A Moment With “Angels Listening” by Rachel Lee Hovnanian
La Biennale di Venezia is known as one of the most renowned cultural institutions in both Italy and the world. It aims to promote new art trends and organizes department events to educate and inspire its audiences. One of the most recent events within their art department includes an exceptional exhibition titled Angels Listening by Rachel Lee Hovnanian. On display through November 27, 2022. People commonly associate Hovnanian with her multidisciplinary pieces that explore complexities within cultural ideals and the impacts of technology. This work is one to experience!
The Exhibition’s Execution and Role of the Viewers
Hovnanian titled her powerful exhibition Angels Listening; a simple name for an impactful piece. Her installation features seven angels cast in white bronze, arranged in front of a silver confessional box called La Scotola Cartartica (The Cathartic Box). Each angel features rectangular pieces of bronze resembling pieces of tape flattened into an ‘X’ shape across their mouths. The ‘X’ shapes across the angels’ mouths create a sharp contrast from the soft curves of the statues themselves. Viewers can reflect upon their own experiences with truth, silence, and feelings of powerlessness.
They have the option to leave their mark by writing their truths and thoughts on a ribbon and submitting them to an accompanying box. The ringing of a bell accompanies this emotional act and “awakens” the angels. The sound of the bell reminds the audience of the angels’ role as the listeners in this exhibit. Afterward, attendants remove the ribbons from the box and iron them onto mats. They place the mats around the gardens near the exhibition to form a collective message from the viewers. These mats emphasize the connection between the truth and feeling heard.
Symbolism of Angels
The symbolism of angels and the number ‘7’ adds an extra layer of meaning and impact to this work of art. Angels are present in many religions and have many meanings. Likewise, the number seven has harmonious symbolism in many cultures. Therefore, these components emphasize the contrast between broken and hurt humanity and the supernatural world full of healing and of harmony. Angels Listening gives a voice to the voiceless and empowers those who have been hurt. It provides a safe and quiet space away from the chaos of the world for viewers to reflect and release.
Society and Human Connection
Rachel Lee Hovnanian says, “Angels Listening offers a space that transforms hundreds of silenced voices into a chorus of confessions, demonstrating the liberation associated with catharsis and the sanctity of meditative environments in moments of shared isolation.”
The exhibition emphasizes the thread of human emotions and the power of human connection. Likewise, it also emphasizes the ties we have to ourselves and our truths. Thus, this exhibit functions as a space for oppressed people to speak without fear and be free from societal constraints. This exhibition transcends beyond the confines of traditional artistry and redefines art for the new age of media and technology.
Explore more of Rachel Lee Hovnanian’s beautiful and powerful work at rachelleehovnanian.com.
Feature Image: Rachel Lee Hovnanian, Angels Listening, 2022. Performance, mixed media. (Photo by Angela Colonna)
Words by Caitlin McClain