Monday, August 13, 2007

Art's place in subverting the empire

I have mentioned that I have been reading Colossians remixed, this incredible book has caused me to think more deeply on many subjects, but probably the most compelling has been the nature of art, and the creative impulse, when confronted with the empire of global consumerism.

The premise of the book is that in the time Paul wrote this letter, the control of the Roman Empire was very much complete. And the Roman myth, the pax romana, was all pervasive. Rome understood very correctly that if they were to continue to hold their influence, they must not only overcome their enemies with military might, but then seek to hold them by other means. In my opinion, the most important part of this plan was to destroy all alternative imaginations, and to profoundly preach the myth of pax Romana in every conceivable way. This was done by destroying, or subverting every other myth besides the pax romana. They enlisted the arts and symbols in this quest. They understood rightly that as long as their was an alternative imagination, they would never completely control the people. When people believe there might be an alternative to the existing empire, they can dream of a different way of life, the empire is never completely secure. So by plastering Caesar all over everything, including their money. By putting symbols of the pax romana on household items they insured the imaginations of the people would stay captive.

What we are now living under is the myth of progress, the myth of peace through violence, the myth of consumerism without restraint. And the empire we are held captive by is global consumerism. Our nation states are no longer the empires, but rather they are expending their resources for the purpose of propping up the global economy. The nation state is subservient to the global economy. And the myths of redemptive violence, and existential spending, are not only taken hold, but are almost unquestioned.

The stunning thing is; this captivity is so complete that even the voice of dissent is then stylized and marketed, and becomes just another subverted enemy of the empire, losing its voice. The Nike corporation bombing their own billboards and using the counter culture to market themselves.

It is my contention that the way we stand against this empire seeking to control our imagination, is by creatively engaging a new story, a subversive story, a story that says things not only can be different, but should be. This alternative imagination, must be practiced, and spoken of through the creative outlets of our art. When we do art, we are practicing the skills that are needed to stand against a culture that seeks to control even our creativity. When we make art not for profit, but for prophet, we engage the powers of the world. If we are going to be a people that are not caught up in the current of the empire, we must create, as in doing so we keep alive that in us that is good and noble, and we bear the image of our creator, the great artist.

We must not let our art, and creativity be subverted. Like adbusters we must stand against the oppression of a global market economy, and refuse to let our creativity be used to insure the empire, but rather to dream up a new way of living, a new way of being. We must embrace the creative that we are made in the image of, and truly seek to subvert the empire by our being what God made us.

Einstein, who was apparently a very smart guy, said something along the lines of, the solutions to our problems, are going to require a completely different kind of thinking than the sort that created those problems. Doing art, practices this different kind of thinking.

So write poetry, make collages, paint, draw, design, make furniture, clothing, organize prophetic places of creative dissent. Set your mind free, stand against the overwhelming tide of products, and symbols and trademarks and brands. Let us enter the new kingdom, and say goodbye to the control of the empire.



Matt said...

Creation as a means to subvert a twisted culture, or creation as a means to enlighten apart from the culture? Or both?

I came to the conclusion/realization a while ago that if we are created in the image of a Creator-God, then as the image-bearers of God we must acknowledge and act upon the creative impulse that is inherent within us as those made in His image.

You've got me thinking again, Rev. Good stuff.

The Rev said...

Enlightening something different than culture is always going to also be subverting the culture. Like my art, it is very minimalist, so you cannot understand it just in passing. You must stop (counter culture), meditate (counter culture), and maybe even ask (again counter culture). Then the meaning of the piece, or pieces gets to come through, and this meaning is again about redemption, and the beauty of our scars, and imperfections, (counter culture).

But more importantly, what creative excercise are you going to practice? And will you share it here?


Gareth LovesTha Pye said...

Einsteins quote that you paraphrased is fantastic, he was a very sensible fellow. Sure he was pretty damn smart, but his great break throughs were there for the taking. It was just that most people were unwilling to think of new ways.

jON said...

we are obviously on the same page right now. i have not anywhere found another voice who is receiving the same understandings of the beast that envelops the earth and controls the minds of everyone who lives within it. to such a point that most do not even know that they are within its grasp. it is so close to our faces that it often is not seen.

yet once you notice it. you can't see anything else.

thank you for offering a clarion call to subvert the dominant paradigm and encourage us all to dream a new reality for our world.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inspiration Rev.
Much food for thought

wazza said...

What about music, Rev?

Sovann Pen said...

"But more importantly, what creative excercise are you going to practice? And will you share it here?"

Hmmm...i sing (always), play piano (sometimes, I suck), write poetry (even rarer and even worse, dance (Don't Stop the Rock! Freak-A-Zoids report to the dance floor!).

But really right now my creative exercise is focused on the art and science of therapy, of inspiring change in people and in jiu jitsu.

I think a lot about my story and have been thinking a lot about my dad and his story, some of the things he left unfinished and unsaid.