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Flashback to Roman Catholic times and iconoclasm in a red church
With the red light Calò brings the Roman Catholic visual idiom back into the building and reflects on the Iconoclastic Fury of 1566 and the revolution in religious thinking.


AMSTERDAM.- The Oude Kerk is presenting the most recent monumental work by Giorgio Andreotta Calò (b. Venice, 1979). Calò has devised a site-specific work that effects a drastic alteration to the church’s interior. By placing red film and plexiglass in front of the towering windows, he radically alters the lighting and thus the atmosphere in the church. During the summer months, visitors to the church will be bathed in an ocean of red light, an inimitable experience. Late in the evening the red light is emitted from the church, coalescing with the red lamplight of the plentiful brothels and prostitution windows surrounding the church. Throughout the summer the church shares in this light and shade: interior and exterior circulate around each other, to the rhythm of sunlight and its inversion.

The church as darkroom
With the red light Calò brings the Roman Catholic visual idiom back into the building and reflects on the Iconoclastic Fury of 1566 and the revolution in religious thinking. It is like a flashback to the Roman Catholic era that preceded the ‘Alteration’ of 1578, when Amsterdam’s Protestants deposed the Catholic city government and parish churches and chapels passed into Protestant hands and were given new names. Ever since, the city’s oldest parish church, the Church of St Nicholas, has also been known as the Oude Kerk – the Old Church. During the exhibition the artist will be using images of the only surviving Catholic stained-glass window, a depiction of the Death of the Virgin Mary, as the point of departure for a new photographic work, to which the Rijksakademie state academy of fine arts is also contributing. The red light does not affect the undeveloped image and provides the same conditions as in a photographic darkroom. The church will serve as studio and darkroom throughout the summer.

Historical background
The Oude Kerk (a building started in 1306) stands in the midst of the bustling and hectic Red Light District, which with its narrow streets, never-ending hustle and throngs of tourists can have a well-nigh oppressive effect. Once inside the church, it can seem like you are in an oasis of calm, space and history. The monumental glazed windows are one striking feature. In the Middle Ages these were filled with stained glass, so the light penetrated in myriad chromatic variations. The majority of the Oude Kerk’s stained-glass windows were destroyed during the Iconoclastic Fury of 1566, as the Calvinists preferred a stripped-back profession of faith, with little room for imagery or warmth. The colour red largely disappeared and the new glazing in blue, grey or green hues cloaked the interior in a cool light, as it still does today. The work of Giorgio Andreotta Calò offers a novel insight into this history.

Permanent work
The Oude Kerk has also commissioned Giorgio Andreotta Calò to create a permanent work in the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. The decorations on the facade of this space were the first elements to mark the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance in Amsterdam. Most eye-catching is a baldachin sculpted in Byzantine style, which used to be the canopy above a group of statues depicting the entombment and lamentation of Christ. By capturing the sunlight with a mirror, the artist wants to alter the incidence of light at this spot and activate its meaningfulness. The positioning of the mirror will allow the light of daybreak to penetrate into the chapel, which is situated on the north side of the church. This reflection also alters the significance of the Holy Sepulchre. From a place for death to one of new life. For a certain period every year, natural light shines onto the precise spot where this statue group stood before the so-called Alteration. This work by Calò was created with the support of the Italian state.

Public programme
During a symposium on 21 June, the longest day of the year, various experts talk about the impact of iconoclasm and the contemporary or religious perception of imagery. Besides Giorgio Andreotta Calò himself, these speakers include Lorenzo Benedetti, Dr Marc de Kesel, Prof. Marcel Barnard and Dr Lieke Wijnia. On four Friday mornings, music will resound as part of the exhibition in the form of the ‘Silence’ concert series. The Oude Kerk’s curator of music, Jacob Lekkerkerker, has selected several musicians and compositions to underscore the body of thought of this presentation. Calò’s exhibition in the Oude Kerk is also the crux of ‘Pay Attention Please!’ This art event, organized by Public Art Amsterdam in association with art institutions such as the Rietveld Academy, Stedelijk Museum and De Appel, runs from June through September 2018. Starting from the Oude Kerk, several routes take in examples of art in Amsterdam’s public space, with Calò’s work serving as a starting point and then again as a finishing point. One of the intentions of the routes is to investigate the impact of art in public space. The hashtag for all the latest news about the public programme is #redlightchurch.

Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Giorgio Andreotta Calò (b. 1979) belongs to a generation of artists who endeavour to use an analysis of the past to explain the political and social present. With his intuitive and organic methodology he commingles historical narratives and subsequently conjoins them by means of a ritual performance or physical act. Calò is uniquely adept in morphing the physical, symbolic and spiritual, thus creating experiences that emotionally affect the art connoisseur as well as the nonexpert. His residency at the Rijksakademie state academy of fine art (2009/2011) was pivotal in his work’s development. At the Venice Biennale in 2017 he created a monumental work in the Italian Pavilion. In 2012 he exhibited at MAXXI, Rome, and in 2011 he first participated in the Venice Biennale, which involved him walking from Amsterdam to Venice. The last time Giorgio Andreotta Calò’s work was shown in the Netherlands was in a solo exhibition at the Smart Project Space (now closed) in Amsterdam in 2012. Giorgio was nominated for the Volkskrant Visual Art Prize and his work can be found in several Dutch collections, including that of Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.





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