Fallen Women were individuals who were considered sexually

Fallen Women were individuals who were considered sexually wayward or deviant, women who were provocateurs,
promiscuous, prostitutes, un-married mothers, victims of sexual assault. These women found themselves caught in a system
of intolerance propped up by religious orders and governmental policy, which sent them into confinement in the Magdalene
The laundries origins stem from the 1600’s as a support system for prostitutes offering temporary housing, often supported
by a religious order. Somewhere between the 1600’s and 1996 something went wrong. After mass exhumations began in
1993 on Magdalene sites, and news headlines spoke of unmarked graves in Dublin with hundreds of infant bodies inside,
hidden stories about the Irish Magdalene Laundries began to surface. The following weeks, months and years unwrapped
an epidemic of institutional abuse against women and children inside religious refuges. Although these institutions existed
globally, Ireland’s history of abuse is one of the most documented.
The Irish government estimated over 10,000 women had fallen victim to the system since the 1920’s, other campaign
groups suggest this figure is dramatically higher. As victims of the Magdalene Laundries came forward the scale of the
abuse became clear. Women were often forcibly taken to the laundries, once inside it was very hard for them to escape
and many remained for life. The women were made to work long hours without pay, they were not allowed to talk to one
another, their names were changed, their clothes were taken, they had to strap down their breasts, they frequently suffered
verbal and physical abuse, some suffered sexual abuse. The women’s lives were led by fear. The system set up to
support vulnerable women now began to persecute them, living in a cycle of continuous redemption. This was a slave
labour camp behind the walls of a religious institution.
The four part work combines the structure of the art work with the historical structure of the Magdalene Laundries and
religious orders; it opens up a commentary between the performance space and the church (with its ventures) as the
ultimate theatre. In these parallel contexts the work generates and exemplifies existing hierarchies as it borrows forms,
symbols, roles, language and history. The physical construction in the Kunstnernes Hus auditorium acts as a support
structure for the performance works that happen within it.
The main performance on the 4th June will bring together fragments of history and fresh interpretations. Performers within
the work will interchange between themselves as individuals working for the artist, and a character within a constructed
environment. The performance will look at the function of language as a performance tool and a historical weapon; here
situations such as a sex education lesson and Enda Kenny’s 2013 apology to the Magdalene victims become distorted as
they are pushed through new rhetoric.
Whilst the performance environment is static it represents a space waiting to be used, with traces of use and function. As
it sits absent of performers the artist will be carrying out a further extension of the work. After donating all her clothes to
the laundry pile within the art work, she will be wearing one outfit of penitent grey for the duration of the exhibition period.
[In 1990 Amelia Beavis-Harrison moved to Ireland. Unknowingly she was a 30 minute drive from a currently active Magdalene Asylum. Although she
lived there for only a few years, this small chapter of her life is uncontrollably linked to the lives of others only 26km away.]