Michele Horrigan          bio / contact

Artworks

What A Feeling!

Stigma Damages

Apex

Dante's Rock Phase

Purgatory

In Ruin Reconciled

Conspiracy

Nature Obscured by Factory / Factory Obscured by Fog

A Very Reliable Performer

Whooper Swan

Beeves Rock

Abandoned

 

Purgatory

Video, 15 minutes 30 seconds

Poet Dante Aligheri was said to be inspired by the landscape of Les Baux to write

vivid descriptions of purgatory in his epic poem The Divine Comedy. Dante completed

these verses between 1308 and 1321, during which time he was exiled from Florence

and travelled several times through the hills and valleys of Provence.

To test out how Dante might have visualized the region, several days were spent

roaming around the valley photographing prominent rock formations, many of which are

quite spectacular, akin to the background of a Renaissance painting. In some locations I

found my camera framing images of faces and heads in the stone, natural phenomena that

seemed as if they were almost carved into the rock. After re-reading The Divine Comedy,

it seemed likely that Dante might have seen these same faces in the fourteenth century,

and that they might have influenced his writings.

In the town of Les Baux, these associations were further experimented with. Les Baux is

a tourist hotspot of consumerism, drawing a tantalizing parallel to what a contemporary

purgatory to be: souls walking aimlessly from place to place in search of a way out might

be compared to the modern touristic experience walking from souvenir shop to souvenir

shop searching for the consummate gift or bargain. A resulting video traces an approach

from a road into Les Baux, through streets of gift shops and tourism infrastructure, to the

medieval castle hilltop in the centre of the town. Subtitles feature relevant quotes from

Dante's Purgatorio, to create sometimes uncanny connotations.