Hierotopia: The Living Sacred Landscape
September 15, 2018 – March 16, 2019
In Ethiopian Orthodox theology, churches need to be built in woods because humanity began in a garden and the cross came from a tree and in the New Jerusalem we will be fed from the fruit of and orchard full of Trees of Life. The wonder of it all is that, as deforestation and urbanization have progressed, encroaching on and destroying Ethiopia's tree cover, it is the churches that have protected the trees. Theology was saving the trees! The Bible was the defender of the environment. So, we commissioned Kieran to photograph the church forests and the Ethiopian people whose insight has protected their forest inheritance. When it came time to title the show, Kieran and curator John Silvis suggested we take a word our Russian friend Alexei Lidov, director of the Center for World Culture in Moscow, Russia, has coined: hierotopy. That fancy word means the art of creating sacred spaces—places or buildings or environments where all the factors of sight, sound, hearing, touch, and taste work together to create a total sacred space. The Ethiopians, in following their theology and saving the trees, had created sacred spaces, sacred environments—Hierotopia!