holy ground :: holy city wrap up


[writing hopes in the laneway]

we were visited this afternoon by a freelance photographer who came to take photos of the space for an article about the alt worship project… he’d never been to a christian thing before. ‘it’s really grungy and edgy’, he said. ‘it reminds me of the tate modern’.

i really liked the space, and it seemed to tell a story that resonated with many of those who interacted with it. today seemed better than yesterday, for no apparent reason – i guess that’s just one of the variables of doing this kind of space. there were a few slightly confused looks from people who were walking through it, but also a lot of responses from people which showed they got it, and they liked what they got. we had some fantastic conversations with people from around the country who have thought of doing stuff like this, and now think they might have the courage to just go and do it [on reflection, that’s as good a comment as the tate modern one!]

it was a pretty subtle and nuanced space this time. we went micro – projecting video onto corners of walls, using videos on ipods… we put a slide projector at the very end of a black passage. the words in front of the projector would disappear in the gaps between slides [you may recognise the words – we adapted Doug Gay’s ‘holy city’ from Alternative Worship]. a lot of people would have looked at the slides from the entry of the passageway and not gone down the end – we decided to risk people not seeing stuff, rather than drawing their attention to things.


the space was designed around the story of moses and the burning bush [holy ground] and revelations 21 [holy city]. we cordoned off the middle section of the basement with danger tape, and put up no standing signs. underneath the danger tape we had a strip of clear tape, on which were written some questions and reflections about moses’ story.

no_standing.jpg take_off_shoes.jpg

we looped videos of redemptive acts in cities, moments when cities have become holy ground – the protest in Tiananmen Square back in 1989, burmese monks leadings protests in rangoon, the tearing down of the berlin wall. these were shown on ipods; the frames which held the ipods were also wrapped in danger tape [mike made fantastic frames for the ipods – i’ll get him to post instructions for how to make them].

we projected videos from around the city onto walls around the basement, all of them long loops – people coming out of parliament station in the morning peak hour, a video shot at ground level of people walking down a laneway, and another taken while walking through city streets. a video of degraves lane at lunch time was projected onto the ceiling of the basement. it was quite distorted, and looked fantastic.

we wanted to highlight the idea that there are already glimpses of redemption and transformation in the city, to recognise the beauty in the ordinary, to get people to look at the city differently.

we wrote words onto the walls and floor with chalk and charcoal… a reflective piece about the laneways [which are melbourne’s heartbeat], a rewriting of Doug Gay’s ‘holy city’ piece from alternative worship, a couple of other things.

in the laneway:

a first kiss
a last hit
somewhere to

the crush of bottles
thrown in rage

and sweaty bodies making out
after one too many drinks at the pub.

concrete and bitumen
coloured by layers of grime
and the prophetic utterances of graffiti artists

security cameras that swivel
to catch the shouted arguments
and thrown punches

and miss
the lost dreams
and shattered hopes

it feels like we’re getting the hang of the space now. duncan macleod asked me to say a bit about the space during his elective yesterday, and i talked about how this is the first space i’ve worked with which is inflexible. you can’t bend the basement, you can’t pretend it’s something it’s not. you have to work with it. and when you do, it takes on a life of its own. it’s absolutely my favourite space to work with.

blythe and sam were fabulous companions in the whole experience… and thanks especially to dave, mike and lisa who came and plugged in data projectors [we work with only 3 single powerpoints in the basement], gaffer taped leads, wrote things on walls, shifted spare doors, ladders, broken chairs, etc… to Darren who was simply brilliant in the clean up, to Glen, Duncan, Mark and Al who came and ran electives – and especially to Age who organised the cafe and the Stop the Traffik action.

we were thinking today that maybe easter next year we’d do a four day thing in the basement for anyone who’s interested in exploration installation and sacred spaces… start with nothing and over the weekend gradually build up ideas after immersing ourselves in the space. we could open it to the public on the monday. i think we’ll ask mark pierson to come back and play with us…

i got to see nothing else of the forge festival… all i really wanted to do was hear sally morgenthaler, but that simply didn’t happen. it was a pretty intense weekend… i’m having a few days off… see you on return.


  1. Kel

    i can’t believe it’s a whole year since we met in person
    sorry i missed this year’s installation
    it looks like it was even better than last year, you have such a gift

    how great to connect with the freelance photographer and give him an image and experience of christianity that is not what he might have expected – yay you!!!

    i can so relate to wanting to hear and meet sally morgenthaler
    i’m not hugely into heroes but she would be almost as close to that as anything i know
    i heard she was going to be at the forge thing, but it was the weekend i arrived back and so jetllagged it would not have made sense to even try to make it there

  2. “…to catch the shouted arguments
    and thrown punches

    and miss
    the lost dreams
    and shattered hopes”

    Great stuff Cheryl. Mikes photos are excellent as well.

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