The Holy See participates this year for the second time at the Biennale d’Arte di Venezia, with a Pavilion inspired by the New Testament. In the Beginning, the Word became flesh is the theme chosen by the Commissioner Card. Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, at whose request the theme of the “Beginning” has been developed, passing from the 2013 edition’s reference to Genesis to that of the Prologue of the Gospel of John.
The structure of the Pavilion is articulated around two essential poles: firstly, the transcendent Word, which is “in the beginning” and which reveals the dialogical and communicative nature of the God of Jesus Christ (v. 1-5); and then the Word made “flesh”, body, bringing the presence of God in humanity, especially where it appears injured and suffering (v. 14). The encounter of these “vertical-transcendent” and “horizontal-immanent” dimensions is the heart of the research. The two “tables” of the Prologue of John’s Gospel are the basic inspiration for the artistic creations of three artists, who have been chosen after a long selection, in light of some precise criteria: the consonance of their own journeys with the chosen theme, the variety of the techniques used, their internationality, diversity and geographic and cultural provenance, and above all the open and evolutionary nature of their work
The desire to re-establish dialogue between art and faith continues after the experience of 2013, and there remains a great vivacity of interest in the international sphere concerning the relationship between the Church and contemporary art.
Following the first edition, the Pavilion of the Holy See at the 56th Biennale d’Arte di Venezia develops the theme of the “Beginning” with a movement from the Old to the New Testament, making the Logos and the Flesh the terms of a constantly living relationship.
With reference to Genesis, understood as Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation, which was the object of our reflection in 2013, we now have a new term of encounter in the Prologue of the Gospel of John. Two essential aspects of this meeting are highlighted: the transcendent Word is “in the beginning”, and at the same time reveals the dialogical and communicational nature of the God of Jesus Christ (v. 1-5), and the Word that becomes “flesh”, body, bringing the presence of God into the essence of humanity, especially where it seems injured and suffering (v. 14).
The descent to immanence is expressed in almost visual terms in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is taken up in this context as a further thematic suggestion completely in perspective. The pages of the Gospel of Luke offer the image of a God present within a humanity oppressed in a human condition. God made flesh helps the injured man, who is marked by death and fragility.
The “vertical-transcendent” dimension of the Logos and the “horizontal-immanent” dimension of the “flesh” are axes of research in this sense. There is a need to refer to these as they cross over, to understand the single pieces of art, the dialogue that they create between each other within the exhibition space.
The terms of the Prologue of the Johannine Gospel inspire the thematic spaces into which the Pavilion is divided. They find the creations of artists who have been selected in light of the consonance of their current research journey with the chosen theme, for the variety of the techniques used, and for their geographic and cultural provenance.
- Mário Macilau, A Fish Story, 2012-2015. Photo: Mário Macilau. Courtesy of Cataldo Colella