Making something small happen

art of the everyday

Artists Testiomonies at Fellowship of the Faithless.

Saturday 8th December

exhibition from 10-2

event 2-4

I arrived a little late and in a panic, I was up late baking for the Artists Testimonies event. I lophotove to bake for events as I think it gives them a more relaxed atmosphere and a starting point for conversation for those who don’t already know each other. Spending time in the empty gallery space is quite peaceful so soon I am calmly making final plans for the event.

Artists testimonies is an event asking artists to share why they believe in art – not a presentation of their own work but the motivation behind why they make work and the potential they think art has. The idea came from attending several highly polished presentations of people’s work, they were great at showing a professional body of work but I felt that the art language and Powerpoint style is quite off-putting.I put out a call for 10 artists and 10 audience members for the event and a discussion afterwards. The event was not recorded in any way. It is very important to me that it was not disrupted with photos or video and that each person that attended holds the evidence of the event. This of course is problematic for funding applications and blog posts as there is little to share.

I hope to host this event again so if you live in Belfast and are interested leave a comment!

Fellowship of the Faithless – losing my religion?

Friday 7th 11-3 pm

SONY DSCWhen setting the show up I wanted the chairs to be in strict straight lines with slightly awkward closeness to each other. This helps to give the feeling I had when attending church. The idea that no one is a stranger when you share a faith – that these people are your family is tested when you are on uncomfortable chairs and a little too close to one another.

I arrived to set up for the day and it was evident that those attending the opening had felt the chairs were too close also, as they had spread from their original places. The floor was covered in crumbs and as I set about hoovering and rearranging things I was aware of being watched from outside. It raises the question that I often find with this gallery – what is part of the show and what is not. I have chosen to leave the windows uncovered so people can pass by and look in – you could see the carpet being laid the space wallpapered and things taking shape. Equally the taking down of the show will be visible.

No one visited the show today and again I found myself wondering how this would feel if I was urgently trying to spread my beliefs and was sure that without hearing my message people could be lost. What message do I want to share? Is my proposal to have faith in art an empty promise as I do not offer salvation? I prefer to invigilate my own work as I enjoy hearing feedback as people experience the show but when you sit alone for 4 hours you do begin to question your work and its importance beyond your own need to make it.

 

Fellowship of the Faithless – the opening night.

A few thoughts on the opening night.

The first visitors whispered and skirted round the chairs not knowing whether to sit or not wanting to. I offered tea and biscuits to each person that entered the show and I think the lack of alcohol really changed the tone of opening. The first expectation of free wine and beer was removed so what expectations replaced them?

Around 8 or so the show became quite busy (I had around 60 attend the opening night) The chairs filled up and the expectation was that I would do something/ preach something/present something. I did not, nor did I explain that I was not going to. I just passed around biscuits and chatted with those that were there. The space felt like a church without a leader and without a leader people soon began to share their negative experiences of being in church, of being told they would go to hell and of homophobic rants. At this point something unexpected happened. I started to become very defensive. Is there such a thing as playing God’s Advocate?

I am still connected to my old faith in a way I had not been forced to publicly recognise until now.

Lots to contemplate tomorrow.

Fellowship of the Faithless – Press Release

 

Fellowship of the Faithless Julie Miller

03 – 15 December 2012

The artist Julie Miller makes pamphlets, small in format and printed on thin paper colourfully framed like the leaflets laid out on the back tables in churches.
‘A love for baking’ describes her thoughts on a bus: ‘I often think when on a bus, what if I just started singing? Would people join in like in the movies?’ In her search to stimulate change she asks: ‘But what if things are different? What if, even just for one day, I did not pretend I was the only passenger on the bus…I could bake for them’.
And like a guide for societal reform, the back of the pamphlet shows a recipe for cupcakes: Baking for the bus.

Julie Miller has written many pamphlets from ’Good Intentions’ to ‘The Perfect Gift’, beautifully designed, each describing a different situation, each offering practical solutions and actions; instructions for happenings, handed out by the artist on the streets of Belfast.
‘Fellowship of the Faithless‘ uses elements of installation and performance, interior design and ritual. Quite like any religious congregation with their attempt to create a different and higher reality? Quite like art one might counter, believing in what?

Born in Northern Ireland, where Christian beliefs are still fundamentally anchored, she investigates how forms of religion shape society, speech, politics and art.
Her work replicates religious forms and rituals and fills it with new content. God is not the centre, but human responsibility, solidarity and mutual help, enacted and communicated through pamphlets, actions and performances. They are displayed in the newly carpeted space of PS², filled with chairs, like a church, like a room ready for small revolutions, a meeting house for neo- dissenters.

Julie Miller writes about her project in PS²:
‘Evangelism, familiar to the people of Belfast is the process of promoting a set of beliefs in attempt to convert others to the same belief. Making something small happen began as a simple exploration of the possibilities that evangelism holds as an artistic methodology.

The work attempts to promote dialogue about evangelism, gift giving and reciprocal obligation. Reciprocal obligation describes the feeling that once a gift has been received one should be given in return. I am interested in how this same obligation functions within Public art in Belfast.

I have used three approaches to explore these themes. The first of these are the tracts, a form of evangelical pamphlet, written and distributed by me on the streets of Belfast. The second is the account given of my experiences during the distribution of the tracts, which takes place on my blog -makingsomethinghappen.wordpress.com. Third is a series of events that deconstruct the traditional protestant church service and investigate how they can be used to address a range of secular needs.

The work is not designed or desired to be spectacular, its strength is in its persistence. I have adopted the passive approach of one particular Christian street evangelist often seen at City Hall, who first sparked my interest in the potential of evangelism as art. This work uses many of the qualities and values that are often attributed to Christianity but reclaims these as an intrinsic part of my secular lived experience.

With this project in PS², I explore what a Fellowship of the Faithless may look like and how it could function, not as a means to exclude those with religious beliefs,  but as a fellowship which does not build its foundation on them but rather on art and its possibilities.’

 


Saturday, 08 December 2012, 2-4pm: Artist testimonies.
Please pre-book your place
 miller.julie83@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Opening hours: Wed-Fri 11am-3pm, Sat 10am-2pm Contact: pssquared@btconnect.com or 07733457772.

For more information see http://www.pssquared.org/J.Miller.php

For more information on Julie Miller see https://makingsomethingsmallhappen.wordpress.com/

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PS² is supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This Show is also part funded by Support for the Individual Artist Award.

 

Fellowship of the Faithless – Day 2

SONY DSC

Opening Hours 11-3 and 6-9

Tonight is the official opening which brings with it a nervous excitement. During the 11-3 hours 8 people visited, 4 of which were students from the foundation course at the Art college I attended. They didn’t ask any questions but seemed bewildered and assumed there must be more work somewhere else.

As I mentioned yesterday most people have some previous experience of church going or religion that they bring to the exhibition, A visitor today said for him the room had an appearance of standoffishness and that it smelled like a funeral home. His father had run a funeral home and the smell he remembered was fresh paint and new carpets – the upkeep of the space. The authenticity of the space was important to me – the chairs were borrowed from a church hall as was the kettle boiler. The choice of wallpaper and carpet are directly borrowed from my experience of attending a small evangelical church as a child and from memories of a youth group that as held in the house of a friend of my sister.

The show looks like a place of worship which was my intention and I think there are many parallels between the art audience and the congregation but there are some obvious differences. It is the similarities and differences I hope to discuss with people during the exhibition.

Fellowship of the Faithless – Day 1.

SONY DSC SONY DSC

Opening hours 11-3

I had 5 visitors today which was a lovely number, the space is lovely to spend time in if a little cold but I wonder what I would feel like if I were a minister and had dedicated my life to religion to only have 5 people to share with. As this is art not religion I expected to have little interaction from outside but spending time in a church-like space does sort of force contemplation.

In Northern Ireland most people have previous experience of religion and it is this that  allows each person to bring a different context to the show. One visitor said if felt just like a wake, not that it was depressing but that it made him nervous.

Lastly, in understanding that many passersby would think the show was a religious space I am interested in my place within that. What expectations do we hold for people who are openly religious? What expectations do I hold for myself? I am interested in the crossover between what is “good” in secular society and religious society. As my thoughts are wondering I notice a woman selling the big issue outside the window, I am inside warm and dry and have been making tea or coffee for those who come in to see the show. I feel that I should offer her a hot drink – put these thoughts about what is good into practice. I offer her tea which she gladly accepts and when I take out the cup with the milk she requested she responds with “God bless you and your family”

Fellowship of the Faithless

exhibitionSet up of my solo show December 2012.

I will be adding thoughts and some more images from the shows duration.

Please feel free to comment or ask for further details.

 

Pride comes before a fall.

Pride goeth before destruction,

and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18

Having been raised in the Christian faith but now finding myself a reluctant atheist I am exploring the meaning of biblical phrases in a secular life. Having finished the MA Art in Public at Belfast with Distinction the theme for my next tract will be Pride comes before a fall.  I am also working on a summary for the project which will be the next post.

Artists Testimonies

Belmont Tower, Belfast

19th May

2-4

In the same venue as my last event, a singing workshop, I set up for something a little different. The room has large triptych windows on both sides and in the centre I arranged 12 chairs in a circle. These would soon be filled with 6 people sharing their testimonies, their chosen witnesses and a film maker to document the event.

I introduced my work explaining my intention to explore the possibilities of evangelism as an artistic methodology and my desire to create a fellowship of the faithless. Careful to be clear that it was open to anyone but the faithless refers to the desire that regardless of the beliefs of the group it would not be a fellowship centred around religious belief but a fellowship based on a belief or hope in art.

After introducing the outline for the day I asked whoever felt they wanted to share first to begin. As expected this led to an awkward silence but patiently we all waited until someone spoke. I will not be revealing the details of the other testimonies but I wanted to share with you that I found the event moving and emotional. This may seem strange after pointing out that the event was filmed for documentation and perhaps in time and with permission I will exhibit the work but I do not feel a blog is the place to do so.

In recreating a format most recognised when sharing stories of conversion to religious faith I found the same unity with this group that I had previously experienced  before I left the Christian faith. We had a united purpose and it was this purpose among other things that we shared through artists testimonies.

In an earlier post (https://makingsomethingsmallhappen.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/artists-testimonies/) I shared the promotional information for this event, borrowing from 1 Peter 3:15 “always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that you have” I asked for artists to respond. After all 5 other testimonies had been shared I shared a story of the moment I knew art worked. It was when giving out the buns for Tract 4 when all the passengers who accepted began to talk and share stories that I first really felt a fellowship outside of religion could truly be possible.

The testimonies were followed by tea and cake and a discussion where I asked witnesses to share their thoughts and posed some questions to the group. This is definitely a format I will use again.

I will be continuing to facilitate events as part of the making something small happen project and will share themes and thoughts as they develop.

We did sing!

Belmont Tower

Houston Room

8th May 2012

How does a group action provide fellowship and how does this fellowship function outside of religion. I am interested in deconstructing traditional Protestant Church services – the type I attended regularly in the past. Taking worship as my first area of interest I designed a singing workshop. This workshop was secular or non religious but focussed on the sense of fellowship that can be created by joining all our voices as one.

I introduced the workshop briefly talking about reclaiming the word fellowship, obviously the word community is problematic and fellowship definitely has religious overtones but in the interest of borrowing the strengths of religion (as suggested by Alain de Botton) I feel fellowship give more of a sense of what I am searching for and exploring with this work. Simon Critchley has recently written Faith of the faithless which I am currently reading. I would say faith has strength often from group support through congregation. It is this space of belonging and support that I hope to create for the moment of this workshop.

Anna Newell taught the workshop, she is an inspiring teacher and gently coaxed the singers out of each of the twenty participants. The participants were invited through Facebook, email and promotion on the venues Facebook also. I really had faith in the idea of getting strangers together to sing but as the time drew near I was short of the 30 participants I had hoped for. This in itself is not a problem 20 was a great number for Anna to work with and meant we got a good chance to chat over tea and cake afterwards. However it has got me thinking how do I promote these events so they reach those that are interested? I have mentioned several times about parallels I find between religion and art – both self perpetuate by “preaching to the choir” I am trying to move beyond this, I am currently planning the second event which will take place in Belmont Tower this saturday and explore the idea of giving testimonies.