Friday, December 09, 2011

urban advent installations

Great urban Advent idea from Sanctus1 in Manchester. They have created 24 advent shrines all over the city centre. A different artist has taken responsibility for the 24 days of Advent and the “shrines” are then placed in different locations around the city centre.

This is for December 7th, located in the Midland Hotel.

This is the second of five shrines to be located at the hotel, occupying a no-longer-in-use phone booth. Hotels and inns have been places of gathering, shelter and hospitality for centuries. This shrine relates to part of the Christmas story, where Mary and Joseph were trying to find somewhere to stay in Bethlehem, but all the hotels were booked up. Pray for those needing shelter and warmth on these cold winter nights.

I like the transient nature of these, the sense of here today, gone tomorrow surprise that is engendered as these pop up around the city.

I like the vulnerability, the sense that these are precious art, yet could be damaged, graffiited, destroyed. That in itself is a Christian and Advent message, the sense of being given a precious gift, that we can chose to ignore.

I like the everydayness of these, that you are invited to pray not at special times inside a special building, but in the midst of your working, walking life.

I like the public nature of these acts of worship, the Christmas story started not inside a church, but in the public domain, in the bustle of life.

What remains unresolved for me in all these public spiritual installation art is the relationship between authentic presence in a branded culture. Or as I wrote a few years ago in relation to the Christmas Journey:

The tension between whether the [public spiritual installation art] should act like an interactive signboard or the foyer of a building. Should each [public spiritual installation art] stand alone, as a signboard? Or should the [public spiritual installation art] be like a foyer, that welcomes and points people toward church or Christianity in some way? The concept of gift is important. Many churches offer subtle switch and bait operations. Should the [public spiritual installation art] be offered as a gift, with no strings attached? Or should they come with a subtle price tag. (This could include invitation to church services, a Christian tract, a takeway resource). Yet society at Christmas is so dominated by consumerism and when the church offers “switch and bait” have we not bowed down to the gods of consumerism in our culture? Each year this is debated. In 2006 the [public spiritual installation art] simply offered a takeaway potential of a memorable moment.

In terms of resourcing this, it could easily be the main focus of the energy for a community, that is used first in public during the Advent season, but are then all collected and offered as gathered worship (come see all the 24 advent stations) for Christmas eve services, with space, mulled wine, artist floor talks, ambient music and carols. In other words, the creativity is shaped by mission but woven into the worshipping life.

Well done Sanctus1 (and thanks Ben for the hat-tip).

Posted by steve at 10:48 AM

1 Comment

  1. I wonder what these would look like in the much more out-doors climate of Australia?

    Or scattered through a national park, say Belair?


    Comment by steve — December 9, 2011 @ 11:28 am

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