Monday, 28 September 2009


Reflections was the start of the new season of BEYOND events in a new venue with a new way of doing things. We met in the upstairs room of a pub in Hove called The Alibi and on reflection it was a good move which prompted a very different atmosphere to the Old Market venue we have been using up to now. Rather than follow a set programme as we have at previous events we threw out various ideas about reflection and let people talk and think about them as they wanted to so there was a lot of discussion and free flowing conversation throughout the evening.

The room was setup with lots of different kinds of mirrors including some fairground style ones that we had made for the event and an interactive projection/reflection area where people could place their face into a frame and see themselves imposed onto images of Mother Teresa or Hitler or Marilyn Monroe.

We had some great films to watch including something we found on Youtube called Mirror, Mirror on the Wall and a fantastic version of Man in the Mirror by James Morrison which we set to a series of pictures of the changing faces of Michael Jackson.

Everyone got a chance to spend 5 minutes looking at themselves in a mirror, not something we often do in everyday life and quite an uncomfortable activity for some. Each person wrote about what they saw in their mirror and some of the things they would change if they could.

Taking some quotes from John O'Donohues Anam Cara brought us to thinking about the spiritual aspect of looking at ourselves:

The body is a sacrament. The old traditional definition of a sacrament captures this beautifully as a visible sign of invisible grace. All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression.

This led us to consider the other aspect of reflection which is to do with contemplation which is of course what we'd been doing all evening. We finished with the realisation from 1 Corinthians 13v12 that:

At present we are people looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!

As a symbol of that we had set up a dressing table with a few small fragments of mirror and someone trying to brush their hair in it without really being able to see. Everyone was given a shard of mirror and encouraged to add their shard to the mirror to help to make a more complete picture.

Finally everyone left with a small reminder that we only see a part of the picture now but one day will see everything. if you want one of these email us your address to and we'll put one in the post.

Our next event on 25th October tries another venue - The Basement in the heart of the Laines in Brighton - a very cool artspace which we hope to use to it's full underground advantage as the theme is Dark.

Finally a little postscript to Greenbelt in the form of a video about the ice sculpture posted by Michael Radcliffe.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Greenbelt 2

One of the other things we organised for Greenbelt was a Prayer Wall. The idea with this was to give people a place to pray which was a cross between the Jewish 'wailing wall' style and the catholic 'light a candle' form of prayer. In addition to making individual prayers we also wanted people to feel that they were part of a community of prayer that involved others without having to do something together.

We erected a 6m x 1.2m 'wall' made of wire mesh which had a subtle design spray painted onto it.

People were encouraged to take a piece of coloured ribbon and write a short prayer on it. Then they should take the ribbon and tie it into the wall on a piece of wire of the same colour. So red ribbons went onto red wire, orange ribbons onto orange wire etc. For those who couldn't think of a prayer or whose prayer was too difficult for words there were black ribbons which couldn't be written on and which speak volumes even though we can't. The aim was that eventually the accumulation of ribbons would result in a design, or ribbon picture by the end of the weekend.

Not everyone got the idea that the coloured ribbons should work like a giant 'painting by numbers' and we ended up with quite a lot of orange in the red, some white in the orange etc. and loads that weren't even tied into the design at all!! There's a little lesson to be learnt there about human understanding and perhaps the need to not conform!

The end result wasn't quite the clear picture we had hoped for but something like 700 people tied a ribbon into the design and that's a significant number of prayers in the middle of a busy festival when everyone's rushing to get from one thing to another.

We'd like to thank Siku, the Manga Bible artist, who adapted one of his pictures for us to (massively) simpify as the basis of our design and welcome any ideas for the wall and all it's prayers now the festival has finished.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Greenbelt 1

We've just returned, exhausted from a very busy and very successful Greenbelt. We were involved in a number of things and I'll write about all of these over the next few days but we'll start today with the Ice Age Contemplation.

The idea for this came some time ago when considering this year's theme which was 'Standing in the Long Now'. This is all about taking time, letting things happen, experiencing the moment, being patient. From this the idea came for a huge block of ice with things embedded in it which would slowly become free as the ice melted over the weekend.

We found a great company (Iceworks) who were prepared to put the block together for us and we added a spire to make the whole thing a little church like. Embedded in the ice were a number of little perspex crosses, some rosaries, sunflowers and in the spire a statuette of Jesus. The tonne and a half sculpture was delivered Friday midday and looked fab because the ice was so clear and the objects were visible floating in mid-block. It immediately began to melt and for the first day or so was covered in a living stream of water which not only looked beautiful but also began to change the shape, especially where the spire sat on the block.

As soon as the first ray of sunlight hit the block cracks began to appear and one in particular enhanced the whole effect. A feathery, flowery crack appeared in the spire directly above Jesus head making it look for all the world as though he had a halo above him, it was beautiful. People were fascinated by the whole thing and kept walking up to it and touching it, stroking it, licking it and taking photographs of it. Teenagers started to play games to see who could hold onto the ice longest and teams of people would rub away at certain areas to change the shape of the ice.

Slowly this awed interest began to change into something more violent and aggressive. Kids started to chip away at the ice to try and get at the things within and this gradually escalated.

Before long they were using hammers, stones and concrete blocks to hack at the ice which began to look less and less beautiful. Various people tried to stop this vandalism but it always started up again and by late Saturday afternoon all that was left was a large, ugly, grey lump which had been pushed off it's plinth and begun to migrate across the grass.

Lots of people were upset by this treatment but there are three things that we can take away from this:

1. You can't predict how people will react. The whole point of creating this kind of interactive art is to allow people to respond in the way they want to. We may not like their response but it's their response and it is authentic and valid nevertheless.

2. You can't always hold on to beauty. This artwork was designed to disappear, the vandalism merely speeded up that process. Because the initial sculpture was so beautiful we want to hold onto that moment but it was always destined to degrade and be defiled. Jesus' friends wanted to preserve the beauty of the transfiguration with some kind of memorial but he wouldn't allow that and instructed them to keep the event a secret. Modern life wants to capture everything for posterity as we saw with all the photographs being taken. Sometimes it's good just to experience the present and move on.

3. Isn't this a 'bit like Jesus'?! He was beaten and destroyed, made to look ugly and disfigured and it would have been a lot more distressing than watching a bunch of kids hitting an iceblock with sticks. Although I'd hesitate to draw specific parallels, there's something here about the violence of mankind being taken out on the beauty of God that I find quite profound.

So in all it's been a great lesson in what can happen when you put something out these and let things happen. I've learnt from it and I hope many others will too.

Come back in the next few days to read about the Prayer Wall, Light and the Burning Bush.