You (1986-7) by Lawrence Carroll

Genesis inspires Vatican's Biennale debut

The Holy See brings a creationist-themed, multimedia exhibition to the 55th Venice Biennale this June

The Vatican be a only a few hundred miles from the Venetian lagoon, yet The Holy See joins far-flung newcomers Tuvalu and Cote D'Ivoire as a first-time international participant at this year's Venice Biennale.

The religious city-state has commissioned a three-part, biblically themed exhibition for its pavilion at the Arsenale, entitled Creation, Uncreation, Recreation. The initial part of the exhibition, Creation, is put together by the new media artists group, Studio Azzuro, and promises to "trigger a dialogue, awash with echoes and reverberations, between the vegetable and animal kingdoms and the human dimension."


Prague, August 1968 by Josef Koudelka
Prague, August 1968 by Josef Koudelka

Uncreation, meanwhile, dwells on both biblical and secular destruction, and features the work of Czech photographer Josef Koudelka, whose work did much to expose the horrors of Soviet-occupied Prague. While the Vatican doesn't dwell on it explicitly, surely this places some emphasis on Catholicism's role in The Cold War.

Recreation, meanwhile, dwells on the theme of salvage and renewal, which would, in an age of recycling and ecology, appear to have both practical, latter-day significance, as well as numinous resonance. This section of the exhibition will dwell on the work of the Australian-born, US-based artist, Lawrence Carroll, "and in particular those aspects of his work tied to salvaged materials and the processes of transfiguration." The Vatican adds that this final section will also draw from the radical Italian Arte Povera movement of the late 1960s.

In all, it sounds like a canny exhibition, free from the crosses and icons of old religious art, while engaging with themes that concern both devote and secular audiences. Many commentators have praised Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, for successfully organising so appealling a show. To learn more, visit the Vatican's site. For more on Arte Povera, take a look at our book; for further insight into Koudelka and his peers, consider our Magnum book; for greater insight into the work of Studio Azzzuro, please consider our Art and Electronic Media book.