The Group Monthly letter – April 2011

by Geoff Hall on April 27, 2011

Mentoring support for those involved in word, image or performance arts.

April 2011. “The Word became flesh…and we’ve turned the flesh back to words!”

Dear Arts Mentoring Group, 

This little piece of wisdom was written by Tom Wright. I’m not sure I concur  with his conclusion because I think the nature of the problem, the crisis we face today is that, “The Word became flesh…but we have turned it into stone.”

What do I mean by this? We have turned the flesh and blood humanity of Jesus into the static stone of the institution. We have turned the flesh and blood of corpus Christi into an organisation, a hierarchical monolith. We strut around this world; we are poseurs in our superior view of life – of Creation and Redemption. We take offence easily at those who think differently, we are hateful of those who tell us that ‘Love Wins’, because our certainty of redemption is based on judgment and damnation, exclusion and rejection and not the love of God! When our view of life is contested we go for the institutional stand-off; we do not meet heart-to-heart and converse with each ‘other’; we engage with siege-like machines, with a war-like mentality.

Human contact is so much better than trying to connect with an institution or organisation. We have been given a great gift, this flesh, this potential for contact, for movement, for connection. If, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, our bodies are the shape of the Spirit on earth, then as I reach out to make contact, I’m not just doing so physically but spiritually, because my spirituality is bound up and expressed by my minimal good looks, my physical dexterity, delightful wit and personal charm!

Speaking of connections, Wim Wenders has just released a new film, ‘Pina 3D’. I’m in awe! Go and see it, please, it is a real inspiration. No, it’s not a culturally nuanced alternative to Avatar, but a gentle remembrance of a great dancer and choreographer, Pina Bausch. 

Many of the dancers sitting in front of the camera found it difficult to express their love for Pina verbally, as if remembering her words that sometimes we are not able to express thoughts and feelings vocally. Then, she tells us that if we do use words to say something of our experience, they can only evoke a sense of what one felt and not the fine detail of it. Creative language is evocative!

She seems to have used this method in her choreography. One dancer recalls Pina telling them to ‘find a movement to express joy’! That was her only direction! The language used in the film suggests things like ‘weightlessness’ for freedom (of movement). Other dancers responded to her choreography as if she was developing their character through the joy of working together as a community of movement. The joy of their discoveries seemed to shine in their reminiscences of Pina Bausch. This communal approach to developing something for public performance, will stick with me forever. 

Now that Wim Wenders has introduced me to her troupe, I just want to see more of productions like ‘Café Müller’, where the dancers perform with their eyes closed. She used language sparingly, to evoke the Spirit of Freedom, of the possibility of a humanity revitalised by suggestive language, breathing freedom into the imagination which then found expression in movement; in dance. May we have the same evocative imagination, may we see that the Word needs to become flesh again and again; we need to connect, to move together, to feel one another’s joy and pain, to offer support and aid growth. This is the art of commitment, the art of self-denial.

The problem with stone is that it finds it difficult to move; to be animated, to express joy or freedom, to feel the need for human contact. The Word became flesh to save us from spiritual atrophy, so that we can be animated by the Spirit of Freedom; to dance together, to imitate the blissful Perichoresis!

Peace and Love to you all,


Stop Press:
The next Tree House is on Wednesday, 18th May where we’ll be focusing on the visual arts. @ Hooper House Cafe. 113, Stokes Croft. 8PM start! More info here soon.


I liked this writing Geoff. One thing I loved about the Royal Wedding was the trees in the church. Bringing the life of creation into the stone church. Some people seem to think that life only comes from within the church, but life and God's Spirit is everywhere doing all sorts of stuff.

I just listening to this track on soundcloud about what life is about

by James Bragg on May 1, 2011 at 8:58 am. Reply #

Thanks for your comment James,

It's not a new thing of course, but I think in the context of the ceremony it was a marvelous addition. It created a whole new experience of space.

Bringing the physical creation (nature) into church was something pursued in ancient Coptic Churches, where they'd carve trees and foliage into the columns of the churches and paint them in their natural colours. The churches must have provided a rich reminder of paradise and the presence of God, a taste of Eden?

Maybe there is something we could recapture in this day and age about this sense of presence and paradise, where cold stone is brought to life, animated by colour.



by geoffh on May 2, 2011 at 7:35 pm. Reply #

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