The word ‘transparency’ has become a bit of a cliché recently, invoked in almost all aspects of society; government, business, social services and even religion.
Mind you, transparency in organised religion is very much a two-edged sword; it allows you to see both how above-board it all can be, but also to realise what a sham(bles) it is as well. Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh have taken the concept of transparency literally into a church. They have constructed a transparent, see-through church in the Belgian region of Haspengouw. The ten-metre structure is made of 100 stacked layers and 2,000 columns of steel plates, positioned almost to give the impression of being able to walk through the walls. From one position, the church can be seen as a traditional church structure, but move just a food or two and the walls seem to melt into the landscape before your eyes. Even the landscape itself seems to change when you're inside the church.
We're very used to the changes during the day made by the light outside on church interiors, especially those adorned with stained glass windows, where the effect of light and shade changes the interior of the church at different times of the day. The architects, in co-operation with Z33 House for Contemporary Art, named this project ''Reading Between the Lines'' — supposedly to reveal an obscure or unexpressed meaning. According to them, the burden of transparency is not only on the church, or on the artwork, but on the spectator as well, who must learn to read between the lines.
To my mind, though, this is a beautiful metaphor for organised religion. Not only have the artists shown us how to see through the church, but through The Church as well.