Cutting a path through the sauntering crowd of tourists, the intense impressions and cannabis smell of the red light district, the pilgrim arrives at the last stop of the contemporary pilgrimage Art Stations of the Cross.
When I enter the masterly built Oude Kerk, the oldest building in the city of Amsterdam, I enjoy the church’s phenomenal harmony. It is an impressive gothic space with surprising incidence of light. The experience outside the walls is the very opposite and this has probably been the case during all the centuries the church stands.
The Holy Sepulchre Chapel in this still functioning house of prayer and museum in one, accommodates Stations #14 and #15, the burial and resurrection stations of this pilgrimage.
Jacqueline Grandjean, the director of the Oude Kerk describes the work of art in the chapel:
Since 2018 you can find a red window in the Holy Sepulchre Chapel. It is a work of art by Giorgio Andreotta Calò. This site-specific installation considers, among other things, the transformation of a Roman Catholic church (1306-1587) into a Protestant church (1587-present). The Holy Sepulchre Chapel was built in 1515 after the example of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. A canopy is visible in the space, under which you would expect to see something. In the sixteenth century a group of sculptures stood there that depicted the deposition and the mourning of Christ. This sculpture group was destroyed during an episode of the iconoclastic fury in 1566. Now there is emptiness and the canopy conveys the absence of the image. In the work Αναστάσης the artist deals with the visibility of the absent sculptures.
The former statues in the chapel have not been replaced. Through the insertion of red in the stained-glass window the artist does not alter anything in the space except for the light, yet in this way he alters everything. It takes time for eyes to adjust to the red and some people are disorientated. After the width of space and warmth of natural light in the church, the experience in the small red chapel conjures up feelings of estrangement while paradoxically embracing associations with love and blood, something like a womb. For those familiar with the liturgical tradition red stands for the suffering of Jesus Christ and also refers to the Holy Spirit.
In all cases there is a startling suggestion of another dimension.
Emptiness takes on the appearance of a new kind of presence. Not all problems are solved after Jesus’ death and his resurrection, but millions of people now have a changed view of life. The message of Easter brings us new courage. Everything is placed in a different light.
Giorgio Andreotta Calò: Αναστάσης (Resurrection), 2018, site-specific installation in the Holy Sepulchre Chapel of the Oude Kerk (Old Church). Photo installation: Maarten Nauw.
This visual meditation was published on April 21, 2019 on ArtWay.