Si Deus pro Nobis, Quis contra Nos?
Si Deus pro Nobis, Quis contra Nos? is an installation diptych whose title derives from the extract of St. Paul's sentence in the Letter to the Romans. "If God is for us, who will be against us?": Can we say the same today? The figures of Vitale and Agricola were chosen by Vale Palmi as a symbol of the power of martyrdom, with that admiration - on the part of the artist - for those who know how to defend their position even through violence, until they reach Death. We live in a derelict society, which believes in nothing after Death.
What do we Western contemporaries know about martyrdom? How can we understand the faith of the two martyrs? The modern one is a nihilistic age in which God no longer exists, killed by men and their technologies. If we no longer believe in the Afterlife, what will our attitude in life be then? Quoting Vettor Pisani: 'modern man must recover his own tragedy, his own drama. A society like ours, which thinks only of life or survival - which is even worse - subtracts and censors the ritual of death. Today death has become invisible. It is necessary to re-establish the feeling of the tragic, because life is tragic and to cancel its destiny of drama is an attempt at alienation'. And it is precisely in this perspective that one of the pillars of Vale Palmi's artistic research is placed, the Elevation of Death.
The performer invites the audience to come into contact with it, with its manifestations and its consequences; she opposes its removal making it socially acceptable; she proposes a different approach to what is usually rejected, offering a 'positive' reading while remaining faithful to its essence. The same criterion is also applied to Matter: our culture is hygienic, leaning towards cleaning the virtual against the dirt of the material, applying a sort of purge, dematerializing the flesh in favour of ethereal bodies. Vale Palmi, through form, works a catharsis that purifies and makes pleasant images usually repugnant; he discovers and shows beauty in what is ugly, presenting it to the natural.
To this end we find in many of his performances, including this one, the use of tin, mud, blood and corpses. Corners and buckets are the places where the events that Vale Palmi stages take place; protected, collected, but also open micro-worlds, where everything that is called Obscene (in the sense of O-scene: outside the scene, which must be kept hidden) can happen. These are the places that contain, protect and expose foul organic elements, outside the health regulations, such as mud, blood and corpses. They are also inviolable spaces where trivial elements accumulate, painful but enjoyed feelings and thorny themes that are overturned in a positive way with respect to an indecent vision for common morality. This clarifies another of the cornerstones of Vale Palmi's quest, namely the Exhumation of the Obscene.
Maria Chiara Wang
Si Deus pro Nobis
White Corner, Gasbeton brick wall, two large buckets of galvanized iron overturned, engraved reliquary plates, audio with hidden small speakers (Siri pray).
Excerpt from the text by Rebecca Ardizzoni
Zucchelli Foundation, Bologna
(...) A sound, perceptible from the entrance of the room, brings us back to reality: a robot praying. What hope can it have? An automatism takes possession of words of faith, a symbol of our derelict society, in which the phrase "Si Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos?" is used. ("If God is for us, who will be against us?") no longer has the same meaning as it had for the martyrs Vitale and Agricola. Si Deus pro Nobis: two buckets overturned, closed, with the names of the saints engraved, the corner walled, denied is contact with the divine. The radical gesture of the two martyrs, who died to defend their faith, is solemnly and respectfully remembered. And what about contemporary man? (...)
A photographic shot of the work was exhibited at ArtVerona 2019, Labs Gallery stand
Quis contra Nos?
White corner, two medium galvanized iron buckets, two lamb heads, headphones with audio, dense mud protective band.
A white corner, two small buckets of galvanized iron: reliquaries. The heads of Vitale and Agricola are placed inside them: heads of Lamb, one per bucket. Those who want to take a position and decide to listen to the words of the protomartyrs, will have to overcome a band of protection and respect consisting of high clods of wet earth.
In this second part of the diptych "Si Deus pro Nobis, Quis contra Nos?", compared to the first more dystopian and nihilistic one, there is a revenge, a rebirth, of Vitale and Agricola who challenge and actively interact with the spectator. The Angolo opens up again and is Angolo, the buckets are back on their feet and the relics placed inside them. The Body returns with its smell to be heard by the spectator. Once they have passed the mud barrier, the onlookers, who have arrived inside the Corner-reliquary, will be able to see the heads of the martyrs (the Part for the Whole) and will be able to hear, through headphones, Vitale's words and live the determination of those who do not want to abjure. In order to be able to approach and speak with the Dead, it is necessary to be sensitive, to take a serious, respectful and listening position. The band of respect and protection, made up of clods of earth, refers here to the story of Boniface VIII and the burial of the Church. The martyrs, who are there for us, represent Life after Life.
This installation thus becomes a further testimony to the denial of Death as commonly understood and proposes a newfound Spirituality capable of defeating capitalism and consumerism.
Maria Chiara Wang