In this interesting installation, the iconography of the social media age takes over a 17th-century Venetian church, Sant’Antonin. A large sculpture of Facebook’s ‘f’ logo stands cross-like in front of the altar. Overhead, large bas-reliefs created from plastic mesh show neo-apostles erecting a satellite dishes and huddling around an iPad. On the floor, weathered fragments of wood, presented as if relics of Noah’s Ark, display familiar social media symbols like the ‘mail’ icon and Twitter logo.
Click on any of the below images and the image will open in gallery view. Higher resolution (e.g., 2048 x 1365) images are available in the Flickr gallery: Venice Biennale 2015.
The installation, entitled Conversion, was created by the Recycle Group, a pair of Russian artists (Andrey Blokhin and Georgy Kuznetsov) based in Krasnodar, and was curated by James Putnam for the Venice Biennale in the summer of 2015. In my opinion, the playful irreverence of the installation contrasted wonderfully with the solemn sacredness of the church setting, creating tension between the old and the new (and the new which had been treated to look old!)
One theme of the installation is that as people are becoming less spiritual, the rituals and iconography of the internet age are usurping those of religion in general and Catholicism in particular. However, in this installation, the trappings of Christianity are not being abandoned; the religious artwork, relics and structures are still there, but the new social media iconography is superimposed over top of them. Hasn’t society always been this way, with the new laid over top of the old? When today’s monotheistic religions first took root, didn’t they also adopt or cover over some of the existing pagan rituals and symbols?
Rituals and symbols have long been there. People find comfort in daily rituals—to pray before going to bed or to log-in to a social media site immediately after coming home. They find purpose in participating in shared experiences—going to mass or joining an online forum. They find solace in familiar symbols and sounds—the clacking of prayer beads or the beep of a message notification. Although the rituals, experiences and symbols may change, our basic human need for ritual remains.
Recycle Group. Conversion. Teaser video by Konstantin Bobovik (This is an interesting video that shows how many of the parts of the installation were created)
Recycle Group’s webpage on the exhibition (there are a lot of great photos there): recycleartgroup.com/exhibitions/conversion/
An introduction by the Moscow Museum of Modern Art: Recycle Group Conversion
~by Stephen Richards (longzijun)
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