Regrettably, organised religion often finds use as a tool to drive political and economic conflict. Katharina Heigl’s Faces at Prayer series of photos in Vienna’s Weltmuseum reminds us that religion also offers a shared human experience; one that encourages empathy and solidarity.
- Portraits of people from multiple faiths at prayer
- Excellent illustration of our common humanity
- Runs Dec 5, 2019 to Sept 6, 2020
- Just needs a normal museum entrance ticket
- See also: Weltmuseum visitor and ticket tips
Faces in Prayer
(Exhibition view © KHM-Museumsverband)
One unhelpful tendency in the modern world is to use religious affiliations as a means of division and polarisation…to highlight differences and encourage a “them and us” perception that can be exploited and abused for political and economic gain.
The Faces in Prayer series of photos fights this trend by reminding us of what we have in common.
The concept is quite elegant: Katharina Heigl visited churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship in Austria and Israel to photograph people at prayer. Their faces form a series of portraits across the walls of the gallery, but there are no labels to tell you who is praying to which God or Gods.
The concept is remarkable in its effectiveness.
At first, you automatically try attaching religions to the faces. “That’s a Hindu, that’s a Sikh…”
But after a few photographs, the desire to label each individual according to their faith becomes pointless and, frankly, faintly embarrassing. So you stop doing so. Instead, you’re simply left with images of “people” stripped down to their common spirituality and humanity.
Some of Heigl’s subjects seem lost in thought, some earnest, some questioning, some at peace, and others almost in ecstasy. But each face acts as a witness to a shared experience, untainted by the politics of division. All of which fits nicely with the Weltmuseum’s broader remit to examine both cultural differences and “that which all people have in common.”
Incidentally, Katharina Heigl is also a well-known film director in Austria, with an extensive body of work (particular in the field of documentaries).
Dates and tickets
Faces in Prayer runs from December 5th, 2019 to September 6th, 2020. An ordinary entrance ticket for the Weltmuseum is all you need.
The museum opens Thursdays to Tuesdays from 10am to 6pm (9pm on the last Friday of each month).
How to get to the exhibition
The Weltmuseum occupies part of the Neue Burg wing of the Hofburg palace complex. See here for tips on reaching the museum.
Once inside, go upstairs to find the exhibition in one of the rooms overlooking the gorgeous colonnaded atrium.
Address: Heldenplatz, 1010 Vienna