Diego Ramirez, Sinister Mariology, 2020, video game. 

1. You need a computer, throw away your phone
2. Click the game screen to begin playing
3. Use ⇦ ⇨ ⇧ ⇩ keys to move around
4. Bump into things, including squares and doubles of yourself
5. The red dots are portals, in case you haven’t noticed...

The body of work created for this exhibition; Dark Oval, takes the 1531 apparition of the Virgin Mary ‘Tonantzin Guadalupe’ in colonial Mexico as a point of departure to consider Marian iconography as a portal and talisman. This Marian apparition is canonised by the Vatican with the support of two important documents: a ‘miraculous’ image standing for a mestizo Madonna, held in La Basilica Guadalupe, Mexico City, and handed to the Indigenous Saint Juan Diego by Mary herself in the 16th century; and a Nahua (Aztec) poem called Nican Mopohua (1649), which recounts the encounter between Saint Juan Diego and Tonantzin Guadalupe.
            This apparition is relevant today as it occurred during a ravenous outbreak of smallpox, exemplifying how art unfolds during epidemics. Dark Oval examines how the Madonna functions as a cosmic portal, a supernatural gateway connecting multiple states of being. From the human to the divine, the sovereign to the colonial, and the clean to the unclean. It also acts as a talisman, a mysterious icon that guards off the miasma of pestilence. This body of work also incorporates symbols sourced from medieval talismans against the black death to speak about the triangulation of Virgin Mary, portraiture, and pathogen.
            The fictional videogame; Sinister Mariology, is a ‘lost stage’ in the Super Mario series reconstructed by the artist, that draws upon the poem Nican Mopohua to create a contemporary apparition. This piece updates the Marian apparition into the present and the context of COVID-19 lockdown, where videogames surged in popularity. The online piece reduces the complex poem of Nican Mopohua to its most essential narrative device: Mary appears to an inconspicuous person (a gamer) to mark a moment of transition. This watershed instance is the present, for we are encountering a re-structure of politics, language and society.

The centrepiece of this body of work is 60 Images of the Virgin Mary, 2020, an iconographic effigy created by the artist, that references the ‘miraculous’ image held in La Basilica de Guadalupe. The work reveals that while the Guadalupe painting is mythologised as divine in origin, it blatantly references the 'mulier amicta sole', a pictorial convention that depicts the Virgin Mary as shown in the Book of Revelation, where a woman is wearing the sun with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars.
            60 Images of the Virgin Mary, 2020, reduces sixty images of Mary preceding Guadalupe to their two most essential components: the mandorla and the moon under her feet. The 'mandorla' is an oval backdrop: an iconic gesture deployed to visualise a rupture in time and space, a moment of transcendence, an episode of beyondness. This work teases out this connotation to imagine the veneration of a dark portal without destination, a site of ambiguous worship. 

– Artist Statement

Diego Ramirez is an artist, writer and arts worker. His practice employs a variety of mediums (ranging from video, to performance and signage) to unpack representations of otherness from the perspective of a Mexican subject.
            He is interested in the relationship between types, stereotypes and monsters in a racialized discourse. While he works with different mediums, his exhibitions tend to combine found material with new content to re-evaluate popular media.


This exhibition acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which it was developed, the Wurundjeri and neighbouring Boonwurrung Peoples of the Kulin Nation, and pays respect to their Elders past and present. The project also acknowledges the complex history the Wurundjeri People have had with the Bundoora Homestead since it was built on their occupied land in 1899. Sovereignty was never ceded. In addition, the project acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners across the many lands of what is now known as Australia, and the many First Nations Traditional Owners on all the lands across the world where this website may be accessed and viewed.