German artist to light up Venice church with images of Martin Luther

Philipp Geist previously projected images onto Cologne Cathedral to make the area more secure after spate of sexual attacks


After projecting his work onto Cologne Cathedral, the German artist Philipp Geist is again illuminating a church. During the Venice Biennale this year the artist is projecting words and pictures onto the German Lutheran church on Campo SS. Apostoli. As part of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Geist is projecting portraits of the reformist Martin Luther (1483-1546) as well as words that represent his role for the church and society onto the facade of the building located near the Rialto bridge. Geist tells The Art Newspaper that visitors should not only reflect on what the Reformation meant in the past, but also today. "At that time, things changed rapidly. The age of enlightenment started and printing was invented. The way Luther used handbills made him almost a blogger. Today the internet and digitalisation make up a similar revolution,“ he says.  

Born in 1976, Geist has worked extensively with large-scale projects. For the 2016 Dakar Biennial, Geist screened images onto the former local train station and in 2015 he turned the Azadi tower in Tehran into a "Gate of words" by projecting onto it words of peace in English, German and Persian. However, his work in Cologne has perhaps attracted the most attention. After numerous sexual assaults had been reported around the city’s cathedral on New Year’s eve in 2015, the artist was asked to light up the area through a light installation a year later. Geist used projectors to screen pictures and words onto the church and its surrounding square, thereby helping to secure the area by making it more visible. 

Geist's project for the Venetian church will be screened in the evening of 12 and 13 May, the days of the opening of the Venice Biennale (although not part of the official programme), as well as on 25 and 26 May. Inside the church an installation by Geist is on view daily throughout May.