Planting Seeds, Spreading Flames - Steve Scott
Planting the Seeds, Spreading the Flames
by Steve Scott
In late October of 2005 we at CANA (Christians Artists’ Networking Association; http://cana-arts.blogspot.com) ran a small, but evidently welcome international arts conference in Sanur, Bali. I say ‘evidently welcome’, because all the other tourists and their money were leaving Bali in the shadow of a recent terrorist bombing. This was the second bombing in three years. We went ahead with the conference and one of the highlights was an exhibition we worked on together with some local organizations. We were able to hold it in a local church/community center in Ubud. We called it ‘Art among friends: an international exhibit to promote peace’ and it featured our conference artists along with some local Balinese artists.
At the end of the Balinese conference we had a preliminary planning meeting for the next one. We began to think about Eastern Europe. We had Bulgarian artists with us at this conference as well as sculptor Esther Augsburger. Esther had many strong relationships in the Eastern European arts community. Our Bulgarian conference took place in the summer of 2008.
Something else I had been feeling strongly about was the idea of trying to put together a ‘virtual display’ using digital projected images of ‘arms turned into art’ imagery. I was initially inspired by Esther Augsburger’s Guns into plowshares sculpture. I was impressed by the theme, and later as I began to look around I learned that other artists had begun to explore this idea of turning arms into art (see links at the end). I began to imagine the possibilities offered by digital media and high quality projection units for a ‘virtual exhibit.’ It would be possible, I imagined, to burn an entire art show to a DVD disc or even ‘walk’ it into a place on a 4 or 8 gigabyte USB drive attached to a keychain. The place where I dreamed of installing such an exhibition (now provisionally titled ‘Conversation: Peace’) was in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic games.
I got to Beijing in 2007 and began to meet with artists, students, teachers and communication workers. I enthusiastically shared my ideas with them and fired up my laptop to show them some of the images I had on file. At this point I had one or two sobering conversations with knowledgeable individuals that pointed out anything involving images of guns and military hardware would possibly be looked upon negatively by the powers that be. It was unlikely that I would get the official permits required to legitimately proceed. So I powered down my laptop and began to reconsider. While it might be ‘easy’ to walk a digital exhibit in, I’m not interested in trying to set something up that gets immediately shut down, gets me kicked out and creates problems for other people.
Even after I left Beijing, this idea still began to nag at me in different ways. I was imagining a ‘virtual’ exhibit that drew upon a common theme, inspired somewhat by our local exhibit (art among friends) that had been on display during uncertain times.
So then I began to think about trying to do something connected, however vaguely, to the 2012 Olympics in London. I initially wondered if anything was afoot in terms of themed arts exhibits during this time - especially within the Christian community - so I put out some feelers and inquiries via a Christian arts newsletter called Veritasse (www.veritasse.co.uk/). I did not hear anything back from organizations at the time but I did learn through Veritasse of an arts organization based in East London called ‘Commission for Mission' (http://commissionformission.blogspot.com) and so I connected with them to learn more.
Pretty soon I was in dialogue with those involved in leading these organizations and we were exploring the idea of organizing an arts event that would combine digital display of international work along with the work of local artists in a particular location or community. Because the digital display could be duplicated and distributed in DVD form it would be possible to have a global/local arts exhibit opening at the same time in different places.
We called this ‘Run with the Fire’ initially to combine the flame image of the Pentecost season in the church calendar with the image of the burning torch held by the Olympic runner. We were also inspired by that runner and the idea of carrying a message and running a relay. Therefore we asked artists in different parts of the world to come up with ideas, which in turn were passed on to other artists. These artists explored these ideas using different media. The artists sent us high quality images of the resulting works of art.
We are compiling the results into a digital video presentation for projection on screen or monitor in a local church or community settings. The exhibition organizers will also put a show of local artwork on display to accompany the digital display. This combination of virtual presentation and real local art can open in multiple locations at the same time. Each exhibition combines the global with the truly local. Some churches and organizations have already expressed an interest in being part of this. We are hoping that, along with the complementary global and local aspects of the display, the overall ‘image’ of a digitally created network can be seen as part of the larger, all inclusive ‘art work.’
While it has been a journey of adventures, detours and surprising connections so far, I still view this very much as a beginning. Who knows where a global/local conversation about art, imagination and peace might go in this chaotic, digitally connected world?
Steve Scott directs CANA (Christian Artists Networking Association.) CANA seeks to engage, connect and empower artists in different parts of the world by running international conferences (SE Asia/Eastern Europe) and maintaining online communication (see http://cana-arts.blogspot.com). Read more about Steve’s records and books here: http://www.alivingdog.com/SteveScott.html