Monday, 22 July 2013

Getting weird for the sake of art

People say many things about artistic ministry in the church. But they don’t often mention the fact that it involves being kind of weird in everyday life. Makes you contemplate doing strange and awkward things.
Experiments with furniture for inside/out artwork

It’s a Saturday morning and I’m wheeling an unbalanced trolley laden with ten metres of Astro Turf down one overstuffed Bunnings aisle. As I wrestle the awkwardly heavy roll of black and green into a checkout there are stares, smiles, small chuckles. “ Well well, that’s a lot of synthetic grass, what are you going to do with it?” I pause for a second, there’s no conversation stopper like when you answer back “it’s for church”. No more questions asked. I often wonder if this should be phrased differently to create a conversation opportunity instead of an awkward pause… 
But the weirdness of buying ten metres of turf is mild compared to many of the everyday strange things that pursuit of art for church can bring….
Standing on the barely-stable wire fence of a vineyard in Camden at 6.45am on a Friday morning wondering if anyone (or that police car that keeps going back and forth) might see if you trespassed (just a little bit) to get closer to that grapevine for a better video shot…. 
or talking someone into running along a mangrove bank in the rain for half an hour, back and forth with little wings leukoplasted to their feet….
stopping to “borrow” some  tall grass from the side of the road because it looks just like it could be from a beautiful field…
carrying the contents of your house outside and arranging it in a tree just for a photograph….
or driving around in a car laden with a tool shop, a haberdashery, an art store and the leftovers of that roadside grass packed in so tightly it falls out every time you try to add in a grocery bag or two.

The pursuit of art-making for church makes every day an opportunity for weird and random acts of creativity. And sometimes it creates a conversation worth having too.

These past few weeks the creative team have been, among other weird and wonderful things, diving into the book of James to prepare for MenaiAnglican Church’s new series- Inside/ Out.

But what does astro-turf, boxes, lampstands and couches have to do with living inside out, being people of integrity, living as the new creation where our new heart and renewed mind and the spirit at work in our lives produce the fruit of our faith expressed in good works? 
Well first, the box. 
The brown box, filled and closed, has no integrity, no markers on the outside of what lies beneath. It could be a fruit bowl or a chimpanzee inside, we really can’t know for sure. A bit like us, at times we have the ability to present ourselves to the world as something other than we are, we can pay lip-service to our beliefs and live lives that fail to step out the changed person God is working out inside of us.
Over the course of the series we will be revealing items of living room furniture (the stuff that’s inside) being brought outside these boxes. House furnishings (like our faith) are significant contents that you can't see are in a house when you are standing outside it.  
Bringing them outside seems dangerous, risky even. Things might get ruined, broken or damaged, plus it looks pretty weird (maybe even weirder than a shop assistant finding those leftover eagle feathers stuck to the bottom of your green bags at the coles checkout), people might say something!

Living on the outside the stuff that is being transformed on the inside looks kind of weird too, it’s risky, it puts our contents on display, it demands consistency, integrity, resolve and so much more.
It is also something weirdly attractive to other people though- a couch on a lawn- don't you want to sit on it? doesn't the strangeness of it seem kind of wonderful?…so it is, we thought, with living inside/out, it is a strange kind of wonderful thing that shines a light on who Jesus really is, the crazy changes he has really made in us and is making in us, day by day, that set us apart. 

And that completes the story of why astroturf, boxes and living room furniture will be gracing our stage for the next 8 weeks. 
We hope you enjoy!

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