Francesco Arena
Lo Starec
7 October 2023 – 9 February 2024
7 October 2023
Press release

In ancient Greek, "γέρων" ("geron") means "elderly." To translate this term into Russian, the word стáрец ("starec") was chosen, which referred to the ancient Slavic ecclesiastical term starĭtsĭ ("elderly"), itself derived from starŭ (with the same meaning of "old").

In itself, γέρων did not so much denote a chronological age but rather an intellectual and spiritual one. Especially from the Eastern Christian monasticism of the 4th century onwards, an elderly ecclesiastic, hermitic, silent in their prayer, focused on directing their own and others' gaze towards God, upon entering the community, became a spokesperson and simultaneously a confidant, an assurance of trust almost touched by the Holy Spirit.

This dimension of the Greek γέρων is then paraphrased in Russian. The starec (often transliterated as starets) becomes the word used in Russia to indicate those elders who, within Orthodox monasteries, assumed the role of spiritual guides, fathers of faith always ready to show the way and provide advice. Their life is prayer, eremitism, and asceticism: this extreme choice and the profound belief that animates them is said to bestow special gifts upon them - the ability to perceive the right direction, to heal and alleviate pain, to prophesy, and to understand the intimacy of those who approach them with devotion. Thus, the starec tends to inspire believers through the example they set of virtue and spiritual peace. Simultaneously, their uniqueness is affirmed by the believers themselves, for they are not appointed by external personalities or entities, but by the very authentic and sincere devotion to faith and spirit.

There have been startes who, over the years, have become true points of reference, being elected as life guides and being granted far-reaching powers. Those figures inspired, among others, the character of Zosima in Dostoevsky’s Ithe Brothers Karamazov. The author himself writes: "The starets is someone who takes your soul and your will and assimilates them into their own soul and will [...] to the point of being able to eventually attain, through a life of obedience, absolute freedom, that is, freedom from one's own 'self,' and thus escape the fate of those who have lived an entire life without finding themselves."

Separated from all, he is united with all is one of the messages that Zosima adopts and imparts to the Karamazov brothers. Starting here, Francesco Arena embarks on the creation of the new site-specific work designed for Aedicula.

Titled Lo Starec, it consists of an obtuse-angled copper triangle. When it's laid flat on the longer side, it can stand upright with stability. If lifted and placed on the shorter side, it requires a counterweight to prevent it from falling, as the center of gravity is unbalanced. The message inscribed on the bottom becomes accessible only if someone commits to it, correcting its distortion, and taking on its impermanence.

When a person supporting the sculpture, a temporary starec, inhabits Aedicula, then the triangle can be lifted up to reveal a message (separated from all, he is united with all). The phrase is engraved on the longer side of the outwork, placed on the ground. For the rest of the time, the artwork goes back to being a silent guardian of a message that, without an interlocutor, lacks eyes to be seen and a voice to be offered to the world.

Gabrielle Goliath
5 April – 30 June 2024
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