Riccardo Giacconi

audio recordings, 2010-2011

Conversation 1 (French, English subtitles)

13th century theologian Pierre de Poitiers invented a theory meant to ensure the validity, the effectuality of the sacramental liturgy without any reference to the agent. The problem was, if the priest who administrates the baptism is a murderer or an apostate, is the baptism valid? After an extensive discussion the church decided that, independently of the moral character of the priest, the baptism is in any case valid.

As a matter of fact the only case in which the baptism is not valid is if the priest is joking. That would be the only cause that can nullify a baptism, a sacrament.

In the church of Notre Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, I recorded a series of conversations with different priest in a confessional. Starting off with a series of fictional information I gave, the dialogue tackled Pierre de Poitiers’ theory, questioning the joke as a human device that deactivates the dichotomy between truth and fiction. As in a joke, an uncomfortable laugh ends the conversation.

In Italian, the saying “scherzo da prete” (priest’s joke) indicates a nasty trick, a joke so bad that doesn’t seem to be a joke any longer. More than sound or conversation, the medium, here, appears to be the joke itself.

Conversation 1 (French, Italian subtitles)

Conversation 2 (French)

Exhibited at: MAMbo – Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, Italy (2017); Universidad Javeriana, Cali, Colombia (2014); Jarach Gallery, Venezia (2013); Le réfectoire des nonnes, Lyon (2011).