Red in art is not necessarily new. It has a long history that can be traced back to paleolithic cave painting. One can also refer to Matisse’s red room (Harmony in Red, 1908), an icon of early modernist painting. In the past, I had the opportunity to experience red in many different ways. I entered a red room by Cildo Meireles (Red Shift I, 1967-1984), visited an entire exhibition dedicated to the colour red at the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam, 2010-2011) and even witnessed red being fired from a cannon by Anish Kapoor (Shooting into the Corner, 2009-2013), but nothing compared to the overwhelming and paradoxical experience of being immersed in red as in the work Anastasis by Italian artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. His site-specific installation completely changed the interior of the church. I felt comforted by the red light flooding the space, as well as extremely bothered by it. Every time I blinked, my eyes were filled with a ghostly green. It was not easy to walk around and perceive the church. And at the same time, I was taken over by an intoxicating sensation of being alive and present. A kind of mindfulness that reminded me of the mellow after-effects of an ayahuasca potion, when all the psychedelia wears out. A feeling that you have just done a 5-years psychotherapy session all at once, and you are okay with it. Of course, Anastasis does not go that far. However, it makes you ponder about life itself, the point of religion, art, society, and obviously death –the church floor is a great reminder of it. We feel diminished by the monumentality of the church and the fragility of the stained-glass windows, sensing the unavoidable entropic nature of time consuming all things natural and manmade. Stuff that I usually think about anyway. We can all have informed opinions about art, the connection of the work with the history of the Oude Kerk, the state of art practice today, and so on. However, nothing matters more than the powerful responses triggered by the work itself, regardless of one’s familiarity with the ins and outs of the contemporary art debate and the attempt to justify the need for art at present. The images included here do not do justice to the experience of Anastasis. Go and check it out for yourself. It is a worthwhile experience at the Oude Kerk.
[Anastasis by Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Oude Kerk, 25 May – 23 September 2018].