WITCHCRAFT HYSTERIA. Performing witchcraft in contemporary art and pop culture.
We seem to be living in bewitched times. Witches are everywhere, or rather: victims of alleged witch hunts pop up all over the place, preferable on Twitter or other social media. Pop-stars perform as witches, like Katy Perry in her performance at the 2014 Grammy awards, where she appeared in a cowl before a crystal ball, while later dancing with broomsticks as poles. Beyoncé’s visual album “Lemonade” (2016) made several explicit references to black witchcraft rituals. Azealia Banks proclaimed in the same year on Twitter that she practiced “three years worth of brujería” (brujería, Spanish: witchcraft) and tweeted––while cleaning the blood-smeared room used for her animal sacrifices––“Real witches do real things”. Marina Abramovic’s performance piece “Spirit Cooking” (1996) was used in the ominous Pizzagate conspiracy theory of 2016, accusing Abramovic and the Hillary Clinton campaign in practicing witchcraft rituals and occult magic. Clinton and other influential women in politics––such as Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters––got called “wicked witches of the left” and Sarah Palin participated in a public ritual to secure her electoral win and “save her from witchcraft”. Meanwhile, thousands of people coordinate binding spells against political leaders (#bindtrump) and Silvia Federici’s seminal book “Caliban and the Witch” (2004) moved from the bookshelf to the bedside table for many art professionals.
The title “Witchcraft Hysteria” follows the inscription on the monument dedicated 1992 to the Salem Witch Trials (1692), that were informed by European-US-American witchcraft discourses of their time and in turn were highly influential on today’s discussions.