Preliminary Proposal: Community Art Project for All Pilgrims Christian Church

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Preliminary sketch
Preliminary sketch

This is a proposal for a sculptural video installation in which abstracted video images (with accompanying audio) would be projected upon life-size figurative mesh-forms, suspended from the ceiling in either the Sanctuary or Fellowship Hall. My idea is to have guests of the community suppers, which All Pilgrims co-sponsors, tell their own stories of past, present, and future.

Preliminary sketch; Figure  detail
Preliminary sketch; Figure detail

One possibility is to call it “Confessions,” after St. Augustine’s famous book, in which he wrote:

“Perhaps it might be said rightly that there are three times: a time present of things past; a time present of things present; and a time present of things future. For these three do coexist somehow in the soul, for otherwise I could not see them. The time present of things past is memory; the time present of things present direct experience; the time present of things future is expectation.”

Rather than a literal “confession” of sins, I see this as an opportunity for expression of where one sees oneself in life through Augustine’s anchor of the present.

Through this installation, participants can reflect on the past, report on the “time present of things present,” and project themselves into the future. Intentionally, the potentially unsettling nature of the stories of those who are possibly marginalized will be shown upon pristine, generic forms, conveying the idea that there is both a universality of a particular individual’s plight—and a universality of their hopes. The project will shed a literal light on the struggles of vulnerable populations, and transform personal experiences into a collective one for both the initial creators—the storytellers—and subsequently viewers.

Video imagery for the project could either be collected in “Confessionals” (such as the booths in Roman Catholic churches) in the Fellowship Hall and/or by participants using their smartphones other devices out in the community. The video imagery would be distorted, abstracted, as a result of the projection process and the shape of the mesh-forms; individual identities would not be apparent. Voices, though, might identify individuals, so the voice recordings might need to be altered to assure anonymity, or we could request permission for their unmodified use. Having participants sign a release form would have to be mandatory either way. Assuring that the project be as broadly based as possible is important, as it validates the claim for it being both by the community and for the community.

Due to light levels, a project like this would look best during the darker months or at night. Video projections would be nearly invisible when ambient light levels are high. An option would be to cover windows with something to reduce light transmission. That would allow viewing during worship times, for instance. The length of the exhibition should be several months so as to reach the largest possible audience.

I obviously have an image of this project in my mind’s eye, yet this the visual manifestation of it, not the entire meaning or context. I want to collaborate, to foster an environment of cooperation that ultimately creates the work of art. Might we have a musical, liturgical, or performance component, for instance, or link the project to broader community outreach goals?

Thank you for considering my initial concept for “Confessions.” I look forward to your comments.

The Aevum

Here’s what I’ve been up to recently: Below is an abstract of this semester’s Independent Study Project that I am working on with Dr. Sharon Sieber. I’ve submitted the abstract to the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition conference to be held in Seattle in late September of 2015. I came across the idea of the aevum while researching my previous project on Annunciation paintings last autumn.

“The Aevum: A Medieval Conception of Time to Feed the Soul in Modern Aesthetics”
My study investigates the aesthetic experience in two modernist works of art, Richard Wagner’s Parsifal and Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses. I contend that they bring the viewer into the aevum, or aeviternity, the medieval conception of a “middle-time” existing between temporality and eternity. Both Wagner’s and Serra’s work has sacred themes: Wagner retells the chivalric Holy Grail myth, with a particular emphasis on the “love-meal” or Eucharist with its sustaining power, and Serra gains inspiration from church architecture. My argument focuses on the similarity of the secularized aesthetic theories of Immanuel Kant and Theodor Adorno with medieval theories of the aevum, that is, what we might call an aesthetic temporal reality that draws one out of normal, quotidian time. Despite divergences, modern aesthetic theories posit a kind of middle-state of awareness. Kant proposes a contemplative aesthetic experience as a mode of thought separate from the work of art itself. In Adorno, the aesthetic experience and the work of art that elicits the experience have a closer connection. Both Kant and Adorno address temporality in aesthetic experience, although Adorno does so more directly. Additionally, Micheline Sauvage’s systematic approach posits hierarchical temporal modes to express the relationship between the viewer and the work of art. Her idea that the work of art is both in and with time provides compelling support for the argument that modern aesthetic theories demand a space-time which bears a remarkable resemblance to the medieval exposition of the aevum.
In spite of the overarching demand that ideas conform to Church dogma and tradition, there was still surprising diversity in medieval conceptions of time. While medieval thought regarding time may seem skewed and narrow from our vantage-point, our own contemporary conceptions of time are inseparable from the milieu of modernity: science and industrialization, both of which demand strict accuracy in the measurement of time. Therefore, contemporary thinkers have trouble understanding the subtleties of medieval conceptions of time, ultimately strove to explain hierarchical temporal realities for different kinds of sentience, including the human soul, considered to be everlasting. Medieval thought placed the soul in a special temporality, the aevum, which allows the soul to communicate in both mundane and spiritual time. The loss of the idea of soul in contemporary thought, as described by psychologist James Hillman, portends the loss of part of an individual’s potential psychic development and well-being. Regaining the idea that aesthetics is an inseparable, reciprocal relation of individual experience to the work of art, my investigation concludes that aesthetics exists in the aevum—an intersection of subject and object—in a middle-time between the profane and the divine, a crossroads of seemingly incompatible experiences and modes of existence.