Stabat Mater

Artist Name(s) Dorothy Cross
Artwork title Stabat Mater
Context/Background Stabat Mater, directed by Dorothy Cross, was a live performance of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's seventeenth-century acclaimed arrangement of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa in a remote slate quarry and Marian grotto on the western edge of Valentia Island, County Kerry.

Conceived as a collaboration between Dorothy Cross and Dublin-based Opera Theatre Company, Stabat Mater was performed by two opera singers, a countertenor (Jonathan Kenny) and soprano (Lynda Lee), and a baroque chamber orchestra, costumed in dirty overalls and safety helmets. The performance took place at dusk the mouth of the quarry which is also a grotto to the Virigin Mary, 90 feet above the cave entrance. The singers emerged from the back of the quarry where the cutting machines lay silent and began to perform as if they had just stopped a work shift ... then almost mechanically beginning to sing the music moved from the mundane into an area of prayer and ecstasy. The video was projected onto a screen that advanced mechanically from within the dramatically lit quarry cave towards the standing audience.

The presence of a video work with a sound track of industrial noise in such a setting certainly challenged the audience to adjust their reception from stirring baroque music to the language of contemporary art. In this outdoor context the fifteen-minute video finale was unsettling and self-conscious, yet its disruptiveness made Cross' Stabat Mater, a compelling and memorable site-specific work. 


A live performance of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's seventeenth-century acclaimed arrangement of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa in a remote slate quarry and Marian grotto on the western edge of Valentia Island, County Kerry.

There was a distinct secular, profane, and even mundane quality to this recital of Stabat Mater. The singers alternately mounted the grotto's altar in their work boots, and the audience looked on in waterproof or heavy clothing...... Cross' attention with the video imagery (which dramatically took centre stage after the live performance) was specifically focused on factory production at the quarry. Close-up shots of engineering technology cutting and polishing slate were transformed in scale into the spectacle of utilitarian power, the power of the male machinists over nature demonstrated by a destructive torrent from a saw blade slicing stone effortlessly. The repeated cutting in the context of the passion of the Virgin Mary in Stabat Mater almost invited a comparison between the mining that has taken place in the quarry and an industrial tragedy. The video projected at night corrected our vision of the quarry as a place (with a sepulchral acoustic) for concert performances, appearing almost like an industrial apparition of ghost-like point-of-view shots, recalling the indelible presence of the quarry by working day. Such a functional factory aesthetic is prevalent throughout Cross' varied work.

Dorothy Cross is attentive to the social, mythic and symbolic function of the spaces she chooses to work with, and combines those aspects with concepts from psychoanalysis, history and personal experience. Stabat Mater continue[s] and developed themes and images... as it endeavored to incorporate varying facets of contemporary site-specific work in a carefully arranged, unique outdoor night-time event.

The above text is taken from Brian Hand's essay-review in Circa Magazine. 12, Summer 2005, pp: 34 - 37


Miming a Quarry, Stabat Mater by Dorothy Cross, by Brian Hand in Circa, Summer 2005, pp: 34 - 372005


Dorothy Cross, b. 1956, Cork. Cross works in a variety of media including sculpture, photography, video and installation. She has been exhibiting regularly since the mid-80s and her witty and inventive investigations of contemporary sexual mores and politics tend to be produced in series. Her first major solo shows were Ebb, at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, in 1988, and Powerhouse at the ICA, Philadelphia, the Hyde Gallery and Camden Arts Centre, London, in 1991. During the 1990's she produced two extended series of sculptural works using cured cowhide and stuffed snakes respectively, which drew on these animals' rich store of symbolic associations across cultures to investigate the construction of sexuality and subjectivity. Over the past few years Cross has devoted increasing amounts of time to the development of large-scale public events and projects, most memorably the award-winning Ghost Ship, an ethereally illuminated light-ship which haunted Dublin Bay for a few weeks in 1998. 

Dorothy Cross has participated in numerous group shows internationally including the 1993 Venice Biennial, the 1997 Istanbul Biennial, and the 1998 Liverpool Biennial. She also took part in the ground-breaking 1994 exhibition Bad Girls in the ICA London and CCA, Glasgow; the 1998 exhibition Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self Representation, which was shown at MIT List Art Center, Boston, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami and the San Francisco MOMA; and Skin (with Ernesto Neto and Yoel Davids) at the Cranbrook Museum, Michigan, USA. Recent solo shows have included Angles Gallery, Los Angeles (1997), Mimara Museum, Zagreb (2000), Frith Street Gallery, London (2001) and Kerlin Gallery (2002, 2007). 

Her work is included in the collections of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Norton Collection, Santa Monica, Art Pace Foundation, Texas, the Goldman Sachs Collection, London and the Tate Modern, London, among others. A major retrospective of Dorothy Cross's work took place in June 2005 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Partners Opera Theatre Company
Artform Visual Arts,Opera
Funded By The Arts Council,Other
Location Slate Quarry and Grotto, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry
County Kerry
Town Valentia Island
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Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Opera Theatre Company

Cuan MacConghail, Editor



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