Red light has been flooding through De Wallen for decades, but this summer it won’t just come from the windows of rooms rented out by prostitutes. Until September, Amsterdam’s oldest church, the Oude Kerk, will add even more red light to the already illuminated neighborhood.
Using 1600m2 of red foil to cover all windows of the grand church, Italian artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò (b. Venice, 1979) has managed to severely alter the interior of this normally familiar structure in his work Anástasis. One seemingly simple intervention leads to a site-specific intervention with remarkably surreal effects.
Upon entering, one’s inevitably tainted vision immediately leads to a stimulating aesthetic experience, providing visitors with a new reality. The church is at once stripped of its authoritative, traditionally imposing grandeur and at the same time its visual impact is heightened. Especially in contrast to the bustling tourist-filled streets surrounding it, the space is expansive and cool. By not adding objects, the emptiness is emphasized.
Anástasis seems to nod to history as it fills the church with a new radiance. Yet, nothing is certain. A wide range of potential references comes to mind and Calò enables the viewer to decide for themselves what exactly this new radiance entails. For instance, while being both the colour of love and of rage, the flood of red leaves the church surprisingly emotionless. They cancel each other out, somehow.
During the Iconoclastic Fury in 1566, the coloured glass was removed by Calvinists who believed that religion should be practiced in more sober ways. The red windows were demolished and replaced with less vivid hues – blues, greens and greys took over leaving the church’s interior to bathe in a much more sombre light. In this sense, Calò restores what once was and serves as a reminder of figurative bloodshed. Here, the red seems to refer to historical fact more so than it relates to an expression of the human condition.
In yet another reading, the colour red serves as a protector, crucial in developing analogue photographs in darkrooms. This process, also, relates to retrieving an image from the past and thereby restoring a time gone by. Then again, to some, the recognisable religious setting basking in red light simply conjures dooming images of hell and Satan.
In all its multiplicity, the depth of Anástasis keeps you guessing. How exactly does the simplicity of the gesture extend beyond mere simplicity? Perhaps in response to this concern, context-providing activities will be conducted in the church’s red light over the coming months. Currently planned is a symposium about the resurrection of the lost image. Malou den Dekker 5th June 2018
The exhibition continues until 23rd September.