Alice Maher (b.1956, Ireland) is an artist who lives and works in Mayo, Ireland. Her work touches on a wide range of subjects often reprising, challenging, and expanding on both mythic and vernacular narratives. Her practice spans painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, animation, and video. There is often a playful collapse between high and low culture. One-off objects and organic pieces are revealed to have some unknown ritualistic use. Maher places histories and symbols of the female at the very centre of her work to, in a sense, reclaim them. In historical accounts, barbarians are generally located outside the borders of civilization, and in narratives of psychoanalysis, the feminine is often located in this outside-ness. Cassandra, a figure in Greek mythology, was a double outsider in that she was both a female and a barbarian. Her native city of Troy occupied the limits of Empire and had to be subjugated. At once loved and betrayed by the gods, Cassandra had the power to foresee the future, but was cursed since her prophecies were forever disbelieved.
In Maher’s two-screen film Cassandra’s Necklace (2) (2016), the viewer experiences this border space – a non-place and non-time – through which the young seer wanders. It is not known whether Cassandra is outside or inside, as she tests and tastes, measures and maps the limits of her world. Maher’s film reprises the figure of Cassandra to call forward the ‘despised’ of myth and history. Cassandra moves, she walks, she eats, but she never speaks. Her only company and adornment: a necklace of bloody tongues. In this version of the film, Cassandra’s voice is heard through the text of Anne Enright – a fragment of unpublished script, written in 1985.
The words are spoken and sung by Jennifer Walshe in the multi-layered soundscape composed by Trevor Knight. Maher considers the ‘voicing’ of Cassandra as particularly relevant in reflection of the unspoken history of women and their role within the founding and direction of Ireland’s Republic.