Candles for Earthlings

“What if we could see and think of ourselves -humanity- from an alien perspective; detached, unprejudiced, even amoral? What if we could see and think of ourselves from the border of our own completed path?”

While we’re trying to find our way in the algebraic mazes of Skype and Google Hangouts we were inspired by an initiative created by the Oude Kerk, called Candles for Earthlings. An ode to the transformative installation that took place in Oude Kerk before the lockdown, Poems for Earthlings. This breathtaking installation was there to make the viewer explore and re-think the foundation of what we actually know in today’s highly mediated era, and challenge how we got here. What if we could think of ourselves from an alien perspective? Nothing is certain and everything is questionable. Poems for Earthlings was about art in times of crisis – a theme that is suddenly more topical than we like. More than ever we are connected worldwide as Earthlings. It enveloped what art means in times of crisis – a theme that is suddenly more topical than we like. More than ever we are connected worldwide as Earthlings.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Oude Kerk is closed for now, but that doesn’t mean the exhibition in all its beauty needs to be forgotten. Before the lockdown, we got to experience the installation first hand.

As you entered the church you were welcomed by a loud eery audiotape as it echoed through the arches of the building. The Argentinian artist, Adrián Villar Rojas, had taken all daylight out of the century-old Dutch church. The flickering flames were the only source of light. This only amplified the heaviness and vastness of the church. Something I also sparked my curiosity was the juxtaposition of the harsh bulk like stands that held up the break taking golden chandelier with candles. The richness of the medal gold and the roughness of the wood totally didn’t go together but somehow looked so noble. 

Lighting a candle for someone is an age-old tradition that offers guidance in uncertain times, both in churches and outside. Art and faith offer hope in times of crisis. But how do we stay connected now that places like churches and museums have to keep their doors closed during this quarantine time?

The candles symbolized light in times of darkness and aimed to provide some solace and hope in these turbulent times. Whether it be an ignitable wick, smudged in wax, greasy homemade candles or intensely scented apple crumble candles, we want to see them. We hope the warmth of a candle offers a sense of support. Below is a small collection of experiences for you to light a candle to. The transformation of the church was exciting and triggered our imagination, just like we hope these pieces do to you.

If you haven’t heard this yet, very welcome for a listen. The record sounds like a summer storm to me. It’s anxious, it’s abrasive and it’s dissonant. If you crank the volume up just enough, you’ll find some solace there. Big plus: it has a beautiful painting by Gerhard Richter of a candle on the cover.

Orchestra of The Eight Day was a duet of Polish composers Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and Krzysztof Ścierańsk. “They explained that the eighth day was a day that existed only in the mind, making it ”a day of total possibility, creativity and original expression.”

Loenor composed Ivy’s Hands in two days in 2018. Final Act and Denouement encompasses an emotional tug, but with the more memorizing melodies.

“I was at the front row and saw a blue silhouette of a girl dancing next to me. She had fine movements. When I saw her face, I noticed tears in her eyes. She was really broken about something. Her dancing was delicate and beautiful,…”

Bing and Ruth have been a favorite of mine for some time now. The era of classical music connected with the trance-inducing simplicity of the 1960s and ’70s. David Moore’s electroacoustic minimalism transmits a sense of hopefulness and assurance throughout his cords that I strongly admire.

And last but not least, Bill Withers. The soul man in a sweater. Wither’s timeless tunes will forever be ringing in the ears of his fans. Bringing wisdom with a funky intonation. May he always be remembered.

Since the installation is now behind closed doors, liked we stated above, and we cannot meet in the Oude Kerk, we will be handing out candles from Poems for Earthlings every Sunday and Wednesday together with the Oudekerk community. ‘Candles for Earthlings’. This way we keep the fire of faith and art burning.

Between 10 am and 6 pm you can pick up one of the disinfected candles at the East Portal of the Oude Kerk, at Oudekerksplein 1. You can also light a candle on the spot. If you light your candle at home, take a photo and send this photo together with your answer to the question ‘How do you hope the world has changed after this crisis?’, to, we will then share it with the world. Or upload the photo + your wish on social media with the hashtag #CandlesForEarthlings, for us to find your photo.