Sacred Texts, dispersed exhibition, December 2014

In November 2014 I started to plan an exhibition. The idea was that the exhibition would be conceptual and would follow a theme,  More than this, the exhibition was planned as a "dispersed exhibition." This series of paintings was planned to not be shown together. In December 2014 I produced and distributed the paintings. Each painting was painted on a piece of MDF, each piece was the same size and was even given the same hanging hooks. And each of the MDF sheets used for the paintings came from one single, larger piece of MDF, signifying the shared unity among the different images.

"Dispersed exhibition": The notion of the dispersed exhibition was that the twelve pieces, would be produced specifically for particular people or family groups. Most of these paintings were then to be given as Christmas gifts. Some of the paintings were given to people in the same room, so that two paintings or more were visible in one room. One person received three images, so there was recognition that some of the paintings might be viewed in the same room, but the twelve paintings would never, be viewed as a collected exhibition.

"Sacred Texts": I'm fascinated by texts, as a poet and a lover of books, as a Christian and as an art lover, texts: verbal or visual are profound. Texts are continually being seen in different ways. Texts are at times safe and dull, and yet at other times the same texts might be seen as revolutionary and profound, or indeed offence. Texts are viewed through hermeneutic lens, and not just scriptural texts, but words to pop songs, to fiction, to political speeches, visual texts, paintings, sculptures.

The way a text is viewed changes through history, the history of its reception is always fascinating. A text that was regarded highly might be quickly deemed worthless due to a physical incident in history and vice-versa. Sales of amateurish Adolf Hitler paintings have a financial value far beyond any aesthetic worth they present. The words of a pop singer might be viewed differently or never viewed again in light of accusations about the singer's behaviour.

Texts might be prophetic at one time, then, as with biblical prophetic literature, the prophecy might be fulfilled, yet still read with anticipation of another fulfilling of its prophetic message.

Texts live beyond the boundaries and borders of the text itself. The words of Atticus Finch to "never judge person until you've walked mile their shoes" reaches far beyond the confines of Harper Lee's incredible, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Texts have impacts far beyond the artistic/academic merit of their words or representations. Texts are affected by the way someone views them, as an Ebook, as an original scroll. Texts are affected by where they are viewed, taken directly from a freshly unearthed earthen vessel near Qumran, or read in a well-thumbed yellowing paperback in a multi-storey library complex. Viewed on a cinema screen in 3D or watched on a mobile phone on a noisy and bumpy bus journey. Seen on an internet browser on a work break in an office in Cheshire or stood before in a chapel in Barcelona.

To some, certain texts might be dull and boring, to others some texts might be rich and exciting. To some, certain texts if read at 17 are life-changing, but if read at 35 are mundane and wearisome.

Texts might capture a moment, tell a story of a nation or of half the world, "Je suis Charlie". Or they might never be read or ever seen again.

Texts might be read and understood by one person and regarded as gibberish to the next 99.

Some texts might be read by one person as a a direct word from a diety, the same text might be regarded as a helpful slogan or utterly ignored by others.

Texts are written in ever changing contexts through ever changing mediums. A text or painting written or painted in 1957 in New York may or may not be read or viewed differently to one produced in Scunthorpe in the late 80's.

Texts represent values, ideas and principles.

Sometimes texts merely need to have certain key words to lead a reader to certain assumptions. Sometimes texts are written intentionally with certain key words to purposefully lead the interpretation of a reader. Sometimes it is incidental.

Texts shape lives.

The meaning of texts can be misunderstood or misrepresented.

Texts can be factual or fictional.

Often when the notion of a "sacred text" is considered it is confined to be viewed as one of a particular set of religious texts, holy books. Yet there are texts that are "sacred" to a counter-cultural movement or a moment in history, a great speech delivered in front of millions, a poem that causes national uproar.

I'd like to suggest that a text is "sacred" simply when it is viewed as sacred. Perhaps the reader or viewer would never use the word "sacred" to define it, but perhaps this text has in some way defined them.

A sacred text might be a whispered phrase to a loved one, or a shared joke among a group of friends. Maybe its a string of words shouted at a concert by 50,000 people. Maybe its a shred principle that draws a group of people together or united dissonant elements.

Perhaps every text is sacred, rather than merely some of the texts. Perhaps the whole canon of words and images created since the dawn of humanity (or indeed the creation of the earth) is as a whole one ever-evolving sacred text, with its good, its bad, its valued, its objectifying, its offensive and its prophetic.

Those paintings in the the exhibition that have words, mostly have words that are hard to read, the actual text itself, as a whole, or indeed as a collection of individual words is difficult to read. Perhaps certain words stand out, perhaps none of the words stand out. My hope is that this reflects the way that we the reader or viewer come to texts. Sometimes we are impacted by certain words or images and they stay with us long after we've taken the book back to the library or left the gallery. Yet for myself, the majority of texts, and indeed the majority of words, even within texts that are sacred to me, merely blur into the fog of memory: only leaving a stain or shadow, a vague sense that there was something of value there.

So here are the twelve images.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Intentional desire to journey
new texts and old meld
others resurrected form themes
and grace exceeds expectation in love.