Giorgio Andreotta Calò: Anastasis
May 24 – September 23, 2018, at the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam
Increasingly in recent decades historical sites have initiated exhibitions of contemporary art to expand outreach as well as contexts for their relevance and perpetuity. Since 2013, Amsterdam’s Old Church, consecrated in the early fourteenth century and located in De Wallen, aka the Red Light district, has been one such venue. This summer’s contemporary fare is a light installation by Giorgio Andreotta Calò, who gained wide international exposure in the Italian Pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale (2017) with a space-disorienting Gesamtkunstwerk incorporating a filmic plane of reflective water. Here, transparent red filmic matter is overlaid on the church’s giant windows to bathe the awkward, additive interior uniformly in slightly hazy red light.
Upon entering, the effect is squint-inducing and hints at strategically placed stained glass or pre-modern lamplight before taking over as art. It doesn’t take too long to acclimate, or rather, acquiesce, to this seared visuality as one roams and peruses building’s structure and antique elements; while at the same time, it renders details difficult to keep in focus. This perceptual stop-gap harkens to darkroom red light that arrests photographic development, analogical to the iconoclasm that transformed this and other Catholic churches in the region, largely via image destruction, to Protestant institutions.
Most obviously, Calò’s tinted, or tainted, alteration conjures the fraught relationship between this ostensible house of god with its sin city setting, and their shared dialectics of hellfire and passion, loneliness and love. Capped by the multi-faceted title, Anastasis, which reins in the scriptural episodes, Christ Harrowing Hell and the Resurrection, and the advocated censure of icons in early Byzantium, Calò has coaxed the most out of his deceptively simple art gesture, and turned the natural light enlisted explicitly in some earlier Christian architecture (see Cistercian) into a steamy spiritual veil.