Grand Tour der Mönche – Exhibition about the travel culture of the benedictines moving to Venedig 2018

Under this title the Stiftsarchiv St. Gallen presents an exhibition about the travel culture of the Benedictines. It offers a view of the monks’ surprising high level of mobility, and their interest in the language and culture of the south at a time when travelling was still an art. The objective is to structure the theme itself as well as the large amount of valuable exhibits (texts and images) and to present them scenographically in a space measuring 600m². The exhibition area is transformed into an urban space with lanes, corners, squares and interiors. The contents are structured and divided up between four boxes that you can walk into. At one and the same time they could be both containers for transport (outside) and studioli (inside) and are ascribed to the four thematic areas Peregrinatio, Instructio, Recreatio and Memorabilia. Essentially, the life of the pieces on display develops inside these boxes. Using specially developed patterns, colours and signets made up of initials the studioli are immersed in a baroque, semiotically charged atmosphere. The design work was preceded by research in the appropriate places and in Rome itself. The interplay between density and calm is developed in a way that is similar to the contrast between the travels of the monks and their usual life based on contemplation and stabilitas loci.

The design of both the poster and the exhibition plays repeatedly with the interference between two poles. As the title reveals, the concern is ultimately the relationship between two early big cities, Rome as the head of the Christian world, its market in indulgences overflowing with relics, and Naples, at the time the world’s most beautiful port. The arduous nature of travel in those times is made legible through the large wooden construction made of oriented strand boards (OSB). And these in turn contrast with the beautiful, contemplative interior world of the “Ordo Sancti Benedicti”. The graphics on the walls and floors of the studioli play with the translucent structure of the wood fibres, producing an interesting harmony between the two “OSBs“.

The last box is a cabinet of curiosities on the theme of “Memorabilia”. It dreamily evokes memories of the sky in the south – again a large digital print on OSB panels – and opposite, where the sky of St. Gallen would otherwise have been visible, a view into the world of early photography on glass panels is offered. Or another example: we deliberately placed the contemporary photographs of Naples by Katalin Deér on slender stands in an external poster exhibition on Klosterplatz. In the printed material advertising the exhibition the logo type overwrites details of historic depictions of Mount Vesuvius.