, as recent plots like the Da Vinci Code show the heroine of the anti-structure. In this function she is the opposite pole stabilizing the institutionalized structure of the Church. As patron of all women very generally she is the secret head of the latent part of Christian mankind.
The story of her journey, her exile and her death in a foreign country fits perfectly the propaganda of her secrecy. In this context I found extremely interesting the relics of a carpet that is reported to be the “exile carpet”. It is said that it is the carpet she took with her. This carpet, as any other carpet does, represents territory. Which territory?
The carpet, the knot: Territory, Architecture and Enigma
As anybody knows the carpet is the first element of architecture. If we assume that textile architecture—as Gottfried Semper, the important Architect and theoretician of Architecture would put it—preceeds stone and brick architecture, then the carpet must be of some interest. Semper showed in his treatise that most of the decorative elements that appear in stone and brick architecture quote the textile predecessor. The ornamental lines that act as if they were hanging clothes, the luxury of ropes tied up and imitated by stone—they express nothing else than the slowness of a memory embedded in bodily forms. The house built from stone still shows the structure a textile one had (Wand/Gewand/ Bindung/Verbindung). The carpet in this system may be ground or wall as the elementary parts of the textile house. But other than the stone or brick house parts the carpet can be taken and moved. The carpet therefore represents the certain instability of a territory claimed to be one’s own. The so called Exile carpet can be taken as a highly symbolic object. The carpet makes sense if one has a place to put it. This is why many of the carpets that are considered to be important examples for instance of mameluk tapestry identify the carpet with paradise. The carpet is an inscription over a territory to making it paradise: wonderful birds, flowers, animals are to be seen amidst the complexity of intertwining ornaments. The carpet is the ground, the desired territory. Therefore it is the principle of architecture. It is already its plan, its matrix. In the form of ultimative flatness the carpet is a virtual space, virtual architecture. The combination of floral elements, of animals like birds and deer, with highly complex geometric décor makes the carpet a map, a diagram of territory. The animals incorporate the dimension of nature, the geometric design the dimension of orientation and construction. The flat geometric design is the top view of a virtual building. This fact can easily proved by examining the mirroring effect of the ceilings in Arabic and Islamic architecture. The ground/ the carpet and the sky/ the ceiling are echoeing each other. The carpet as well as the ceiling form a cosmological image of highly constructive implications. The ceilings are mostly centered like the carpets showing a “mirror” in the middle reserved for a special ornament working as a matrix for the ornamental organisation of the whole. The ceilings are curved like Einstein’s infinite space, they are vaults intricately playing with the static of loads.
When I came first to Jerusalem in 2005 I bought the first carpet beater made from turquoise plastic at the bazaar. I was intrigued by its ornamental beauty. Even if it came from China—what cannot be excluded—it had a very special appeal to me. When I took it to the Austrian Hospice roof top I noticed that in fact the carpet beater integrated the major principles of the Dome of the rock: it had an ornamental ground/ bottom and vertical axe crowned by a ring. At that moment it became clear to me that the carpet beater of course was a minor tool for household work but still carried a condensed idea of the object it formed a binomic, a twin logic with: of the carpet as a diagram of space. To proof this idea I started to search for a carpet that would in fact show a central ornament in the form of a carpet beater. As there is a huge variety of shapes in carpet beaters I had good hope for finding a nice example. And I did so.
From this fact I drew some logic consequences. Having a carpet means to cover some territory with it. Having a carpet means to know where to put it. Even moving with the carpet (for example with a flying carpet) would imply that there is a transitory place to put it like in a nomadic tent. What I could not find out at all what the historical age of the carpet beater. I could not find a single trace in any historical book on the material culture of the East or the West at what time the carpet beater came to existence. Obviously it was considered to be ephemeral to such a degree that it was in spite of his appealing beauty completely overlooked. What seemed still remarkable to me was the fact that the carpet beater was used as a common tool all over Europe, preferably on the country side. A woman holding her carpet beater in her hands is signal of homeliness, of professional intimacy. She would not hold it in her hand if she wouldn’t right now haven taken out her carpets to beat them out. To me the carpet beater in the hand of a use wife looked like a signature of power, like a sceptre. Here I am, here I lay down my carpet.
This is why I decided to give the two carpet beaters into the hands of my Statue of Mary Magdalene. The two of them already mark a certain hyperlevel of meaning. Instead of the binome carpet beater/carpet she has the twin household instruments. She has the two carpet beaters, so she should also have the carpet. But where is her carpet? Where is the space she would lay down her carpets? Where is her home where she takes the carpets out to beat them? She has no such place. She has not carpet, only the beaters. Following the logic unfolded earlier this would mean that she comes back to power, but yet lacks a territory. She owns the matrix of the matrix (the central diagram of the carpet) but not yet a land. Again this remembers her going away in Exile, staying in the Anti-Structure, belonging to the “subordinate sex”. Her story has not been told in the first place, she was never in power (lacked the territorial sovereignity), she had no “publicity” in terms of public meaning. She might have been a decorative figure of monastic imagery, it was always the Magdalene giving a pretext to show a half-nude beautiful woman. But her sceptre did not appear in public space before. She was never a house wife. (A woman that is no house wife is out under suspicion. What is she living by?)
What I tried to do for this Exhibition in the Hospice is to make her a carpet out of the carpet beaters structure and ornaments. I engaged and used the carpet beaters as decorative elements and arranged them spraying on a paper surface on the floor. I used the carpet beaters to make these sprayed images, the Graffiti carpets. The carpet beaters were this time the principle from which—once revitalized and justified—sprang off the carpets. It is not the carpet beater that follows the carpet but it’s the other way round. What a game!
The carpet beater gives form to a geometrical miminum. This minimum—like in speculative renaissance Geometry—furnishes a complex expanded structure which then opens up to ”territory”. The Statue of Mary Magdalene associated to this geometrical Minimum is carrying potentials of “Territorialization”. She may be considered an allegory of return, of coming home, of the Restitution of homeland’s rights.
The logic turn that is implied in letting logically follow the carpet after the carpet beater corresponds to the turn of another coupling: as he carpet is associated with Arabic culture the carpet beater may be seen as a symbolic instrument of subduing it. Like the carpet is beaten symbolically Arabic culture is “beaten”. The carpet is the caricature of the “Arabic” like the carpet beater is the caricature of the Feminine. The carpet beater still is considered a weapon. (In Austria very bad connotations cling to it). The idea that the carpet is a logic consequence of the carpet beater (not vice-versa) would make it ridiculous to imagine a carpet beater rose “against the carpet”. The relation the carpet beater has with the Carpet and commonly thought to be one of Ressentiment would have—after my experiment—to be reconfigured, revisited and turned around. The deep insight in the carpet beater’s multidimensional logic allows us for example to remember that western culture tried to overtake not only the territory but also its knowledge. For many reasons (I cannot unfold them here) the Early Modern Age in Europe and the rise of technological and scientific knowledge had to do with the adoption of “Arabic” knowledge. An amazing lot of knowledge was transferred and integrated. At the same time the traces were erased to dissimulate where this knowledge had come from. It is not only the lack of language that has repressed the importance of authors like Averroes, Avicenna, Ibn Al-Haitam etc. for Early Modern Science in Europe. It was also a certain interest to make this knowledge appear as originally found by western authors. The Dynamics of cultures obviously works with respective attraction, adoption and repulsion. In pure contrast to the ideology of cultures that stresses the moment of Identity it has to be underlined and said that culture always is made of transfer, assimilation and integration. No culture is a closed unit. A community of high stability might be one—as the sociologist Gabriel de Tarde would have put it—that marks continuously to be hostile to the same enemy (hostility dissimulates the high degree of active exchange).
An important example of cultural hybridization for our context is Mameluk Art that plays an important role in Jerusalem. You might think that this subject is not at all related to our Mary Magdalene topic. But it can be said that the peak of Mary Magdalene’s cult in France coincided with the Mameluk’s rulership in the Middle East. As the story of the Magdalene is connected to Exile, Immigration and fantasies of new Identities the Mameluk operation is closer to this as we might have thought before. The Mameluk architectural ornaments are not exactly “Arabic”, but “arabesque”. It means that the Mameluks tried to produce an Arabic touch less as an act of representation but more as a project. They “arabized” like the French knights Magdalenized. As they were no Arabs by origin the “group”(as inconsistent as ever) tried to adapt its aesthetics to the sphere they were allowed to dominate at the time. By their arabesques the Mameluks—by origin Turkish military slaves—could not avoid evoking the memory and shape of central Asian architecture, of the knots and poles of the nomadic tent or “Jurte”. The Mameluk ornaments for me can be taken as a metaphor for the attraction felt by one culture regarding the technologies, aesthetics and media of another. There is then assimilation, interpretation, creation, construction, dissimulation and negation. These are the rules of the play of difference.
The Anthropologist Susanne Küchler has written about the attraction the diagram of the knot has for artists and scientists in many cultures. In her essay “Reflections on Art and Agency: Knot-Sculpture between Mathematics and Art” she says using a knot always is opening up to multidimensional meanings 1). For the French psychoanalyst for instance the knot represented a model for the feminine. For Otto Roessler, a contemporary german scientist, the knot is “the long line” generating space, the origin therefore of complex geometry of fourth, fifth and sixth—and so on—dimension. The long line (knot) is a diagram in which it becomes obvious that a visualization can show a order of higher complexity than a thought. For me the “long line” can also signify the long hair of Mary Magdalene, which means “long time”. As time passes by hair grows. The way my Mary Magdalene wears her extremely long hair is appealing to the “longue durée” of a memory she is inscribed in. The many knots or crossings of her hair, highly ornamental, represent the fuzziness of her story which cannot be told as a simple linear one. Again the virtual space described by the linear movement of her hair makes her, as Otto Roessler would put it, a “chaotic mixer” that generates space and structure.
Gender Difference and Mary Magdalene Modern
Mary Magdalene holding the two carpet beaters is also a figure of equation: left and right are similarly centered. Her two halves are more or less congruent. The Pathosformel she incorporates is a figure with an important central axe, in other words: she is in balance. Her two halves—if so to say—communicate like a cybernetic system. Instead of a stiff or rigid structure she is a lively column of twin spirals or knots. Is she feminine? Yes, she is. But to say this it is necessary to know what makes the difference. The difference is the motion she serves with. She is in motion, she is e-motion, she is moving in snake-like movements. There is elasticity, there are waves. She breaks up rigidity and makes it soft, smooth and moving. She is like a dance of the long lines intertwined. The two carpet beater ornaments rosen over her head echo her brain structure. The two halves—organic knots that become intelligent—are connected by her arms to the lines crossed and curled over her heart.
I said I like to present you some ideas about the Gender role play by the case of Mary Magdalene. I talked a lot about femininity and the latency of hers during some hundreds or thousands of years. But I also like to direct you attention to the fact that she herself is a ”coupled being”. The Statue expresses the construction of the body as a mirroring system that is at the same time unfolding and integration of “couples” of cells. This is life, this is growth and proliferation. Her two hands held high the two knots, not one. Her posture gives us an idea at what degree a living organism is a complex society of differences. But it is not only the Iconography of my Mary Magdalene that is to be perceived looking at her. It is not only the shape and finished of the surface that makes her a “battery of meaning”. It is also due to the fact hat she is made out of a huge Linden tree that comes from the mountains. This tree has grown slowly, more slowly than a Linden tree from the plane. What this wood contributes to the statue is the information of a transhuman time span. The tree might have had around 140 years when he had been chopped. It is the tree’s memory of many seasons of flowering and resting that imbued this material. The tree’s metabolic memory is part if the aesthetic information of the Statue. It is not a hollow statue, but a massive one. A really heavy one. As the genious physician Nicola Tesla found out at the turn of the 19th century it is necessary to have an Antenna if you wan to direct a message. The air might be filled with messages, but one needs an attractor, a reactive body to receive them. The Statue of Mary Magdalene can be considered to be a wooden Antenna. She would thus be able to anchor and enroot a sphere of floating hopes. The Statue is the Receiver. We move in her Radius.
Once found the right terms the Statue otherwise seen to be quite traditional means of religious an artistic practice becomes an Apparatus. If we live now in the Time of biotechnological science, it is even a high tec Apparatus. It bears in itself the process of life, as any body does.
Donna Haraway writes in her latest book:
“Every species is a multispecies crowd. In the face of companion species, human exceptionalism shows itself to be the spectre that damns the body to illusion, to reproduction of the same, to incest, and so makes remembering impossible. Under the material-semiotic sign of companion species, I am interested in the ontics and antics of significant otherness, in the ongoing making of the partners through the making itself, in the making of bodiedlives in the game. Partners do not pre-exist their relating: the partners are precisely what come out of the inter-and intra-relating of fleshly, significant, semiotic-material being….Indeed, perhaps this is the daughter’s knowledge (...)” 2)
Under this condition gender difference, gender trouble and the war of sexes look odd. The comeback of Mary Magdalene is not the beginning of feminist revenge. It is the triumph over the myths and politics of differences. She brings with her the insight in difference as a technique of life. It is the end of the involvement of gender as a power tool. It is the end of the mythologization of difference starting with gender, covering neglect and devalorisation of the respective other. This “end” may not be a sudden one, but at least it has started. This end is like a new beginning. Mary Magdalene, as I said in my introduction, is one of the most important representatives of feminine cosmic power. She is the mode of power becoming important today. On a spiritual level we can understand her message as directed to the heart, the heart of living creatures, the heart of the Earth. The heart of Holy Mary was penetrated by the swords of pain. But Mary Magdalene’s heart is the beat of life, of connection, of intuition, of healing. She is the principle of “knowing by heart”. She is the Heart if the Earth, that combines and moves, and which by this moving causes the warmness of feelings one of which is called love. She is an emerging heroine, as we could put it. She is a symbol of the hopefulness of youth trying to escape the zone of mourning and grief in which the Earth was captured. Since Holy Mary`s main destination was being Mother, Mary Magdalene takes the role of the daughter and companion. She is the companion. She is the not-identic, the is the capacity of companionship and coupling. This is why Mary Magdalene may also be understood as the figure that announces the Age of the Girl, as Donna Haraway said. We lived so many symbolic Ages: the Age of the Mother, the Age of the Father, the Age of the Son. The Girl or the Young Woman is the only figure within this play that has escaped the power play of gender and generations. The Girl was acting as a beautiful and helpful friend. What a gigantic mission. She was a surface catching collective projections of beauty, immortality and future life. In fact it was her who carried the future within her as the virtual generator of the mankind to come. Like a snake she was moving through the tunnels of symbolic structures. This is why she has passed, as I tried to show, centuries of cultural latency. This is why Mary Magdalene played a hidden or secret role in the story. Latency, as we can recognize now, is not absence. Latency is a form of active presence. In this respect we can correct our vision of the history of the feminine. The power of the Girl is present in the girls, of course, and in young women. But it is also active in the manifoldness of possible disguise. As it is a quality, a mode of power it can appear in many ways, even in Men, Boys, Old Women and Old Men. Now the under cover Agent is becoming a public figure. Now may come the time of the Feminine that supports, moves, feels, heals and sees.
1 Susanne Küchler: Reflections on Art and Agency: Knot-sculpture between Mathematics and Art, in: Arnd Schneider and Christopher Wright: Contemporary Art and Anthropology, Oxford 2006, p.85-94.Küchler writes: “In he sense that the kind of sculpture discussed in this paper can be said to serve as a ‘tractor’ of thought, inciting thinking as much as embodying it in its patterned surface, it exemplifies Alfred Gell’s reasoning on the theoretical basis for an anthropological engagement with art.” p.86
2 Donna Haraway: When species meet, Minneapolis-London 2008, p.165