Magdalene Series at Rua Red

Launching this summer at Rua Red, the Magdalene Series; a programme of exhibitions, interventions, performances and events curated by Rua Red Director/Curator Maolíosa Boyle.

The series features five of Ireland’s leading artists: Amanda Coogan, Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon, Jesse Jones, and Grace Dyas. Rua Red commissioned the five artists to research and produce new work in response to Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene has been a subject of fascination and curiosity throughout history. She is a binary creation: conflicted and mysterious, noble and humble, strong yet morally weak, beautiful and haggard, passionate yet penitent, erotic and unreserved, reclusive and solitary. The Magdalene is the earthly, carnal, and sensual counterpart to the celestial Virgin. She embodies humanity and humility – she sweats, cries, and bleeds.

The Magdalene series will explore Mary Magdalene’s associations with the incarceration and institutionalisation of women and other themes such as forced labour, morality, shame, reparation and penitence. The series will propose a new world, uncurbed by religious, political, or societal doctrine, a world led by the experience of the Magdalene and viewed through the lens of contemporary feminism and feminist theology.

The Magdalene Series is the culmination of a three-year collaboration between the artists and curator. The process has included input from theologians, academics and researchers. Writers such as Sinead Gleeson, Silvia Federici and Kate Antosik Parsons are working with the artists to create a series of essays and responses to the work. A publication, to be launched at the end of the series, will contain these texts.

As part of Rua Red’s active research space, several academics and feminist theologians will deliver lectures on key themes in the artists’ work. These lectures will form part of the Magdalene Series educational resource archive which will be available for audiences on the Rua Red website.

In the first of these lectures, Harvard-trained theologian and author Meggan Watterson (‘Mary Magdalene Revealed: The First Apostle, Her Feminist Gospel & The Christianity We Haven't Tried Yet’) will discuss her pilgrimage to Mary Magdalene’s cave in Aix-en-Provence, France in February. Followed by a lecture from Professor Siobhán Garrigan, Loyola Chair of Theology, Head of School - Religions, Peace Studies, and Theology, Trinity College Dublin, on Mary Magdalene as binary creation, feminist ritual groups, symbolism in religious imagery, penitence, and reliquaries in March. Further lectures and events will be announced on The Rua Red website and social media channels.

"From a young age, I have been fascinated by the figure of Mary Magdalene, who she was and what she symbolised within historical works and texts and how she influenced church and state’s view of women in contemporary society." - Maolíosa Boyle, Curator of the Magdalene Series/Director Rua Red

The first exhibition ‘They Come Then, The Birds’ by Amanda Coogan will be launched in May/June (subject to Covid-19 Government Restrictions). Exhibitions by Alice Maher and Rachel Fallon, Jesse Jones and Grace Dyas will follow into 2022.

The Magdalene Series is possible due to the financial support of the Arts Council, South Dublin County Council Arts Office and Creative Ireland.

Active Research Programme

Rua Red are delighted to announce our new online Active Research Programme as part of the Magdalene Series. Over the course of the next few months, Rua Red will bring some of the foremost academics, activists, researchers, theologians, and feminists to speak about themes within the forthcoming exhibitions by Amanda Coogan, Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon, Jesse Jones, and Grace Dyas. The first lecture in the series is by feminist theologian and author of ‘Mary Magdalene Revealed’ Meggan Watterson. Meggan met with the artists a few weeks ago to discuss her book, her devotion to Mary Magdalene, her lost gospel, and Meggan’s own personal pilgrimage to Aix-en-Provence to Mary Magdalene’s cave and the Cave of Eggs.

Lecture by feminist theologian and author of ‘Mary Magdalene Revealed’ Meggan Watterson

The second lecture in the series is by Marina Warner, a writer of fiction and cultural history, myth and fairy tale, author of Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism, Monuments & Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form and From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, amongst other works.

Her new book, Inventory of a Life Mislaid, has just been published (HarperCollins). In it, she explores her childhood in Egypt; drawing on gifts and love tokens, objects, and mementos, letters, and journals, negative film found coiled in a canister, this ‘unreliable memoir’ pieces together the reckonings and discoveries her Italian mother and English father made in Cairo, where he opened a bookshop. During her archival research, she found an old map of Cairo, which marked the very spot where ’the real balm is gathered’. This set her off on a fascinating quest: she uncovered legends about Mary Magdalene and her jar of precious oils as well as stories about myrrh, the Flight into Egypt, and the uses of unguents and perfumes. In this fully illustrated lecture, she will uncover the long associations of balm with the pleasures and solace of the East, and the deep-rooted link between women and sexual temptation, which was keenly felt by her Catholic mother.

Lecture by Marina Warner - Mary Magdalene and Her Jar: Fragrant oils, Luxury and Sin