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Act of Contrition


Siena, Italy

Live Performance

3 minutes 37 seconds


The Act of Contrition is a site-specific piece performed live in front of the Duomo in Siena, Italy in the summer of 2009. While living in Siena, every time I found myself inside one of its medieval cathedrals, I was struck by the enormity of religion. During those moments of inner contemplation, there was one concept that crept back into my mind: Catholic guilt. As a person who grew up outside of religion, my perception of guilt was as a singular feeling; I had never in my life shared my guilt with other people. The idea that a person could confess their sins in order to purify the self/soul was conceptually perplexing to me. Furthermore, I was equally drawn to the cultural need to designate a space for self-reflection, in the form of the confessional booth. 


One night around midnight, I kneeled on the front steps of the Duomo in Siena, praying for absolution – while behind me three friends projected my pre-written sins onto the facade of the Duomo. Amidst the silence, I quietly recited the Act of Contrition prayer repeatedly until I felt like my sins were resolved. Even though the performance was public, the streets of Siena were deserted leaving only my friends, my sins, and myself in front of the church, mimicking the privately public nature of a confessional booth.


The prayer that I repeated during the performance:


O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins, because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

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