:      Remarks on Vita

The idea for my video "Vita" was born when I saw the 14th century panel of the Triumph of Saint
Thomas by Francesco Traiani in the Church of Santa Caterina in Pisa. The painting was made at
about the time of Thomas' canonisation in 1323. It depicts - in accordance with the thinking of the medieval theologian - his path of learning as represented by books and originating in God: rays of
light extend from God to the Evangelists, to Paul, to Moses, and - through the mediation of
Thomas - to the clergy. Approaching from two sides to Thomas in the centre, is the ancient wisdom
of Plato and Aristotle, which he passes on, consolidated with his own wisdom. The book in his hand,
summa contra gentiles, takes as its point of departure a citation from the Book of Proverbs. The
determining visual and contextual element of this text illustrates the coalescence of the Word of God
and the words of Thomas. Visible at the bottom of the painting is Averroes, the Arab commentator
of Aristotle, and who, owing to his Mohammedanism, is portrayed as the embodiment of heresy; the
picture heralds the victory reaped over him, and emphasises the hierarchy of knowledge. Almost
seven hundred years later in the video, contemporary historians stand in the place of the figures
depicted in the painting.

In Santa Caterina I could get hold of a priest, who lit up the painting. He said, it was not a good
painting because it was a work of propaganda. The people, who had commissioned it, had been too
strong or the artist had been too weak.
I liked these sentences. And I had never seen this kind of representation a theory: books as mirrors;
it reminded me of the final scene in the French movie "Vidocq" by Pitof. (…) In that movie the evil
character, who had a mask made of mirrors, was killed by Vidocq when he was trapped in a room
where there were many mirrors, and the light was kind of "speeding up" as it ricocheted from mirror
to mirror and killed that character.
In "Vita" the slowness is important, because it takes us back about 7 hundred years. And we always
imagine our present time as something very fast. There was a conflict with the Arabs, with the Arab
influence that time (they also used the term "Averroestic heresy"). So they did something on the
level of ideas,too. And that was the triumph of Santo Tommaso d'Aquino. (Mit seiner Schrift "De
unitate intellectus" triumphierte Thomas von Aquin letzten Endes über Averroes. hqw)
My work also asks the question what do we do now on the level of thoughts? I do not see too many
significant approaches to this subject. I briefly read an essay by Hannes Böhringer in which he drew
a comparison with the time of the antique Greeks and their war with the Persians. So on one hand I
thought I could use a comparison. Also because my favourite subject is the present and the role of
antiquity in it. Also to compare the significance in our conflict to a conflict that happened a long
time ago.
(...) We all "agree" that there is no history - or history is over. And how does it come then, that we
repeat the same patterns, mistakes? There are - of course - these other aspects of interpreting via
actors or via non-actors. Which presence is more fitting? I thought in this case the choice to use
historians was natural. No one reads anything about late medieval heresy, though I think many
comparison and similarity exist. Especially in some terms of total ideological control on the public.