Lucca, Italy – Dutch artist Levi van Veluw was raised in Hoevelaken, a small town in the 'Bible Belt' of the Netherlands. As the grandson of a minister, he grew up fascinated about the mysticism and rituals surrounding the church he was reared in; the artist recalls that it was the stark visual language of his congregation’s practice that made him sensitive to the visual vernacular of religious seduction at an early age.
As van Veluw became older, he developed an interest in the metaphysical, emotional mechanisms behind consecrated spaces – even those of modern spiritual movements such as the Church of Scientology. Sanctum, an installation designed by van Veluw and curated by Angel Moya Garcia for the Tuscan cultural institution Tenuta Dello Scompiglio, is an attempt to manufacture a religious spatial experience, except without any tie to denomination.
Van Veluw positions the quasi-place-of-worship as a place to explore how ‘various faiths operate in the mind of the faithful, through form and image.’ But the vision of his installation too leaves one wondering if – and how – contemporary design can be made to feel sacred. This is an especially poignant consideration in light of the devastation of the Notre-Dame fire and the consequent proposals for rebuilding; some reverent, others far from it.
Though it looks more like a film noir set than a traditional church, the half-enchanting, half-ominous interpretation of a holy tabernacle that is Sanctum is both forward-looking and respectful. The interior plays on the unexplored grey area between age-old and modern religious aesthetics.
In an underground 300-sq-m white cube below Dello Scompiglio, visitors are drawn in by an intoxicating navy blue glow that emanates from a narrow crack in the wall. More than 1,000 pillars, 5,000 litres of water and 2,000 kilograms of charcoal were installed within the high-ceilinged, subterranean space to achieve the desired effect. An open passage scattered with mountains of coal leads to a haven-like area in which fragrant water flows through an ordered pattern of geometric incisions in the flooring.
The symbols and common visual language used in spiritual places also work in a completely fictional place
Modelled after the Holy of Holies – the inner sanctuary of the ancient Tabernacle where God’s presence is said to have appeared, and the most sacred place in Judaism – is a centre ‘chapel’ composed of a detailed network of grids, boxes and openings.
'The symbols and common visual language used in spiritual places also work in a completely fictional place,' remarked van Veluw.
As to whether or not Sanctum is able to evoke a connection to the divine? One must make that assessment on one’s own.
Sanctum runs until 22 September 2019 at Dello Scompiglio.
Location Via di Vorno, 67, 55012 Vorno LU