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Jeanne's supplicium (2017)

Video installation 

Polyester resin, plastic gloves, sand paper, wood imbued with tar, metal bars, plaster, jesmonite, flowers, contact prints on polyester curtain coated with liquid light & photographic paper, text and voice-over excerpt from the trial of Joan of Arc. 

The work is the hybridisation of two stories, those of Jeanne d'Arc, French heroine/transwarrior burnt alive at the stake at the age of 19 and Jeanne Durand, my grandmother, who spent her life, in and out of hospitals/prisons, being slowly burnt through chemicals. Acting as a magnifying glass, a prism which distorts or enlightens perception, a stencil to reproduce or see through, it allows me to reflect on my matrilineal heritage and questions how we interpret and reinterpret His-tory. 

In 1431, Military leader Jeanne d'Arc/Joan of Arc was judged for cross-dressing. At the age of nineteen years old, she was burned alive at the stake by the Inquisition of the Catholic Church because she refused to stop dressing in garb traditionally worn by men. 

Jeanne La Pucelle (the Maid) was at the head of a ten-thousand-strong peasant army who considered Her - her Virginity and her clothing - sacred. The peasants believed that she had the power to heal, and many would flock around her to touch part of her body or her clothing. 

Joan's mission, motivation and mode of dress were directed by God. With her military genius, she forced the English to retreat. The French nation-state, soon to be fully liberated from occupation, was born. In 1930, Joan was captured by the Burgundians, French allies of the English feudal lords. They referred to her as "hommasse", a slur meaning "man-woman" or masculine woman. Had she been a knight or nobleman, King Charles would have offered a ransom for Joan's freedom but Joan's position as military leader of a popular peasant movement threatened the very French ruling class she helped lift to power. The English urged the Catholic Church to condemn Joan for cross-dressing. She was also accused of being raised a pagan. Church leaders had long charged that the district of her birth, Lorraine, was a hotbed of paganism and witchcraft. One of the principal accusations against Joan was that she associated with "fairies". The Church was waging war against peasants who resisted patriarchal theology and still held onto some of the old pre-Christian religious beliefs and matrilineal traditions. This was true of peasants in the area of Lorraine, even in the period of Joan's lifetime. For instance, the custom of giving children the mother's surname, not the father's, still survived there. The Inquisition sentenced her to death for resuming male dress, saying 'time and again you have relapsed, as a dog that returns to its vomit...' They burnt her until exposing publicly her sexual organs and extinguished the flames in order to prove that she was a "real" woman. 

"Then the fire was racked back and her naked body shown to all the people and all the secrets that could or should belong to a woman, to take away any doubts from people's mind"

Transgender Warriors, Leslie Fenberg

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