Jesus Dies for Our Sins
An art project inspired by the constant transformations and re-use of urban spaces initially intended for religious purposes.
The initial inspiration for this project derives from the footage 'Jesus Saves', filmed by Clovis Salmon (called 'Sam the Wheels'), which shows the demolition of a Pentecostal church (name of the church), despite the importance that this particular church had for a local community in Brixton. The church was demolished in 1977, upon request by the Local Council and the disrupted land plot was infamously 'transformed' into the 'Barrier Block'.
The project does not investigate the reasons for the demolition of this church and the demolition of many others; instead, it focuses on the relevant and always current issue - what has happened with the physical spaces after their demolition? Is there any consideration for the faith and ' hope' that inhabited these spaces while they were used as places for prayer, worship and religious ceremonies?
One of the features of the project JESUS DIES FOR OUR SINS, is extensive research into Brixton's re-developed churches. The Lambert Archives offered an all-encompassing source of information, wherein the history of the religious spaces has been meticulously researched through written documents dating several centuries, as well as through photographic sources recording services, weddings and other ceremonies and events from more recant times (focusing in particular on the habits and everyday life of the Jamaican migration in the area).
The research showed unexpected results: most of the desecrated churches have been redeveloped into casinos and nightclubs (some even with 'pole-dancing'), etc. This fact does not belong only to the past, but very much also to the present. It is a reality that remains a threat feared by many active religious places - like, for example, the Raleigh Park Baptist Church. My realisation of the continuous transformations of spaces intended for religious purposes surprised and shocked me; it provided the basis for the art object which is positioned within the 198 gallery window space.
The project is not about an intended revival of a romantisized 'moral' and idealised world; it is a direct and powerful message that has the intention to act as a warning / reminder to the gallery visitors, as well as to everyday passers-by, about the careless redevelopment and redefinition of Brixton and London in general.
Visually, the art object refers to the widely used practice of displaying religious signs and slogans, in a manner and purpose not dissimilar from the application of modern neon advertising signs. Shining and glowing, the visual message that today's religious institutions and places of worship are giving to the public, has never been closer to that of contemporary advertising techniques. The need for self-promotion ('to make known, announce, broadcast, proclaim, trumpet, call attention to, bill, promote, market, beat/bang the drum for, informal push, plug, hype, boost' *) in the most direct and derogatory manner, is adopted by all layers of society... Does this current situation demonstrate that both sides of society - one 'good' and the other one, 'evil' - are taking the same direction, adopting the shape and form of the commercialized, mass-produced and mediocre world?
* Describes the word 'advertise' as noted from 'Oxford Dictionary'.
By Nada Prlja, 2008