Artist in Residence / Bona Dea
Gasworks website: gasworks.org.uk/studio-artists
Lina Hermsdorf first visited the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in 2018 as a participant in the Artists’ Books Program guest curated by Dr. Jo Melvin. She returned in 2019 to develop a new work, titled Bona Dea, which she later presented as part of Spoleto’s 2021 Festival dei Due Mondi.
The work is centered around a little-known sacred forest near Spoleto, dedicated to the ancient Roman goddess Bona Dea, a deity venerated exclusively by women. During the festivals of Bona Dea, women were allowed to drink strong wine and make blood sacrifices, practices otherwise forbidden by Roman culture. Knowledge of the cult is scarce as it has predominantly been passed on by male writers, who were barred from the rituals.
Consisting of real-time rendered, drone and google earth studio footage the video piece captures an aerial view of the forest, travelling from the soil to the atmosphere and back again, creating a mesmerising loop.
This cyclical movement, which draws on the progressions of the natural world and history, is also reflected in the biographic details of the film’s narrator, Paola Dionisotti (born 1953), as she alludes to various stages of female life: from puberty and fertility to menopause.
In Hermsdorf’s own words, “In Bona Dea the cult becomes a source for thinking about exclusion, notions of excess and considers ancient sites as, uncannily, promising.”
Bona Dea has been kindly supported by Arts Council England, Mahler & LeWitt Studios and the Exhibitions Hub in the Department of Art, Goldsmiths College. The project initially emerged out of the Artists’ Books Program at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in 2018.
Visual Effects: Ifor Ashton & Luke Doyle
Performer/Narrator: Paola Dionisotti