Conjunctions: joining art, faith and community
25th May 2017
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At the end of April we held our “Conjunctions” study day, a collaboration between the Holy Biscuit, Sputnik (the arts initiative within Catalyst network) and St Dominic’s Priory (Catholic church in the Ouseburn). Three weeks on, it’s time to reflect on the day and share those reflections.

Around 40 people, all involved in some kind of creative practice, gathered at the Holy Biscuit to explore the themes of art, faith and community. Jonny Mellor of Sputnik spoke to us about the different kinds of art in the Bible and challenged us to consider making ‘Risky, Ambiguous and Ugly Art’. Jonny’s ‘Provocations’ certainly challenged us and led to some really animated discussions. 

Some notes provided by one of the Conjunctions participants
Some notes provided by one of the Conjunctions participants

We also had a series of short presentations from five individuals about their creative work and personal journey, including visual artists, a writer and a filmmaker. We really appreciated Richard, Huw, Lorna, Sam and Cully being so honest about the challenges they have faced and being willing to allow their experiences to become part of a wider conversation.

Some notes relating to the presentations
Some notes relating to the presentations

In the afternoon there were two options for workshops – one was a silent walking tour of the Ouseburn led by Father Dominic White of St Dominic’s. This included a specially arranged visit to the Gibson Street Baths building which is not usually open to the public, and finished up at St Dominic’s Priory. A slightly surreal experience, participants found it very calming and restorative, a valuable dose of quiet in the middle of a talkative day!

Conjunctions participants process in silence through the Ouseburn
Conjunctions participants process in silence through the Ouseburn

The other option was a workshop entitled ‘Valuing Values’ led by Anna Louise Spencer. This started with a brief introduction to Anna’s work in the Scottish Highlands exploring methodologies of community development. This was followed by time of active reflection on our creative practice to encourage us to look again at the motivation and consequences of our work.

Miriam Skinner, our ‘poet in residence’ for the event summed up the themes and conversations of the day in her poem ‘We are probably prophets’ which she performed to close our time together. Here is a link to the transcript of her poem which really gives a flavour of the day:

 

We are probably prophets
Miriam Skinner

“Hi, who are you?” 
Ah, I did have a label but these things refuse to stuck to me
but see… 
I am an enabler of super magic direct to heart communication.
A prophet of performance, paint, paper, pottery, pen
                                                             We are them
Who sometimes make stuff. We prefer ‘creative’  … and …
                        We are the marketing team for our nans 
and for the 30 breeds of squirrels
– You should google that.
We resolve to not do things that are meaningless.
Meaningless, everything under the sun is meaningless
We value communication, we communicate value
                                                           And You and I, 
we are contradictory, unfortunately inconsistent.
Our threads tangled. We are present.
We are practitioners. We practice. It doesn’t make perfect.
We answer questions we didn’t ask. We did not know How
                       If art isn’t heard, does it even make a sound.
                                           We are those who break down, 
break through and paint the cracks gold
And hold torches in the dusk. We keep glory, grit and grime, in our clay jars
We are those whose Virgin Mary wears stilettos
                    Whose attack alarms read YOLO
And who paint black Trump’s oppression – oil on canvas.
In the beginning was the verb – the doing word
We are made in the image of the verb – we are verbs
     The heard, the unheard, the underheard
The now but not yet
                   And yet
We are prophets- probably.

 

If you would like to explore the themes of Conjunctions further, you can get involved in Mixing Bowl – “a mixture of people from different backgrounds committed to exploring what faith, art and shared life looks like outside of the traditional church context”. We meet twice monthly at Holy Biscuit to share a meal; to discuss, experience and reflect on an artwork; and to pray together. If you would like to get involved please email Lorna@theholybiscuit.org.

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