Máthair, Irish for Mother, is an exploration of the religious and cultural rituals experienced firsthand by filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson. This film, prompted by and realised through a holy pilgrimage with her mother, recognizes and celebrates the need to revisit the rituals of the artist's past. Máthair presents a hyperreal vision of Ireland conveyed through patterns of thought, memory and behaviour that map the artist’s own construction of her homeland.
Ritual #1: Feis (My Mother)
The ritualistic and rhythmic structures of the weekly Catholic Mass and traditional Irish dance are intertwined in this piece to invite reflection on the complex of patterns that connect the two. The hypnotic sounds integral to both practices are presented in unison with structured performative scenes that imply a commonality of emotional and creative intention. Juxtaposing religious impulse with visceral expression, this first movement balances the competing intentions of immersive action against distraction from thought.
Ritual #2: Lament (Motherland) (Video excerpt)
The tradition of keening, an ancient vocal lament for the dead, reflects a deep sorrow rooted within Irish culture and arts. Irish folklore speaks of funeral parties rowing in silence across the water at Assaroe in County Donegal, only to begin the haunting sounds of the keening when a particular site is reached. Moving from the personal ritualistic elements of the first movement, this second lament ties together customs surrounding death and the concomitant visualisation of loss through mourning practice, forging a link between place and personhood.
Ritual #3: Marian (Mother Mary)
The conflict between the commodification of the idea of the saint and the persisting phenomena of the apparition of the Mother Mary are brought to light in this final piece in the cycle. Marian stands as the culmination of observations made while journeying between pilgrimage sites in Ireland. Focusing in particular on the site at Knock in West Ireland, this movement contrasts the sanctity of the location with the gaudy objects sold en masse to the public as evidence of their visit. The implications of merchandising the miraculous are left suspended in uncertainty.