Sunday, June 13, 2010

DESERT RELIGION

Initially, I wanted to make a puppet show for my MFA Thesis Exhibition, THE END IS EVER NIGH. It would have fit in perfectly with my imagery: humanity controlled by outside forces beyond their control.

However, my MFA was in Painting, not in Intermedia, Performing or Performance Arts. I felt it would be too much of a disconnect from the thrust of my Thesis. I also did not feel I had the time or experience necessary to plan out a proper puppet stage at an appropriate MFA Thesis level without enlisting help from people who already had their own crosses to bear.

Becoming a member of the Eye Lounge collective immediately gave me the push and experimental freedom necessary to begin to seriously think of doing a puppet show. The theme of my Eye Lounge solo show is the desert. The desert in the Bible, also translated as "wilderness" is a place for wandering, introspection, exile: a place to return from after spiritual revelation and visions. Since I have always lived in Arizona--near South Mountain and the radio tower lights--in a modernized "quasi-desert," I find this an experience that is hard to replicate in my own life.

I have gone on many hikes, twice to the Grand Canyon, but have never experienced "the desert." I did not feel lost, I do not feel deserted or wandering, because I know that I can go back anytime...there is a trail "back home." The Desert Fathers had no such conceit: they were always living in the desert, as they wanted to escape the modernization of the church as a legitimate, Roman institution. It became their new home for Christ.

Therefore, my home may be a desert, but it does not feel like a desert...there is always a way back home. I have to use my imagination in order to construct a scenario that could even come close to the experience of the Desert Fathers, John the Baptist, Christ himself, or St. John of Patmos.

I worked on a script for a puppet show: Jesus' Temptations (Matthew 4: 1-11) with Tommy Cannon, a puppeteer from the Great Arizona Puppet Theater. I wanted to tap into his humor and improvisational skill to amplify the sense of irreverence I want to convey in the banter between Jesus and Satan. Jesus maintains His cool throughout the process, tempted three times, to return from the experience steeled in His resolve. Satan, though defeated is unchanged by the experience, a Trickster who moves on to others to be made Fool.

I would like to think that it all happened in His mind, as does all of my imagery in mine: Satan may still have been real, as all visions are to the person experiencing them.





2 comments:

Patricia said...

Your insight into the significance of the "dessert" is interesting as it symbolises the spiritual significance of the desert and that it is not simply a physical geographic location. You stated, "I have gone on many hikes, twice to the Grand Canyon, but have never experienced "the desert." I did not feel lost, I do not feel deserted or wandering, because I know that I can go back anytime...there is a trail "back home."..... And that is an accurate analysis. The desert wandering represented in the New Testament not only portray a physical deseert but also the spiritual desert of lonliness, abandonment, want and suffering. It is a time of testing and trial- prolonged testing and prolonged sacrifice. At times, it may appear as if there is no end in sight- literally and spiritually.
You mentioned that -" The Desert Fathers had no such conceit: they were always living in the desert, as they wanted to escape the modernization of the church as a legitimate, Roman institution. It became their new home for Christ." That is accurate to say from a historical and spiritual perspective. Not only did the ancient fathers of faith and prophets seek refuge in the desert, they saught enlightenment. One of the purpose was to become closer to God, and to rely fully on God's provision.

Your ststemets: "Therefore, my home may be a desert, but it does not feel like a desert...there is always a way back home. I have to use my imagination in order to construct a scenario that could even come close to the experience of the Desert Fathers, John the Baptist, Christ himself, or St. John of Patmos." .....can be interpreted in many ways- literal and symbolically as well. In the literal sense, it can mean the obvious- that you do in fact live in a geographic area that can be defined as a desert! And spiritually, your confident statements may refer to the security that you feel with your environment, or surroundings- you have the ability and inisght to recognise you are not spiritually cut off from the "Creator". Or perhaps you refer to the fact that you are not emotionally cut off from society, or family or friends? Actually there could be a number of interpretations. Ironically, Jesus' time in the desert represented the absolute extreme of lonliness and isolation- yet at the same time, it represented his bond with God, and his faith in the face of extreme adversity. It represented the powerful ability to overcome one's circumstances and surroundings- despite what common sense or society may tell us.


Hence, in the discourse "between Jesus and Satan.... Jesus maintains His cool throughout the process, tempted three times, to return from the experience steeled in His resolve. Satan, though defeated is unchanged by the experience, a Trickster who moves on to others to be made Fool." This is biblically accurate- a good synopsis of the dynamic between what actually occurs in the spiritual world.

Patricia said...

sorry about the typos!