art KARLSRUHE 21. - 24.02.2019
Internationale Messe für klassische Moderne und Gegenwartskunst
21.02. - 24.02.2019
Messe Karlsruhe, Halle 2, Skulpturenplatz A17
Bernd Reiter, 2018 – 7 church pews and 40 television monitors
length: 710 cm, width: 700 cm, height: 570 cm
Wooden benches, erected and wedged into each other at the top to form a large arch, rise upwards towards the heavens, providing the contours of a vaulted space with an impressive height of nearly six metres. The installation recalls the skeleton structure of a dome or its cross-section. Additional benches are placed in front of this, inviting visitors to take a seat. Similar to a church interior, these benches offer an opportunity not only for visitors to pause for reflection, to raise awareness and to visualise, but also and above all to participate – in the sense of both empathy and actual participation. As in other works by Bernd Reiter, the suggested cupola of the installation (schein)heilig [sanctimonious/sacred] is equipped with television monitors. In addition to film sequences, news reports and images, these also present catchwords from ecclesiastical history that speak for themselves. As with the large-scale sculptural installation Ironie des Schicksals [Irony of Fate], presented last year at the art KARLSRUHE, the artist makes a socio-political statement with this work, in particular with regard to the abuse scandals of recent decades.
These are not normal wooden benches, but rather pews appropriated from a desecrated and secularised church and assembled here by the artist in the form of a vaulted arch, reminiscent of the ceiling of a nave in a church. The church as a site of alienation, cover-ups and humiliation – a site that should actually be a place of community and care, of togetherness and solicitude, a sanctuary. Today, however, it has also become a site of abuse, of scandals, a shelter for an untrustworthy communion.
With his sculptural installation, Bernd Reiter addresses – in a way that is accessible to everyone – the contemporary critical confrontation with the morality, ethics and decency of the church as an institution of power: The church is an institution with its own system of laws and legal principles – canon law. But does one have to belong to such an alliance of systematic cover-up in order to believe? Is faith in the (official) church not diminished by its past, as well as its present? Does the church have the right to claim its own (moral and ethical) right for itself? Is not discussion, holistic consideration, the truth the right way to oppose dogmatic principles? Is the truth too brutal, too difficult, too unsettling?
The church is meant to be a place of reflection, of communion, of faith, and the work of art a site of contemplation, of retrospection, of reflection. To experience the church, to question it critically, to evaluate facts, to express emotions, to feel guilt and atonement regardless of faith, religion or deity.
With the sculptural installation (schein)heilig, Bernd Reiter sets an example of compassion in commemoration of the many victims who were helplessly exposed to arbitrariness and power – crimes against humanity, against which resistance and rebellion seemed impossible. Bernd Reiter sees himself as an avant-garde artist, as an artist who positions himself fearlessly ‘at the front’, who acts in the service of society and, above all, agitates.