At the Katholikentag in Stuttgart, award-winning works from the art competition "Vulnerable" will be on display for the first time in St. Maria's from 27 May.

The competition had met with a great response: Around 600 artists applied, 25 young creatives were selected. They dealt with the vulnerability of human life in a variety of ways.

“The pandemic and most recently the war in Ukraine have brutally torn us out of what we take for granted in life,” says Auxiliary Bishop Dr Gerhard Schneider, who is also responsible for art in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart. “It is difficult to put this much-cited ‘turn of time’ into words. For us as a church, it is important to make art strong, especially in times of crisis like these. Art offers ways to express, find and orient oneself in the unknown and always incomprehensible events of our time – especially where words are no longer able to do so.”

Achieving two kilometres of distance with one step

The works are correspondingly diverse in their form of presentation. For example, Simon Pfeffel’s video performance “Mit einem Schritt” (With one step), which won him one of the first prizes, shows how he covered the approximately two-kilometre distance from Stuttgart’s main railway station to St. Mary’s with just one step. “To do this, the artist tied one of his legs up and then hopped and limped his way through Königsstraße,” reports Sebastian Schmid, theologian and curator of St. Maria’s, who was part of the interdisciplinary competition jury along with nine other people.

Schmid: “Simon Pfeffel was clear that he would not make it without the help of strangers. Nevertheless, he didn’t ask anyone for help. Only when passers-by in Stuttgart offered to support him did he let themselves be carried or propped up. The exhibition shows video recordings of this impressive action, in which he put himself at the mercy of strangers.”

The motto of the Katholikentag also stands for being vulnerable together

The director of the Diocesan Museum in Rottenburg, Dr Melanie Prange, who was responsible for the competition and also a member of the jury, is pleased that the exhibition will now be opened during the Katholikentag. “Our works of art fit particularly well with the motto ‘sharing life’ of the Katholikentag, because all people are vulnerable, because vulnerability is precisely the essential moment of human existence and God has exposed himself to this vulnerability. Together we are vulnerable and it is especially in togetherness that paths to healing are paved. The motto of the Katholikentag brings essential thoughts of our competition and exhibition theme once again to the point.”

Kriz Olbricht wants to show with his artwork that the church itself is also vulnerable. To do this, he has hammered five dividing wedges into the wall of St. Maria. These are a kind of nails that normally create cracks in stones.

“It took a lot of convincing before the artist was allowed to hammer these dividing wedges into the wall of the church,” Schmid reports. “Just the idea that there could be a crack in the church wall almost caused panic in some people. The congregation itself was the least afraid.” The parish council immediately understood what Olbricht was about, he says. “After all, the five nails in the chancel stand for questions like: How seriously does the church take the cross? Does it dare to make itself vulnerable? Does it risk its own structure to take the side of the wounded?”, the theologian explains further.

Exhibition on view in Stuttgart from 27 May to 24 July

Visitors to the exhibition can look forward to nine more works of art, which will be on display in St. Mary’s from 27 May to 24 July. Dr. Prange is pleased that the exhibited works inspire new perspectives: “”The diocese has consciously decided to formulate a question and to let itself be challenged by the answers of young creative people – in other words, to make itself vulnerable and open. Especially against the background that the church itself is responsible for the worst psychological and physical wounds. Taking creatives seriously and not giving them guidelines enables a serious engagement with religious content, biblical texts and existential questions. The artistic results are surprising, inspiring, open to interpretation and testify to the depth of the engagement. A result to be emphasised for the cooperation and interaction of church and art.”

Award ceremony at the vernissage on 27 May.

The award ceremony of the Vulnerable competition will take place at the vernissage of the exhibition on Friday, 27 May, at 7.30 pm with Bishop Dr Gebhard Fürst and the members of the jury in St Mary’s. Some of the artworks will also be exhibited there until Sunday, 24 July.

In addition, there will be a tandem exhibition at the Diözesanmuseum Rottenburg between 19 June and 28 August with the other part of the award-winning works. The vernissage of this exhibition with Auxiliary Bishop Dr Gerhard Schneider will begin on Sunday, 19 June, at 3 pm.

You can find further information online:

From left: Dr Melanie Prange (Director Diözesanmuseum Rottenburg), Auxiliary Bishop Gerhard Schneider, Sebastian Schmid (Curator “St. Maira als”).
Photo: Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart / Eva Wiedemann