The Western world is fascinated by sin. Whether it’s gluttony, envy or lust; healthy food fads, FOMO or sex scandals, narratives of sin provide a framework for how society prescribes cultural norms and defines what it means to be human. And no other institution encapsulates this obsession with immorality quite like the Catholic Church.
It is the contradiction between Christian ideals of purity and the Church’s focus on sin and punishment that inspired artist Noemi Polo — otherwise known as Amore Agency — in her latest installation Palladian Dream. The artwork transformed Club Pro Los Angeles into a corrupt chapel that worshipped vice, decadence and hedonism. “I often find myself channeling ancient and long-established ideas in order to produce contemporary pop luxury,” Noemi says. In Palladian Dream, Noemi harks back to the story of creation, of “original sin”, for the construction of this uncanny religious space.
The installation includes images of Italian football fans crowned not by thorns but by ceiling fixtures, a flatscreen on top of an altar showing archival footage of Berlusconi, and wilted roses in rusting silverware. The chapel’s holy water has been replaced by Roberto Cavalli vodka. “Even when unintentional, every project I make has a reference to religious architecture and the sublime,” Noemi says. “I am attracted to symbolic objects in order to create, through these objects, spaces of ritual.” By artistically refashioning and reimagining everyday articles, Noemi prompts us to consider the status of modern – in particular technological – objects as a new religion and the changing moral norms of our everyday life in the digital world.
“Religion is what precessed technology in helping the human species find meaning. In the contemporary moment it feels like we are running a full circle when you read about little girls kneeling down to pray to their Alexa device,” Noemi explains. Palladian Dream is a critique of digital society’s insatiable fascination, even sanctification, of profit-driven technological devices. It seems that screens, platforms and networks are replacing old religious rituals and spiritual meaning.
The video content of Noemi’s installation, for example, explores “the religious devotion to a controversial figure like Silvio Berlusconi or the representation of today’s drinking culture under many different lenses from the meme-like Roberto Cavalli advertising his homonym vodka to the promotion of a nail polish tasting like Prosecco.” It is, in other words, technology and its markets that offer us the new “gospels”. They prescribe the conceptions of the sins we live by and the moralising fables we consume in our culture.