These photographs were taken in Beijing during a massive renovation of the urban landscape. The subjects are mainly brick and rubble remains, stacked for reuse , and the trees remaining around the construction sites. The stacks appear as ethereal memorials to fallen buildings, or rough maquette of buildings to come, wrought by invisible artists–the craftsmanship of itinerant construction workers. The trees, in contrast, remind us of life and light and wind; we cannot see the wind, but for the trees. It comes and goes, and the leaves are the voice of its movement over the earth. As strangers in these surreal locations, we feel ourselves treading a moving line of balance between past and future, chaos and order, as these humble piles of reclaimed rubble seem to ask the ancient question: Where do you come from, and where are you going?
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. The themes of communal life, man’s words contrasted with God’s word is developed and woven throughout. The 22 letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet, so rich in history and imagery, are the backbone of this acrostic poem, where each group of 8 verses begin with a consecutive letter. Each of the Hebrew letters has a physical form, a related symbolic name, as well as a value. Grown from this rich soil, the psalmist builds with words like bricks, heavy and rough, repetitious in form, but mortared together with desires supple and fluid as light-catching leaves—a poem that speaks of the edifice of the human soul, a building under construction. You can feel the wind snapping around the timbers which hold order beneath the stained and torn wrappings of construction cloth. This psalm describes the maturation of a living and growing edifice within the scaffolding of moral law, spiritual commands, and cultural statutes—a maquette of Christ, the intersection of heaven and earth.
The union of photography, collage, and Bible in this exhibition are part of Project119, a collaborative experience, a responsive meditation in Scripture. As the Psalm describes a season of pruning, building, finding foundations and growing branches, so via this Psalm we journey to arrive at the hill, wash our hands, cleanse our hearts and begin to ascend. A song for all the leafy, fruit bearing buildings, learning to sojourn below by the just echoes from above, these are sketches of what it is to be rich and poor, strong and weak, beautiful and broken, to be sinful and righteous, to die and live, to weep and rejoice, to be lost and found.
October 1, 2015