8. Salzburg Art Project
Christian Boltanski | Vanitas

Installation project in the crypt of the Salzburg Cathedral

Assuming particular importance within the programme of sculpture projects initiated by the Salzburg Foundation, the Eighth Salzburg Art Project is inviting visitors to an historical site, which had previously lain inaccessible prior to the current restoration work – undertaken especially for this event. In the choir crypt of the Late Romanesque Salzburg Cathedral, the French artist Christian Boltanski is staging a shadow play entitled “Vanitas” which perfectly matches this unique setting. Here Boltanski has successfully forged a vision of ephemerality, entirely consistent with the ambience of the location: Formerly occupying consecrated ground, the choir crypt also served as a burial chamber. Through his artistic intervention, Christian Boltanski has transformed this historical space into a site of mystery, which unites the spirituality of his art with the sacred churchly aura.

Christian Boltanski‘s installation “Vanitas” comprises two parts, one sculptural, the other acoustic. On one wall the artist has mounted twelve delicately slender, puppet-like figures cut from sheet metal, which are illuminated by candles. In the flickering light they cast shadows onto the wall, and the apse is filled with the revolving projection of the shadowy angel of death. At the same time, the sound of a looped recording of the automatic speaking-clock echoes through the room. The artist’s shadow play is a modern “Danse Macabre”, with time passing audibly as one observes it: “I want time to be heard and sensed“, states Christian Boltanski in explanation of his work. “People are capable of many things, but they cannot turn back the flow of time. God is the Lord of time.“