by Johannes Gees
Prix Ars Electronica 2008 :: Hybrid Art :: Honorary Mention
Automated sound boxes broadcasting the Moslem «call for prayer/muezzin» were installed clandestinely by the artist on five important church towers in Switzerland: Grossmünster (Zürich), Münster (Bern), St. Leonhardskirche (St. Gallen), Wildkirchli (Appenzell), and Kloster Einsiedeln. On July 10, 2007, the boxes, which had been programmed, started to sound the call for prayer from the church towers, stopping pedestrians and disturbing the busy city life.
The media picked up the story and initiated a heated debate on who was responsible for the action. After 24 hours, the artist came forward with a statement. All the boxes were seized by the police. The artist was charged with disturbing «religious peace» under Article 256 of Swiss law.
Ever since 9/11, I have been thoroughly annoyed by the abuse of religion as a battlefround in international relations and national political-conflicts. In 2007, a grou of nationalist politicians initiated a referendum to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland (of which only three existed). One of the planned new minarets was supposed to be built in a small city called Langenthal. Its height 5 meters 25 centimeters.
I feel that spreading fear among people can only be understood as a lack of trust in the liberal values that matter to me. So I decided to make a statement against those who abuse religion to fight against some of the most important values of our society, such as generosity, tolerance and freedom of religion. Being an artist, I chose the classic artist´s strategy: provocation.