practice has always been focused on the relationship between religion
and power, using video-installations and sculptures. I'm interested in
the manifestation of the secular power of religion and in the blurred
boundaries between the public performances enacted by political and
religious leaders in the media.
media images, spread by political or religious leaders, are conceived to gain
popularity and to increase power. How does the media confer power to a leader?
And what is the role of the audience in giving power to him?
interested in the strategies with which institutions, as politics and religion, use
the public contemporary media to influence public opinion, that in return
legitimate the leader’s power through consensus: the support given to a leader
by the applause of a yelling crowd, legitimize the power of the performing
person. According to Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, power is given to leaders by acclamation
(cheering and applauding masses). He states that public opinion is the modern
form of acclamation which is a powerful tool that survive in modern society
from early christianity and roman empire.
the footage of the last meeting of Barak Obama and Pope Francis at the
in 2014 and the Pope's speech given to the European parliament on the
25th of november 2014, I investigated the blurred boundaries between
the sacred and
secularized strategies used in the media. The religious institution
same media technique with many other areas of modern secular society,
politics, to entertainment to information. What are the different tasks
religious and secularized institutions? Are they that different, or do
overlap and almost meld in to one another?
public footage of the meeting and accompanied them with the voice of a
narrator, my video essay A Glorious society reveal the manipulative and
staged nature of the public images, so that the viewer’s perception can be
disturbed and be challenged. In my work I also question the value of leader’s
speeches in relation to their voice and image. What gives power to the leader’s
speech, his voice, the content of the speech or his image?
Script of the video essay
A Glorious Society (2015)
Marc De Kesel
- The dream
the mandates of the Counter Reformation, the church established how the
theological themes should be represented to spread its message and reinforce
its institutional power. The two versions of Caravaggio’s ‘St. Matthew and the
angel’ painted in 1602, perfectly illustrate the influence of this
communication strategy. Today religion has replaced paintings with media
technologies to promote religious images. Can the perception of these images be
challenged to generate a better understanding of the contained message?
scene from Pasolini’s Decameron, in which a painter dreams about a divine
representation, shows some technical imperfections that disturb the viewer’s
perception. This example illustrates the tension between the possibility of
believing in an image or being disappointed by it.
II. The silent voice
images spread by religious or political leaders consolidate their authority.
Their voices communicate content. What is the value of their voice? What gives
power to the leader’s speech, his voice, the speech or his image? What makes a
voice political; the uniqueness of its sound or the content of what is said?
Orality, can be understood not only as communication
but also as gesture. A performative function of the spoken word which activates
written words. A visionary from Medjugorie, who silently talks to the Virgin
Lady every month, shows the peculiarity of the communication. Even a silent
speech could also be understood as an act of speaking, as a gesture.
III. A glorious society
gives power to the leader’s voice and consequently to the leader’s speech? The
support given to a person by the applause of a yelling crowd, generate and
legitimize his power. The acclamation of masses is the source of this power. In
modern democracy, media is important because it allows control and governs
public opinion and in this way distributes glory and therefore power. Leaders
use the media to increase their popularity. Their continuous presence on the
network make their image credible in viewer’s perception, conferring them with
even the ‘divine’ quality of omnipresence. As a consequence, the viewer can
accept without resistance their voice and their message. Since people possess
the capacity to give power through acclamation, can the masses break this spell
and regain their power?
The popular expression of faith is dependen on its approval by the official
institution of the Church. I perceive the analysis of these two
opposing tensions as a metaphor of a modern power strategy. The religious sentiment of the people often has represented
and still represents a risk to the success and the preservation of the
religious institution itself. Very often, however, when the
exclusion of the anomalous expression from the doctrine could be
counterproductive, the church preferred to change strategy and to
include it, adapting or modifying the doctrine itself. This is the case
of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, whose dogmas and veneration have
recent origins. The Vatican have approved about 16 Marian apparitions,
among which two of the best known are those of Lourdes (France) started
in 1858, and those at Fatima (Portugal) started in 1915. The strategy
of the inclusion of anomalous phenomena in the doctrine is regulated by
a number of documents written by the church. In the specific case of
the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, because of the increasing number of
apparitions in the last century, the Sacred Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith has prepared a document with a description of the
rules to proceed in the discernment of presumed apparitions and
revelations. Certainly, the human need for a form of religiosity that is
sometimes even created by the individual in his private life, challenge
and question the official doctrine. That's why I'm driven to
investigate in more detail the phenomenon of ‛people’s expression of
faith’ and the encounter of this expression with the ecclesiastical institution.
my previous work I have been also using public footage from Youtube, not only
to explore the institutional strategy to influence public opinion but to
explore how people perceive public informations. The video fragments posted by
youtube subscribers reflect directly (if they post their own footage) and
indirectly (if they post fragments selected from internet) what captured their
attention on important topics like immigration and religion.
(see, older work, Documentary/trailer, Video MEDJUGORJE, 2013. - recent work, MARE NOSTRUM, 2014)
MAPPING THE LADY IV
(see Recent work)
An anthropological approach
The phenomenology of
religion is a human need for the sacred and
rituals. A need that men always have shown in different times and cultures.
Recent contributions of neuroscience consider this need of the homo sapiens as
an innate survival strategy of the species. The neocortex of the sapiens has
developed a predisposition for animism during the evolution process: the
believe that behind every natural phenomenon an animated will is hidden, has
guaranteed differential survival for the benefit of the 'alarmed' species and
therefore more circumspect. Through the evolutionary 'errors' of the DNA, the
development of the neocortex has led us to develop new functions in the brain:
consciousness and freedom. In contrast to other primates, the neocortex of
sapiens is no longer binding its behavior to natural instincts, but opens it up
to new possibilities. The sacred then, as well as illusive answer to the
meaning of life, has become a regulatory structure for the freedom of primitive
men. Marcel Gauchet wrote that the sacred is the tool that allowed our species
to create the structures of social life no longer ensured by the instincts.
Religion requires respect for the rules and presupposes an act of surrender to
dogmas that can not be penetrate and learned throughout their entirety. Is
modern man able to conciliate the religious and secular world?
I am fascinated to the timeless nature of
the rituals within the religion. With relatively encoded behaviors and
gestures, the ritual has a repetitive nature and refers to symbols recognized
by the community. Because of its ordered and repetitive sequences, the ritual
provides a control on the anxiety of social changes. People can control what
they perceive as danger in society or in private life, through the performance
of the ritual because it keeps them separate for a period of time from the
previous situation. The ritual interrupts then the historical time because its
repetition regenerates time all over again. The aspiration to 'start over' in
every ceremonial reflectes the paradoxical desire to inaugurate an ahistorical
existence in a 'sacred' time against the flow of the profane. What are the
places in which modern man experiences the a-temporality of his rituals? Is modern
man able to interrupt his time through the rituals?