Carrie Reichardt who declared in her artist statement, ”I AM AN ARTIST YOUR RULES DON’T APPLY” (see www.carriereichardt.com) , seeks to use her work as visual activism. Staying true to her ”anarcho-craftivist” reputation, her contribution to this year’ Nuart Festival, titled Gallus Quines & Deeds not Words, is two tile- mosaic murals that comment on Aberdeen’s and Aberdeenshire’s history of witch purging, and celebrate women, both past and present, who have contributed to female empowerment.
The work is located on St. Nicholas Ln which is not in a residential area but rather a comercial one – intersecting Correction Wynd, a path used as a pedestrian shortcut that used to have poorhouses. Tucked into the granite moulds that were once large windows facing out onto the street, sealed over mostly likely as a result of the window tax, the tile murals fit right into the street. Reichardt has turned an architectual flaw into a canvas for her street art. The location of the artwork speaks of its concept as it is situated right next to St. Nicholas Church, or Mither Kirk (Doric for Mother Church), which was used as a prison that also detained and executed witches. The murals could almost go unnoticed, camoflaged as stained glass windows which mirrors the glass mosaic windows in the neighbouring church – but instead of depicting biblical narratives, it illustrates the lives of Aberdeen’s ’gallus quines’ (which roughly translates to ’bold women’ in Doric).
The first mosaic, which is titled Gallus Quines, uses a combination of textual information and pictorial illustrations and tells the viewer of the history of witch trials and persecutions while paying homage to some of the known women who were accused and executed. On the second mosaic, Reichardt decoratively displays pictures of Aberdonian women, or women associated with Aberdeen, who have in some way impacted the fight for women’s rights. The women who are exhibited vary from Caroline Phillips, suffragette and feminist activist in the early twentieth century, to Annie Lennox, singer and political activist. Ironically named Deeds not Words – the slogan adopted by the WSUP during the suffragette movement, the mosaic is filled with text excerpts taken directly from the Wikipedia pages of the ‘quines’ she honours.
In addition to paying tribute to the individual women, both mosaics feature tiles that promote feminist political organisations such as WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality), WSUP (Women’s Social and Political Union) and NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies). Other tiles include the ‘All-Seeing-Eye’ accompanied with the Latin phrase ‘nunquam dormio’ (meaning ‘I never sleep’) and one with the words ‘Hex the Patriarchy’. At the top of the first mosaic, she has created a image of two mirrored and modern witches with the words ‘We are the granddaughters/all of the witches you were never able to burn”. In fact, you could spend a long time observing the level of detail ingrained in the work: every tile is selected and placed with precision and intention.
The murals enrich the area and inform the viewer about the history of Aberdeen and its involvment in witch persecution. It memorialises the women who were unjustly killed, denied of the right to defend themselves, while reminding the viewer of the women and organisations who took (and are taking) a stance against institionalised misogyny and gender ineqaulity. Reichardt work serves as both an educational and aesthetic addition to the bare granite walls.