Modern artist dresses up as Virgin Mary and desecrates an altar.

“Living sculpture on the altar”: Madonna of the Protective Veil as a symbolic performance for peace

The Zurich artist Bettina Filacanavo wants to set an example against the war - in a sit-down performance in the Don Bosco Chapel in Steinhausen. Tomorrow she will sit on the altar for peace in the world for three hours, wrapped in a blue robe. At the same time, the 50-year-old wants to elevate the person of Maria with her symbolic action.

“Mothers” – that is the title of the feminist-pacifist peace performance that Bettina Filacanavo is staging in the new Don Bosco Chapel in Steinhausen tomorrow evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. For three hours she sits on a stool on the altar and looks straight ahead in silence. Meanwhile, visitors can walk around the chapel or watch the performance from the pews.

“Don’t want to provoke”

(Cathcon:  How is this not be provocative?)

“I don’t want to provoke with this symbolic performance, but rather show positive work,” says the 50-year-old artist. The idea for this campaign came to her through her job. Bettina Filacanavo is a journalist and has been working for the aid organization of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Switzerland (Heks) for 15 years.

Bettina Filacanavo works as a journalist and studies art at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences.

In her work, she is confronted with wars, international conflicts and the displacement of people every day and would like to use the performance to make a statement against the increasing mainstream in Europe - "which, one gets the impression, is currently only about rearmament and war management works,” says Filacanavo. She therefore wants to use her campaign to send a symbolic and aesthetic signal for peace.

Performance also refers to Käthe Kollwitz

The title of her work also refers to the woodcut of the same name by Käthe Kollwitz from her cycle “War” from 1921/1922 and to a video work by the Swiss artist Judith Albert: “Maria spreads out the coat”. Her performance also refers to Marina Abramovic's famous seated performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Above all, Bettina Filacanavo, who studies art at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences, wants to use her performance to refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a Our Lady of the Protective Veil. She also wants to give the “most popular figure in the Bible next to Jesus Christ” a feminist touch.

Changing the position of women in the Catholic Church

Last but not least, your symbolic act should also reflect that the position of women in the Catholic Church should change in the future. “That’s why Maria is enhanced by my sitting performance.”

"Maria herself, who experienced all this suffering – war, flight, loss of her child – is part of my work as a woman of resistance. “She stands for all women who resist patriarchal power structures and strongly and consciously oppose male violence,” she says.

Women and mothers suffer the most in war

It should also be discussed that it is women and mothers who suffer the most during war. Filacanavo: “They experience that they and their children have to fend for themselves under the most adverse circumstances and, if possible, flee with them, while their older children fight and die at the front.”

At the same time, women are exposed to additional violence: systematic rape by enemy soldiers. «The rape of women is a systematic weapon of war to subjugate and humiliate a people, which was used in past wars and is still being used today. With this work I would like to commemorate the victims of wars and conflicts and set an example for global peace."

*The silent seated performance “Mothers” will take place twice: at the vernissage, which will take place on May 4th, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., in the new Don Bosco church, in the Chilematt Steinhausen ZG center. The finissage (formal ending) will take place on May 26th, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., in the old Matthias Church in Steinhausen, near the Chilematt Center. From Saturday, May 4th, works from “HallelujArt” will also be shown: there will be a guided tour that starts at 5 p.m. 


And he shall confirm the covenant with many, in one week: and in the half of the week the victim and the sacrifice shall fail: and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation: and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation, and to the end
Confirmabit autem pactum multis hebdomada una : et in dimidio hebdomadis deficiet hostia et sacrificium : et erit in templo abominatio desolationis : et usque ad consummationem et finem perseverabit desolatio.  [Daniel 9:27]

And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall defile the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the continual sacrifice, and they shall place there the abomination unto desolation
Et brachia ex eo stabunt, et polluent sanctuarium fortitudinis, et auferent juge sacrificium : et dabunt abominationem in desolationem.  [Daniel 11:31]

And when you shall see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not: he that readeth let him understand: then let them that are in Judea, flee unto the mountains
Cum autem videritis abominationem desolationis stantem, ubi non debet, qui legit, intelligat : tunc qui in Judaea sunt, fugiant in montes :  [Mark 13:14]

Banal self-referencing. Some call it art.