Device to Root Out Evil
The ‘Device to Root Out Evil’ is an upside-down, New England-style church built with its steeple in the ground.
It was created as a sculpture by American artist Dennis Oppenheim. Initially called ‘Church’, it was proposed to New York City’s Public Art Fund, to be located in Church Street, where the artist lived. However, it was considered too controversial and so the name was changed and the sculpture fabricated and installed as part of the 1997 Venice Biennale.
Stanford University approved the purchase of the piece in 2003, but the decision was subsequently vetoed by Stanford’s president who judged it; “inappropriate for campus.” It was later installed in a public park in Vancouver, Canada as part of the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale in 2005, but again was dogged by controversy and was subsequently relocated to the Glenbow Museum in Calgary where it was on display until 2014. It is now in the Plaza de la Puerta de Santa Catalina in Palma, Mallorca.
Oppenheim said of the work; “It's a very simple gesture that's made here, simply turning something upside-down. One is always looking for a basic gesture in sculpture, economy of gesture: it is the simplest, most direct means to a work. Turning something upside-down elicits a reversal of content and pointing a steeple into the ground directs it to hell as opposed to heaven.”
Oppenheim was recognised by the Vancouver Biennale with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He died in 2011.
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