Hello, everyone. This blog has moved to JOHNVOELZ.COM!

Monday, June 23, 2008

What Would Jesus Deface?

Banksy is at it again.

Last month in London, renowned graffiti artist and rabble-rouser “Banksy” gathered 40+ artists to transform a railway tunnel under Waterloo Station into a statement—a piece of art.

According to participants, Banksy gave the invite and told the artists their flights. I can only imagine the thrill this would have been to be invited by the artist who alludes the press and authorities—the art world’s V for Vendetta figure.

I’m not gonna lie . . . I love this guy.

While there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding graffiti art because, well, it’s illegal . . . this Banksy exhibit entitled, "The Cans Festival" (see more photos HERE)was completely legal and encouraged by the owner of the tunnel who plans to leave the exhibit up for up to six months.

“Graffiti doesn’t always spoil buildings. In fact, it’s the only way to improve a lot of them. In the space of a few hours with a couple of hundred cans of paint I’m hoping we can transform a dark, forgotten filth pit into an oasis of beautiful art. . .in a dark, forgotten filth pit” said Banksy.

The artist revolutionary does continue to make good points about graffiti art in that dilapidated and forgotten buildings in cities are often a bigger eyesore than the art that begs to adorn them. The sin of neglect seems to outweigh the sin of defacing what has been abandoned by the cities in which they dwell.

While Christians would be hard-pressed to make a foolproof case for the defacement of property in order to make a statement, it is hard to argue with the outcome of some of these revolutionary statements.

One can’t help but wonder if (and I realize this is a slippery slope) if there is some inherent value in some of these statements with an appeal to the “greater good” principal.

After all, the country we live in that prides itself in “free speech” only got there because a few men a couple hundred years ago committed high treason.

I never thought I would be having conversations about the ethics of graffiti with people in my church but, surprisingly enough the topic has come up a few times in recent years. There was the kid who asked me what I thought about him spray painting the words, “F#@k Pervs” on the side of a porn shop in downtown Jackson. There was the young man who unveiled his plan to me to paint starving people on the side of an abandoned building by the old railway tracks in order to draw attention to the homeless and hurting in Jackson. While I had many issues with the first idea, I actually had to think about the second for a bit.

I am reminded of the stories of King David eating the temple shewbread with his hungry men or Jesus’ disciples picking heads of grain on the Sabbath or Rahab harboring spies—all stories wherein the law was broken for a greater good.

I am aware of the surface implications of breaking laws to raise awareness. I am aware of setting precedence and opening the proverbial Pandora’s Box. But still, I question . . . .

The prophet Banksy says, “I’ve always felt anyone with a paint can should have as much say in how our cities look as architects and ad men. So getting to cover an entire street with graffiti is a dream come true, or as some people might call it . . a complete and utter nightmare.”

The inherent humor and sarcasm in almost every Banksy quote is endearing to me. Maybe it’s because when I see pictures like this (left) I am actually moved. More than “moved” in an emotional sense—“moved” to action. Moved to want to make a difference. Moved to change. So, I appreciate the rebel in Banksy.

Another good case in point for art raising awareness and “moving” people through art in the face of opposition and laws would be The Heidelberg Project in Detroit.

The Heidelberg Project, bearing the name of the street on which it exists, was started in 1986 by Tyree Guyton.

Tyree was raised on Heidelberg Street and, at the age of 12, witnessed the tragic effect of the Detroit riots - from which he claims the City of Detroit never recovered.

Armed with a paintbrush, a broom, and neighborhood children, Guyton, Karen, and Grandpa began by cleaning up vacant lots on Heidelberg and Elba Streets. From the refuse they collected, Guyton began to transform the street into a massive art environment.

Vacant lots literally became “lots of art” and abandoned houses became “gigantic art sculptures.” Guyton not only transformed vacant houses and lots, he integrated the street, sidewalks, and trees into his mammoth installation and called his work, "The Heidelberg Project", after it's location on Heidelberg Street.

Today the Heidelberg Project is recognized as one of the most influential art environments in the world.

Funny how things change. The Heidelberg Project is now “protected” by the city as a historical site. Groups have partnered with Guyton to raise money for the arts, art camps, community gardens, and a plethora of other community life-breathing activities all because of his act of defiance.

Is there ever a case where a believer in Jesus should break the law to raise awareness?

If the church responded like the church should, would there be a need for law-breaking of any kind in order to raise awareness of injustices?

blog comments powered by Disqus