Sin, Penance, Forgiveness. Interactive Exhibition

Caja Rioja Foundation
Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain

Between April and October 2009, coinciding with the Jubilee Year, Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja) holds the exhibition La Rioja Tierra Abierta: Sin, Penance, Forgiveness.

The show takes place at different spaces in the Cathedral of Salvador: the cloisters, the museum, the cloister’s courtyard and the roof. An important part of the artistic heritage of Santo Domingo de la Calzada is recovered with the renewal of the Cathedral Museum and the refurbishment of different parts of the Cathedral, as well as with the paving and lighting of the temple.

The exhibition covers over 3,500 m2, and technologies and interactive systems are used as an information vehicle. Religiosity and modernity shake hands on a journey where one of the main attractions is the active participation of the visitor.

“La Rioja Tierra Abierta” is a tourist boost for the whole area, since, on the occasion of the Jubilee Year, it calls more than a million visitors, being this one the most visited editions of this biannual event. A meeting between art and history, spirituality and digital era.

Located in an ephemeral pavilion on the cathedral’s cloister, the visit begins in the Garden of Eden, where the Tree of Life is represented by an olive tree. Then, Original Sin appears on the technological tree of Good and Evil, where Adam and Eve are expelled from Paradise. The route continues with the history and evolution of Sin until our days experiencing through different sensory games the seven capital sins. After that, at the Hall of Sin and of various religions, the visitor can play on a multiuser technology game on this subject. Later, the entrance to a virtual Hell is shown, where a demonic journey awaits. Our soul can be offered to devil in the abyssal well, we can experience uneasy feelings like anguish or annoyance, which certainly one feels while descending to hell.  

As it is explained in the Biblical Genesis, here is a representation of the Garden of Eden tree from which Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and due to which they were expelled from Paradise. Located in the cloister of the Santo Domingo Cathedral, the tree is made of corten steel plates. The crown of the tree is perforated on a way that it lets sunlight come through the same way it does through tree leaves. The tree trunk has three sides and it contains an interaction system with the visitor.

After crossing Hell, the visitor can redeem in the next section. It is developed in the Cloister as a penitential journey and it deals with concepts such as baptism, repentance, confession and different forms of penance that lead us to forgiveness. The visitor can be virtually baptised in a room where his picture is shown with a “bath” of texts alluding to Sacrament.  After that, he enters a dark space with angular walls, where he will have to confess, to get away from temptation, to experience the Via Crucis in his own flesh, to participate in a procession and to check his knowledge of prayers. In this space, the specific actions of the exhibition coexist with a selection of original works from the Cathedral Museum’s collection.

Already at the end of the visit, and after experiencing penance, the visitor finds a bright space, ethereal and with curved shapes. A line of light on the floor can be followed until it becomes a vertical cross. An audiovisual showing times in history where forgiveness was a main subject is projected on the cross. Finally the visitor can be forgiven by placing a hand on a multi-touch table.

The last part of the journey takes place on the cathedral’s roof, where the Dome of Heaven is placed, an evocative and ethereal space closing the exhibition. It’s a 7,5m diameter dome formed by 12 plywood segments. The outside coating is made of a waterproof polyester membrane with white PVC on both sides, adapting to the geometry of the segments and protecting the wooden core. The inside is a white curved space with a cabinet for the projector at the center. It has an occupancy capacity of 30 people laying on a perimetral bench where they can enjoy a 360º immersive projection. It’s their own ascension to heaven.