It seems that for my generation religion is no longer relevant. It is curious, however, that, by taking various detours, the world of religious images appears to return to us in the areas of commerce and consumption. This is an interesting phenomenon. For me the quintessence of a religious conceptual world is paradise. In paradise things happen that we cannot see or prove and a considerable amount of pathos is attached to everything paradisiacal. This pathos is also found in ritual, in the architecture of religion and in the image of God. The priest’s vestments, the politician’s clothing, the chambers of bishops and presidents, the palaces of popes and bosses are always exaggeratedly beautiful and always symbolize the same: glitter and glory. I am interested in the kinds of visual means and values that are used to convey ownership, wealth, power and glory.
The signs and the symbols of the church have a real effect on us; they direct our feelings and move us towards devotion or rejection. I often experience a feeling of awe or reverence when I enter a church. A beautiful cultural building or a proud government building also convey something sublime. Looked at more closely both of these are visual languages, one is the language of religion, the other of capital; they are similar to each other and yet different. They influence us in a way that we generally do not consciously grasp.
In my research I discovered many similarities in the way the divine and wealth are represented. The church and capital often work with the same means – the holy is commercialised and the market is deified. Christ’s efforts to drive the money-changers out of the table were in vain. Religion employs the means of marketing and advertising. And vice-versa: advertising makes use of religious images and also promises salvation and ecstasy.
My work led me to reflect further about the theme of religion and money. Religion gives my life a transcendental dimension – a kind of dream world which is in an open relationship to the idea of God. I discovered a number of differences between the conceptual world of the divine that exists here in Holland and the one I am familiar with. Exploring these in depth is work for an academic, not for a visual designer. For my theme the following aspect seems important: the idea of God here in Holland is shaped by the Reformation and Calvinism and produces a more rational, flatter and more text oriented image – as a result the aspect of mystery is reduced or even eliminated. In contrast the Austrian conceptual world of the divine is influenced by the Counter-Reformation and the Baroque. This produced an absolute world, a sublime image of God – God is above everything.
The goal of the project
Using a number of short illustrated stories my aim is to show a number of relationships between religious and material values. The intention is to question the self-evident nature of certain visual values, schemes and concepts.
Separation and connection of two languages
Otl Aicher writes about the connection of religious and profane images: because Latin, the international language of the church, could not be understood by lay Europeans, religious truths were explained to them through iconographically standardised images. However, a radical increase in density and a simplification of the iconographic depictions that made them into pictograms emerged only at the start of the 20th century. At that time religious visual language communicated the global language of the Christian world; today it is pictograms, signs and symbols that direct and shape us.
In my visual work I attempt to relate these two languages to each other. The aim is to bring about a direct encounter between images of religion and images of the present-day world.
One characteristic of religions is their strongly spiritual conceptual world made up of ideas, images and regulations on the ways in which these should be used. I wish to connect these images with the pictogram language of today. This is an encounter between very different but equally striking signs and symbols.
I began my research playfully and semiotically. I transformed various symbols and their values with regard to the themes of money and religion. I tried to contrast the visual worlds of religion and of money with each other. I visited two casinos and two churches, interviewed representatives of each and compared the impressions and statements in the context of my theme. After this I looked for a place where both worlds are connected. I visited an exhibition where you could admire and buy all imaginable kinds of religious products. I felt there how strongly commercialized religion is. This experience and my research work on religious catalogues in the Internet led me to reflect on the values of religion and ultimately brought me to the contents of my graduation thesis.
God is dead, the glitter and glory continue, but other showplaces. The “corporate design” of God changes its medium and is now used to clothe a commercial, materialistic world. Consumption does not fill the gaps and the emptiness.
Personal details · motivation
I grew up in a family of designers in Vorarlberg in western Austria. Today I know that living in a beautiful green setting surrounded by mountains strongly influenced me. As a child fantasy and dreams played an important role. My father often took me with him to his graphic design studio where I spent the time painting. At the age of fifteen I decided to attend the Schule für Gestaltung in St. Gallen (CH). During the five years of study I became familiar with the “Swiss Style” of design. Design in Switzerland is reduced and precise. I found Dutch design in contrast somewhat more open and free. This contrast also gave me a reason to further develop my design work and thinking in Holland. I sought a certain distance from my family so that I could develop and foster my own identity. Here in Holland I changed the way I looked at my home.
© Andrea Redolfi