Saint Andrew's Church, Antwerp
What is truth?
Painting, Alain Senez, 2012
This work of art is the counterpart of the Minters’ altar in the northern transept. While there the power of money is the central theme, this work focuses on the media as a phenomenon. These two powers have an incomparable hold over present-day society.
After the statue of Saint Francis de Sales had been banished to the basements for 40 years it received a new spot in the church, as he is the patron saint of journalists. This removal was the impulse for the creation of a contemporary work by the French artist Alain Senez, who is renowned for his masterly representation of light.
Every day we are flooded with a real tsunami of information from various media sources. The key question that pops up then is: ‘What is truth?’, which is the same question that Pontius Pilate ask just before Jesus was condemned (‘Quid est veritas?’; John 18:38). The more information we get, the more pertinent Pilate’s question becomes. With the depiction of the ‘Corriere dela Sera’ the artist makes clear that monopoly can be a source of manipulation; but also the government itself can be so, as is shown with the ‘Pravda’ (= truth), the newspaper of the former Soviet Union.
This leads us to Plato and his allegory of the cave: as long as we remain in this physical world, we are restricted by our position in time and space, especially what knowledge is concerned.
Ultimately it will be in the hereafter – the eternal world of ideals – that we will be freed from any positional restriction so that we will be able to grasp the complete truth.
Is the answer to Pilate’s question that there is no such thing as truth? Not at all: the question of truth should be fascinating and is an invitation to continue exploring, with as a final goal to get to truth as closely as possible and to understand it somewhat.
The key-figure is Saint Francis de Sales, who is depicted three times here: in our world with an idealized baroque portrait on the wall, in the background walking as a celestial saint in the hereafter, and as a projection of this on a screen, but with a deviated shape, again far from truth.
The question of truth is not only important for Hercule Poirot or armchair philosophers but it also touches your life. Do you notice the camera in the top right corner?