curating beyond the canon is the title of one of the chapters in curating subjects. sadly i can take no credit for the term. in it okwui enwezor says this
nice eh? try replacing art with worship in that paragraph. i think there are a lot of resonances with alternative worship . alternative worship has sought to curate beyond the canon in a number of ways -
1. i like the recent tendency to move things into public spaces within culture - art installations such as the advent beach hut calendar and stations of the cross, in cafes and bars and proximity spaces. johannes cladders being interviewed by hans obrist talks about the attempt by sanders and others to bring art and life completely together and either give up the institution of the museum or totally rethink it. i like the telling of a debate about museums where there is a discussion of whether it would be ok to play ping pong in a museum and cladders says yes as long as the art is taken off the walls first as it would be a distraction! cheeky playful and subversive. cladders goes on to say
i still wanted the museum but i said that just because you put another label on a bottle doesn't mean that the wine inside changes; it is the wine that needs to be altered. it is the inner attitude that we have to alter. we finally have to stop defining art as only those objects that have been accepted as art by society. we have to concentrate on on allowing art to evelove through how it is received.
2. theology - depends a bit on where you start from but curators within worship are often discovering texts that are beyond the canon at least of where they started. the initial wave of thinking around alt worship had a discussion forum called postmodern christian i seem to remember and feminist, liberation, black theologies all came to influence thinking. the discovery that were a whole swathe of texts beyond what had been the canon. this is also about where the canon is read from or through whose eyes and it came to be read with postmodern eyes. i can also think of a friend who tried to introduce contemplative practices into a charismatic church and this caused a lot of heartache - it was beyond the canon of that particular church culture/theology. the use of a lava lamp caused consternation because it was a distraction or peripheral!
3. the content of particular experiences being curated. this might be something simple such as the articulation of liturgy - i can think of a eucharist at grace on hospitality that drove hard for a radical inclusion at the table, certainly confronting the assumed theology of who can come to the table for bread and wine. the liturgy suggested that if jesus was able to share bread with judas knowing he would be betrayed by him that pretty much blew open the ring fencing that goes on. i think of the use of technology and culture in worship - mac classics on the holy table or discmans in st pauls cathedral, playful, messing with things, matter out of place. i think of themes explored - dirt by vaux which included throwing the bread and wine dramatically and the use of language that shocked projecting the words god is found in the shit on the back wall, or queer by ikon, or being greeted by the welcoming group dressed in contamination suits at grace.
4. some groups have not had denominational ties - so they have done what they like which is clearly beyond the canon
there's a mistaken notion of liturgy at play in lots of places in the anglican church for example - that there are prescribed liturgies that need to be recited by rote. identity is tied up with perpetuating this. but this is a very stagnant view. ironically curating beyond the canion is precisely the kind of tactic that will lead to renewal of the canon. so somehow a new set of permissions needs to be created that frees up worship practice within denominations. in practice this has happened in several places. the way we have negotiated this in grace is to get permission from the bishop to do liturgies that are more experimental and canon law is covered because there is a service available as prescribed by canon law. but not everyone has been that fortunate in negotiating space. there was a small booklet/paper produced off the back of a lambeth conference (down to earth statement). i think it was in 1998. anyway this tried to address the issue in the anglican communion globally. the motivation is that the canon had obviously been written from a western perspective so this document sought to encourage and give permission for contextual liturgies - or to use the language of the document - inculturated. here's a couple of quotes that get to the heart of it...
Our lack of inculturation has fostered both the alienation of some Christians and an over ready willingness of others to live in two different cultures, one of their religion and and the other of their everyday life. Other Christians again have left our churches because of this cultural insensitivity. Similarly non Christians have found the foreignness of the church a great barrier to faith...
...True inculturation implies a willingness in worship to listen to culture.... it has to make contact with the deep feelings of people. It can only be achieved through an openness to innovation and experimentation, an encouragement of local creativity, and a readiness to reflect critically at every stage of the process, a process which in principle is never ending.
as in many mission issues the church has had to think about the canon in relation to global contexts but hasn't applied the same sense on her own doorstep. but the problem is exactly the same on our own doorstep. in the book trickster makes the world lewis hyde talks about the trickster character in mythology and suggests that although trickster is an uncomfortable character, with his ruses (such as messing with dirt, crossing boundaries, or disturbing notions of truth and property) he is key to renewal, so cultures need to make space for trickster rather then silence or kick him out. totalitarian regimes silence artists.
lastly i found it fascinating that the desire for a permanent job is seen to be a threshold in the art world by some. i guess there are the same set of tensions around where to locate yourself in relation to the institution and powers that be and the edge. i touched on this in the last post...