Kate O' Boyle, The Seers, 2022
The Virgin Mary appeared to me once. Well, kinda. It was a dream. Uhm, more of a nightmare. It happened in 2019, the year I lived by the motto “I go where the devil takes me.” This saying came to me a year earlier, when a demon visited my room at night (which is why now I hang a rosary on my doorknob). This dark and oppressive entity crossed the door to roam without clear purpose and suddenly left, like a dog satisfying its preternatural curiosity. Signs of the devil pointing to exciting destinations began to manifest, as if this creature was trying to bring me closer, seducing me to follow its departure. But these paths often accelerated towards an ugly end to reveal an underlying darkness. Eventually I got lost and this why one night, I asked for help.
Demons were chasing me in my dream until I found a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where I found safeguard. The chapel held a statue of Mary made of immovable stone and I pleaded for succor. Her mossy lips moved to reply that I deserved it for melding with the devil. The tone of her voice was staunch and heavy, echoing its physical qualities. There was compassion and kindness to her articulation but it didn’t seem infinite or necessarily patient. It felt like a small fragment of her being was present rather than the whole, operating like an icon that embodies only a piece. I got a sense that people came to her when they are in trouble. But no one asked her how she is doing. I admitted that I made a mistake and appealed to her maternal instinct. Eventually she agreed to advocate for my salvation.
Since then my new maxim is “no” and “let me think about it.” I still have a tattoo of a ‘diablito’ from the Mexican card game loteria, on the back of my arm. The figure in the tattoo is walking without a destination. It reminds me that the devil is always stalking (get behind me Satan). The design bears a semblance to the character of the Fool in the tarot, which speaks of new beginnings and departures. I am always walking—often slipping—but now I’m mindful of guide and destination.
In her exhibition The Seers, Kate O’Boyle brings together footage of people testifying on Marian apparitions. The artist’s intention is to understand how seers picture Mary by organising their testimonials in a video collage, focusing on the textuality of their visions. Their attestations share common elements like light and good feelings but every account is riddled with superficiality. Indeed, the seers rarely present specific details, like “she seemed more present than most people but her gaze was intimidating,” that would offer an insight into their encounter. Instead they use empty adjectives, such as “tall” and “beautiful”, which makes the affair sound insignificant. One feels they are referring to a person walking by on the other side of the road rather than a divine entity who disrupted their sense of reality.This renders the apparition as an elusive moment that evaporates as quickly as it materialises to evade speech. Its meaning lies on vagueness rather than precision because this entity refuses to exist, even though its place in the popular imagination is causing a leakage into reality. One could say the seers are trying to see someone who doesn’t want to be seen, even though in their minds this visitation signifies they are chosen somehow—it is proof of their Oneness. They don’t say that however, choosing to focus their attention on what they purportedly saw, with an assemblage of bankrupt adjectives and hollow fantasies.The ambiguous testimonies in The Seers make something certain: Mary was never there. They are best heard as tales of absence or evidence of how limited is the language of Marian apparitions, failing to make the unbelievable, believable. However, they are a cumulative image of Mary on earth despite their hilarious inconsistencies, that collectively projects the idea of divine arrival. Kate O’ Boyle looks at this semiotic by trapping this fleeting phenomenon with the medium of video, focusing on how the seers understand the seen. Unlike the ephemeral Mary, these accounts are documented and crystallised on the screen: we can observe the quirks of these people to form critical registers and emotional perceptions of who they are.In a strange twist, The Seers become an apparition themselves by materialising every time the work turns On and evaporating when it turns Off. Their eternal mirage, stuck at an age in which the camera shot them, is mediated by light to become a spectral encounter with the viewer. The media player becomes the relic, the video a manifestation of its powers and the gallery attendees the seers who observe the seen.