video, color, sound, 12’26”,
(video stills) new and found footages (Youtube /

(click on the image to watch the video: password MAR2015)

How are words transformed into power and how do they gain authority? What happens when images contradict sound or voice? What difference does it make to the political message that the person speaking the words is not the person mouthing the words on screen? The video’s of the project IN PRINCIPIO ERAT VERBUM explore the performativity of the political and religious speech through the disembodiment of the voice and question the value of the spoken word in relation to its performer.

I’m interested in the strategies with which institutions, as politics and religion, use the public contemporary media to influence public opinion, that in return legitimate the leader’s power through consensus: the support given to a leader by the applause of a yelling crowd, legitimize the power of the performing person. According to Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, power is given to leaders by acclamation (cheering and applauding masses). He states that public opinion is the modern form of acclamation which is a powerful tool that survive in modern society from early christianity and roman empire.

In my latest work, I have been dealing with the Pope’s speech given to the European parliament on the 25th of november 2014. The religious leader was invited by Martin Schulz, the president of the european Parliament, during his previous visit to the Vatican on 11 October 2013. If  there is a separation between church and state, why did the european parliament invite the Pope? Could it be that, through the invitation, the parliament admits indirectly that it has lost its power to think and implement solutions that could bring a real change in the present crisis? Europe is going through an economic crisis as well an identity crisis. The European Union is also confronted with the upcoming radicalization of Islam and terrorist violence. Therefore Europe by going back to it’s Christian roots and, through the authority of the religious leader, tries to bring back unity, identity and especially power, in terms of authority. To reclaim its power, politics brings the ‘sacred’ into its environment, like the ancient kings needed the divine investiture to legitimize their role.

The whole speech is a 35 min. speech. I reduced the footage to 13 min.following the strategy of consensus. That means that I selected all the sentences / part of the speech at which the audience applauded. With the shorter speech, I want to question the power given to the speech, related to the function of who is declaiming it, regardless of the content of the speech.

Public screening:

Gallery 1646, The Hague (February 2015)

THE GREAT ESCAPE, Graduation Show Master Artistic Research – Royal Academy of Art (KABK), The Hague.
Exhibition curated by Maziar Afrassiabi & Jack Segbars (July 2015)

DE KIJKDOOS Project Space, Amsterdam
(De Kijkdoos)

OVER GRENZEN, DE MENSELIJKE MAAT (Across borders, the human dimension) 2016
# Aftrap4 – ARTtrium
Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelatie (Ministry of Interior), The Hague
(Exhibition catalog)

See my other work

Pierfrancesco Gava

Wilhelmina Pakhuis
Veemkade 596
1019BL Amsterdam

Phone: +31(0)6 41681139

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