Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The God Intrusion


Jesus in Hackney by Pants


And did those feet in ancient times
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of God
On pleasant Hackney Marshes seen?


Why yes, Virginia. This is my one and only contribution to public art. It's a bit of a long story. After the moving van had left my London flat with all my Australian-bound chattels onboard, there were some bits left behind at the back of cupboards which I only found when I came to clean them. By this time the van was halfway to Southampton.

Most went into our ever-present street skips. There was a whole glory chest full of vintage fabrics, laces, buttons and patterns. I just don't know how that could have been missed. It was too late to find someone to give it to so I put it out in the street and it disappeared in a couple of hours. I'd have been glad to find that I can tell you.

Less easily re-homed was a marble Jesus I once found on a building site and a small collection of decommissioned foreign coins. It didn't feel right to throw these in a bin. I could offer reasons but none of them would be rational. Let's just say a more soul-satisfying solution was required. There isn't much point in being born into a rationalist culture if you can't occasionally take a holiday from it. This is how you know you are operating rationally most of the time. You are able to discern the difference.

I like to think my solution was elegant in its simplicity. It was both creative and carbon-neutral. I took the coins and the Jesus and placed them in my coat pocket. I then put on the coat, buttoned it up and walked over to Hackney Marshes. I found a suitable site by the river under a tree and I mounted a mini-installation, (pictured), right there amongst the moss and the mushrooms.

The memory of what is possibly the most obscure art happening in history has returned because last week we hosted the Global Atheists' Convention right here in Victoria. Talk about high profile. It's even attracted the laser-like scrutinies of our old friend Melanie Phillips.

Richard Dawkins has been upsetting people by stating the obvious - something that is so rarely done in Australia it invariably comes across as rude. He said one of our more prominent creationist senators has 'less intelligence than an earthworm'. Clearly it's not a crime to be that clueless. It's not even unusual. Dawkins was trying his hardest, without upsetting the apple-cart of international diplomacy too much, to suggest that politicians should leave their storybooks at home when they come to work and are making decisions about things like wars and hospitals and schools. It was simply a question of fitness for purpose.

I got to thinking about how my own small, practical solution to the problem of the Jesus who missed the boat might contribute to the theological debate, perhaps even spawn a new religion. Someone coming across my intervention with nature could easily experience an Epiphany, especially if they happened to be in contemplatory mode as people so often are when they're walking along a river. That person might search his or her mind for a rational explanation as to how this arrangement came to be and find there isn't one. They would be absolutely correct. We have already established that such an explanation does not exist. However, Jesus is there. Ergo, he does exist.

It's easy to see how these rumours get started. Stopping them, however, has proved a tad more problematic.