In the Easter Light

The Fabric of the Human Passion – The Fasting-Cloth of Eva Petrić

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Collective Heart by Eva Petrić, all photos Marijan Zlobec

A gigantic 11 x 5 Meter ‘fasting-cloth’ is currently on display in the St.Stephen’s Cathedral of Vienna, from the 9th of February through March 26. It was created by the Slovenian artist Eva Petrič (born 1983) and carries the title “Collective Heart.” The Fasting-Cloth is an assemblage of hundreds of lace pieces and knitted and embroidered fabric creations, that were sewn and knotted together into a single large cloth. It covers the early Baroque high altar of the cathedral, as well as the large format painting of the crucifixion of St. Stephen, by Johann Jacob Pock.

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One could say that the item in question is a colorful fabric carpet, that brings together the many small passion stories of humanity, and offers these up to God’s image – the semantics of the latin word “Passio” includes both “suffering” but also “passion.” The fasting-cloth can therefore be interpreted as a many-faceted web-system, that intertwines and ties together human passions, dreams, expectations, but also suffering, disappointment and despair.

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Toni Faber and Eva Petrič

The incorporated laces and doilies were created in patient contemplation mostly by women. As Aleida Assmann puts it, “ The special thing about this type of object is their unassuming nature, the laces and doilies decorate the living room, are often placeholders and coasters, and even though they are outwardly artful and intricate, they are barely ever an object that is ascribed much admiration or value.” This barely appreciated and dignified work is made visible, the unremarkable is displayed publicly.

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In the exposition of the background of the fasting-cloth, one learns that the artist obtained and bought the lace and fabric in markets and diverse locations all around the world. The assemblage therefore offers a kind of Co-location – an interweaving of different and diverse places, in which different languages are spoken and different cultural codes dictate conduct… one can often notice small mistakes in the patterns of the lace pieces and sewn fabrics, that the viewer may not recognize at first glance. A sign of the mistakes made by man; of the detours that he takes? Or an index for the “wandering dunes” of memory, which over time change and evolve, no longer want to acknowledge certain truths; grow holes and gaps?

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Toni Faber and Eva Petrič

The thread of memory doesn’t merely intertwine and connect diverse places and sites of consciousness in the fasting-cloth, it also combines different times into a kind of Synopsis. The cloths and sewn pieces that were combined in the assemblage by Eva Petrič, are of varying ages. Valuable lace works from past centuries, veritable “relics” of deceased seamstresses and their worlds; but also colorful cloths from today, which follow fleeting and ever-evolving fashions. The trans-generational power of memory, that connects the people of today with those of past times, is impressively visualized by the fasting-cloth.

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At the same time, the mutual remembrance and solidarity of contemporaries is also expressed; who live in distant places yet share their biographies with each other. This connective dimension of the memorial is brought to light through the knotting of the diverse laces and cloths. The seams and knots that bring the different cloths an element of chaos in the aesthetic order of the well structured pieces also symbolize memory wounds and scars, and expose conflicts and traumas, the healing of which is still outstanding.

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The fasting cloth engages the common maxim, “Time heals all wounds,” with a webbed filigree that displays the ‘wounds of time’ publicly, and refers the viewer’s interpretation to the dictum of Georga Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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Eva Petrič with Collective Heart

Not without meaning for the installation of the fasting-cloth is the well calculated lighting which the artist planned for her work. The piece is immersed in purple light in a few places through electrical lights – Purple: the liturgical color of the penitent time of Easter that invites the homo viator to rebirth and return, to restore the compass of life. Other parts of the fasting-cloth, however, show up in the natural light that intrudes through the gothic windows of the Presbyterium, and are dependent on the daytime and weather for their intensity. The lighting therefore combines traditional and modern, the lighting architecture of the high middle ages which intrudes through stained glass, and the bright, modern spotlight technology of current times.

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The fasting-cloth hangs, something that can not be overseen, in the Apse of the medieval church. It is therefore, like the church interior as a whole, oriented Eastward. Ex oriente lux. The beaming morning sun is the symbol for the risen Christ, a sign of hope for a life that no longer knows death. The knitted carpet of passion, the colorful cloth, on which the history of mankind is embroidered and inter-webbed, is held up in the hope of easterly hope and saving transformation. “Unsettled is our heart, until is rests in you – inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te,” St. Augustin wrote in his Confessions. Might this also be valid, in the end, for the “Collective Heart” of mankind, which Eva Petrič has so impressively brought to our eyes in her fasting-cloth?

Univ. Prof. Dr. Jan-Heiner Tück, Vizedekan der Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät

Translated into English by O. Z.

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Objavleno z izrecnim dovoljenjem avtorja zapisa o Velikonočnem prtu – Kolektivnem srcu Eve Petrić v dunajski katedrali svetega Štefana, o katerem smo sicer že pisali.

Marijan Zlobec



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