Everything is darkness
Curator: Iwona Bigos
20.12.2016 – 15.02.2017
OP ENHEIM is a house of openness and respect built upon the foundation of undistorted history and responsibility for the future. It is located in the Baroque townhouse at Plac Solny, now undergoing renovation. For the duration of the restoration work, OP ENHEIM is planning to present to the Wrocław audience several works of art by well-known Polish artists. All artists invited to participate in the project will comment upon the global contemporaneity by exploring the local history. Given the context of the Oppenheim House, this history is also – or perhaps above all – the history of Wrocław’s Jews who co-created the city for many centuries.
The Memory of the future project aims both to discover the often deliberately forgotten historic facts and ask questions about the relationship between power, religion and violence. Drawing upon the Christian tradition of reconciliation and Christmas truce, and using the symbol of the Star of Bethlehem and the Star of David, OP ENHEIM firmly says NO to racism, exclusion, intolerance, distortion of history and repetition of mistakes.
Hubert Czerepok’s installation Everything is darkness depicts two interlaced stars – the Star of Bethlehem and the Star of David. This recognised artist, currently living in Wrocław, often fills his work with well-known symbols which he uses in non-traditional contexts, thus giving them a new meaning and simultaneously asking questions about the relationship between power, violence and religion. In the context of the shining celestial bodies, the subversive title of this work lends a new interpretation to popular religious symbols.
At one level, Everything is darkness is the Star of Bethlehem in the form of a comet. Alongside the Christmas crib and truth-seeking Magi, this is one of the most common motifs of Christian iconography. However, the Star of Bethlehem is not only a symbol of Christmas, but it also stands for pursuit of knowledge, reconciliation of different cultures and victory of wisdom over evil.
At another level, Czerepok’s work emerges as the Star of David, also known as the Shield of David or the Star of Zion, a symbol which is as important to the followers of Judaism as the Star of Bethlehem is to Christians. The hexagram composed of two interlocking equilateral triangles has been used for ages, mainly as a symbol of harmony created by two opposing forces, such as the male and female factor, or the heavenly and human element. It is worth remembering that the symbol has been used as an ornament, or magical sign by Muslims, Christians and Jews. At present, the Star of David is the most common and universal symbol of Judaism and Jewish identity. It has been the emblem of the Zionist movement since 1897, and the central element of the Israeli flag since 1948.
In his work, Czerepok combines the two meaningful symbols into a single object that transforms itself from one into another. Placing it on the façade of the Oppenheim House whose past reflects the tragic history of the Wrocław Jews emphasises the inextricable and tension-filled relationship between Christianity and Judaism. One must not forget that this positively loaded hexagram is also the yellow Star of David – a symbol of the Holocaust.
By superimposing such distinctive symbols over each other, the artist plays with the viewers’ knowledge, as well as with their conscious and subconscious memory. Czerepok abandons the traditional neon technology in favour of LED rope lights, a material which in recent years has become very popular with Christmas light manufacturers. As a result, his work gains additional lightness and irony. However, its subtlety and simplicity is only apparent: from time immemorial, a comet has been believed to announce changes, not necessarily the good ones. In the context of present events, the work’s title Everything is darkness, which is far from optimistic, calls into question the idealistic humanist message of the joint pursuit of the Star of Bethlehem in search of the truth, knowledge, equality and tolerance.
The installation was on display on the façade of the Oppenheim House from 20 December 2016 to 15 February 2017
Hubert Czerepok, Wszystko jest ciemnością / Everything is Darkness, 2007, a site specific installation, LED rope lights, aluminium, ca. 362, photo Paweł Jakubek, © Hubert Czerepok, by courtesy of OP ENHEIM