Welcome to the Tears of St. Lawrence, 2005

Installation view: Abundant Futures. Works from the TBA21 Collection, Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía C3A, Córdoba, Spain, 2022

Photo: Roberto Ruiz
Photo: Courtesy Galerie EIGEN+ART, Leipzig & Berlin

Public art project, booklet, and poster
Commissioned by TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary for the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, for the central exhibition “Always a little further,” curated by Rosa Martínez

Each year in mid-August, the heavens open, and the prolific Perseids meteor showers stream across the night sky in a fleeting celestial light show. The showers, also known as the “Tears of Saint Lawrence,” coincide with the saint’s feast day on August 10. Saint Lawrence is said to have been roasted alive on a gridiron for distributing treasures to the poor rather than offering them to the Roman Emperor Valerian. The meteors, according to legend, are the embers rising from the burning fire. 
In his open-ended, time-based work Welcome to the Tears of St. Lawrence: An Appointment to Watch Falling Stars, originally created for the 2005 Venice Biennale, Olaf Nicolai extends an invitation by distributing posters and brochures (including astrological maps, detailed scientific and historical overviews, images, and links to websites) to gaze upward upon this ephemeral annual spectacle. The work acts on the so-called attention economy that treats human attention as a scarce and monetizable commodity. The Perseids meteor showers have occurred with or without spectators and will continue to take place whether or not they are observed. Nicolai directs the attention to an existing event, stimulating stargazers to observe and possibly interpret scientific readings, myths, and popular imaginaries. By casting the event as an appointment he instigates and calls upon a (possible) community, dispersed across the planet but assembled under the spells of the cosmic theater.
Since August 2009, Nicolai’s work has been on permanent loan at the Kunstmuseum Thurgau / Kartause Ittingen in Switzerland, whose patron saint is Saint Lawrence. The display of the work is complemented by events scheduled for the closing day of the show.
Barbara Clausen, "Fate and Causality," inThyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary:The Collection Book, eds. Eva Ebersberger, Daniela Zyman (2009: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König)
Luca Lo Pinto, "Nicolaism," in Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book,, eds. Eva Ebersberger and Daniela Zyman (2020: Sternberg Press)
Born in Halle (Saale), Germany, in 1962. Lives in Berlin, Germany.