Exhibition in the Great – Lebuinuschurch in Deventer

Interview with curator and video artist Arent Weevers

Why put video art in a church? “This is such a beautiful church. I’ve hosted a video art exhibition here two years ago and received very good responses. Also, I don’t shun debate.”

What can art mean for the Protestant tradition? “We find more and more modern art in churches nowadays, but the works are often a little tame. What you find here puts this community on the map. Abramovic’s performance is somewhat on the violent side. There are pieces that make you wonder whether they may or may not be blasphemous. This is art of a very high standard.”

Has it been well received? “Yes, this community is open to modern-day culture and open to debate on the relationship between the Church and modern art.”

And what about visitors who are not a part of this community? Will they not consider this environment as an ethical straightjacket? “If they’re open minded towards the exhibition they might immediately get over those prejudices and see this is not an attempt towards evangelization or moral reveille.”

Both Bible stories and art provide spiritual sustenance for Weevers. “They provide me with experiences that are larger than life. An inherent aspect of spirituality is that there’s an empty place inside man. A desire that can never be fulfilled.”

By which he means the basic human needs such as friendship, peace and most of all love. The image used in Weevers’ video art is that of a naked Mary in the late stages of her pregnancy who clasps her belly and falls down. “I had to wait a year to obtain a camera that could film it this way”, the artist explains. We’re speaking of a HD high-speed camera that snapped the action in 800 frames, or images, per second. That is why the take, which lasts only seven seconds, can be drawn out to last for over five minutes. “This creates a syrupy effect. Furthermore, it wasn’t easy to find a woman who had no objection to posing naked and who would not be afraid to plummet to the ground even though she was expecting. I consulted gynecologists and obstetricians. The fear women have to lose a child this way is unsubstantiated.” But Weevers did make a deal with a retailer for thirty duvets to break Mary’s fall.

According to the artist, “Mary!” is a reference to the gospels and Book of Revelation of John, the last book of the New Testament which foretells of the Apocalypse. “In which pregnant women are not only afraid of birth pain but also of the end of the world. However, the video images transcend anything I can say about them.”

Have you experienced mystical feelings when looking at art? “I once stood in front of a piece by American painter Mark Rothko in The Museum of Modern Art. I saw the intensely pulsing black of the canvas and couldn’t help but tear up. The same happened to me in front of ‘Stations’, a work by Viola. I can feel the effect again now. During an experience like that you rise above yourself and you transform. The transformation lingers, until the next occasion when you’re hit like that again and think: ‘What’s happening here?’ During such moments I experience life at its best. There’s a sense of kinship and I feel human, the way I was intended.”

How do you do it? “You have to be open to it, or it will not happen to you at all. It’s like love and happiness, these sometimes simply appear on your doorstep. Don’t think about it. If it occurs, it’s amazing. If it doesn’t, then just walk on.”