ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe
23-11-2008 / 19-04-2009
Today’s religious movements operate predominantly with images that can be spread across the entire world in a flash by means of contemporary mass media. The electronic picture media video and television have become the chosen media for religious propaganda as they are capable of being produced and distributed especially fast. The “return of religions” that people are currently talking about does not necessarily mean that more people have become religious nowadays. Instead, religions have moved from the private sphere of personal belief out into the public sphere of visual communication. In this, religions function, for one, as machines for the repetition and mass medial distribution of mechanically produced images.
For another, the role model for this repetition is found in the repeatability of religious rituals, which is the foundation for the emergence of all subsequent medial reproduction technologies. The original media used by religions were scriptures and books, assigned the same task of distributing belief. Text served, additionally, to canonize belief. Without writing there is no church; without scrolls, no belief. Thus, right from the start, through the demand for repeatability embodied by the ritual, religion was not only bound to media, but was itself a medium: religion as medium complements media as religion.
The exhibition “Medium Religion” aims at demonstrating this medial aspect of religion using current examples of religious video propaganda and the work of contemporary artists. The horizons of religion have expanded enormously through the development of electronic media. The uncomplicated recording of the message (e.g., the video message), the rapid distribution, and huge, nearly global scope (e.g., television, Internet), offered a technological base for religions’ reentry into public awareness. Since the mass media constitute public awareness and religion makes use of mass media (e.g., the broadcast of the Papal mass from Rome), it is only logical that it, too, will shift more into public awareness. The result is the reevaluation of minority faiths and their messages.