Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Symposium, a Festival, a Book


"I was in a crisis and went looking for a priest . . . . I found Fyodor Dostoeivsky." ~ Eugene Peterson
"Somebody has said that every nation begins with poetry and ends with algebra, and passion has always refused to express itself in algebraical terms." ~ William Butler Yeats
Goodness gravy. This is quite a season we're in.

The Symposium Swims Along
We're getting a stead trickle of registrations; very encouraging that. It feels like we've communicated along the way with a who's who of Christians involved in the arts from high church to emergent, from Corpus Christi, TX, to southern France and the highlands of Scotland. What a curious lot we Christians are.
The first early-Jurassic deadline is close coming to an end. After June 15 the fee jumps from $167 to $189, so if you're interested in a really old dead bird deal, now's your time. You can go here.
We're investigating various guest artist possibilities for the event, from Sufjan Stevens to Scott Derrickson to Anne Rice to Ed Knippers. Shoot, we should see if Mel Gibson wants to fire a few hot potatoes out of his arsenal of unexpected wonders. We're open to suggestions if anybody has any. The invitation would be to give a 10 minute testimony about their life as a vocational artist in the marketplace (not so much the Christian sub-culture) and then take a Q&A during a seminar.
Speaking of workshops, we're very much open to ideas. We have limited time and space, but we want to serve pastors practically. So we're looking for seminars to explore the basic media and their place within the life of the church--the worship, the discipleship and the mission of the church:
- Visual Art
- Theater/Drama
- Dance
- Poetry
- Architecture
- Video/Film
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We've had some great suggestions come in thus far:
-- "A Q&A with a panel of non-Christian artists sharing their opinions and impressions with pastors, how they perceive the Church"
-- "Art and those Unwieldy, Pesky Emotions"
-- "A Q&A with the editor of Paste Magazine"
-- "A Who's Who and What's What in the Contemporary Visual Art World"
-- "7 Ways your church can be a patron of the arts, with Erik Lokkesmoe"
-- "The Church NOW, Not Just the Church FUTURE: Nurturing Young Artists in the Church, with David Dark and Sarah Masen-Dark."
Please let us know what you think would work great and who.
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The Felix HopeArts Festival
"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of." ~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
We've received the entries and are now making decisions. Though it will be smaller than previous years, we feel the events will be quite strong. Our special guest artists will be the public art works artist Pamela Nelson and the British actor David Payne who will perform a one-man show on C.S. Lewis.
At our last Arts Festival Council meeting we had a spirited discussion about a painting that was under consideration for entry. It contained a partial nude. Ah, the nude. What a beautiful thing. We've yet to have a boring conversation about nude art, not with paintings, not with sculptures, not with films, not with plays, and we've had them all. One of these days I want to put all these stories and my biblical ramblings to paper. I shall say it again: ah, the nude.
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The Book that Made Me a Man
"I am so sorry to have wearied you with so long a letter but I did not have time to write you a short one." ~ Blaise Pascal, writing to a friend
I have a little aphorism that I run around with at Hope Chapel.
"Nothing begets nothing. But something does beget something, even if it's crap. But crap will lead you home."
If I write nothing on paper, nothing will happen. I am 100% guaranteed that. If I write something, then that something will lead to other somethings and eventually to something good. But it's one thing to speak an aphorism with great sagacious eloquence. It's another to practice what you preach.
So these past two weeks I've holed myself up in the Austin Presbyterian seminary (where Richard Niebuhr once gave his famous lectures on Christ & culture). I vowed on pain of death, or at least a nasty self-scolding and the threat of making myself wander naked through my neighborhood till I was sufficiently embarrassed, that I would finish my book proposal for Baker in the month of June.
Progress has been made. This past Thursday I worked eleven hours. Mind you, the last five were blubbery excrement. As I walked out under the cover of dusk I thought, "Well a first draft is a first draft. It's obese and it stanks, but it's done." Here is a sample of something begetting something:
"A Social Darwinist in Church"
It’s not every day that a pastor hears profanity in his own sanctuary. I have heard it three times.
Once I heard it from my own lips. Once a young worship leader who, feeling so distraught over the sin in the world, forgot where he was and prayed into the microphone that God would save us from all this s___. Once I heard it from Peter Nevland, a skinny redheaded poet who once worked as an engineer for Motorola.

It was the summer of 1997. I was in my second internship at Hope Chapel. I’d just returned from seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, and had taken a day job working as a bus-boy at the locally famous tex-mex restaurant, Chuy’s. The idea for a play about a social Darwinist came to me in the middle of the incessant clearing, wiping, and setting up of tables with a fresh combo of chips and salsa.
It was the tale of a boy who grew up to murder his high school friends. Surrounded as I was by a motley crew of happy heathens, many of whom I really, really liked— margarita-slinging, Kurt Cobain-haired bartenders, sexy-legged cocktail servers, free-spirited, costume-wearing waiters, pot-smokers, atheists, a lesbian here, a Dia De Los Muertos fan there—I thought, What if? What if a true believer social Darwinist put aside his pesky emotions and whacked his childhood friends. For what reason? They embodied the society-soiling seven classical vices. . . .
. . . . The devil belongs outside the sanctuary. That’s for sure. But do drums belong outside, along with the devil, as Lowell Hart contends in Satan’s Music Exposed? Are clich├ęs of the devil? Should we burn them at the stake? . . .
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"A Biblical Basis for the Arts"
Because our kind is a People of the Book we must look at what the Bible says. We must also look at what it doesn’t say about the arts or maybe only hints at or creates the possibility for. We must allow the Scriptures to speak freely to us and for us to stand under their authority. We must allow the Bible to be what it is: a book recording the salvific message of God to all humanity. In doing this we release the Bible from being what we might like it to be, for example, a comprehensive encyclopedia explaining everything that there is to know about all actual and potential human experience, including those things that might happen in fairyland.

This is a great relief! We are not lost at sea because the Bible hasn’t told us whether an Apple or PC is more Jesus-like, or what schooling—home, private, public—would please God more, or what banana smoothie is most biblical. We are safe. We are free.

The kicker is this: While the Bible tells us a thousand good things about art it does not tell us everything we need or want to know, nor does it pretend to, yet God frees us to continue exploring new worlds, new forms, new experiences of art as a way of fulfilling his mandate in Genesis to tend the garden of earth—impressionistic painting styles, balletic dancing, new media, utterly unknown to Peter, James and John, such as animated film and synthpop and the iambic pentameter.

How do we know whether our new explorations are good Christianly speaking? That’s where theology comes in. . . .
(PHOTO: John McGaughy playing at Threadgill's at the 2005 HopeArts Festival.)

3 comments:

noneuclidean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
noneuclidean said...

For me, one of the most troubling aspects of negotiating arts and faith is not replacing the Great Commission with a primarily political or cultural commission. Making art that is not didactic but is also not afraid to glorify God openly.

Some advocates of good Christian art feel very comfortable berating artists who are too open with their faith (theological propaganda), but they have no problem with artists whose art is essentially political (didactic) propaganda. Why is that?

I guess what I am getting at is a panel discussion on how to make art that is neither overly preachy, nor afraid of speaking the Truth in love. (I think Brothers Karamazov and The End of an Affair are good examples of this). Art that never forgets our commission to share the Good News.

The French Avenger said...

I never heard back from you guys about the "partial nude" painting so I entered it anyway. I guess I'll find out when I get the notification. :)

your pal,

Jim Janknegt