This morning in the Holy See’s Press Office, Cardinal Ravasi, the director of the Vatican Museums, and the president of the Biennale, Paolo Baratta, presented the event.
“The Pontifical Council for Culture,” began Cardinal Ravasi, “holds contemporary art at the heart of its interests for it is one of the most important cultural expressions of recent decades.” Genesis, the theme of the Holy See’s pavilion, “is fundamental for culture and for Church tradition. It is also a source of inspiration for many whose works that have left a mark on the history of art: the story told in the Book of Genesis. Specifically, the first eleven chapters have been chosen, as they are dedicated to the mystery of man’s origins, the introduction of evil into history, and our hope and future projects after the devastation symbolically represented by the Flood. Wide-ranging discussions on the multiplicity of the themes offered by this inexhaustible source led to three thematic areas being chosen …”
“The theme of Creation,” the cardinal continued, “concentrates on the first part of the biblical narrative, when the creative act is introduced through the Word and the breath of the Holy Spirit, generating a temporal and spatial dimension, and all forms of life including human beings. Uncreation, on the other hand, invites us to focus on the choice of going against God’s original plan through forms of ethical and material destruction, such as original sin and the first murder, inviting us to reflect on the ‘inhumanity of man’. The ensuing violence and disharmony trigger a new start for humanity, which begins with the punitive/purifying event of the Flood. In this biblical story, the concept of the voyage, and the themes of seeking and hope, represented by the figure of Noah and his family and then by Abraham and his progeny, eventually lead to the designation of a New Man and a renewed creation, where a profound internal change gives new meaning and vitality to existence.”
The director of the Vatican Museums then spoke of the artists who are illustrating the three themes. “The theme of Creation was entrusted to Studio Azzurro, which places the immaterial image, light, sound, and sensory stimuli at the centre of their artistic investigation… Their work triggers a dialogue, awash with echoes and reverberations, between the vegetable and animal kingdoms and the human dimension, which leads, via memory, to other personal narrations on the concept of origins within an interactive plane that is also a temporal intersection.” The photographer Josef Koudelka is responsible for Uncreation. The power of his panoramic, black and white, speaks of the opposition between the human being and the world with its laws—moral and natural—and the material destruction that comes from a loss of a moral sense. Re-Creation was entrusted to the artist Lawrence Carroll, who is capable of giving life to salvaged materials, transfiguring them through processes of reconsideration and regeneration and who, against all odds, opens new possibilities of coexistence between as seemingly unrelated dimensions as fragility and monumentality.
“The Holy See’s presence, for the first time, among the pavilions of the Venice Biennale,” concluded Paolo Baratta, “is an event of great importance and as such is hailed by the world of art and culture. This decision is a confirmation of the significance of the Biennale as a platform for exchange and dialogue. … This 55th edition of the International Art Exhibition is … an exhibition-research. Over the years, the mixed fortunes of contemporary art have witnessed artists express ideas and make declarations that required a form and conversely, artists create forms that demanded reflection. Yet it has always placed humankind and its doubts at the forefront, seeking the actively engaged viewer rather than the passive consumer. From this point of view, the renewed attention of the Holy See at this time seems extremely important.”