Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Exorcism at the Tate: BP and the pollution of the arts

This occurred yesterday afternoon at the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London. Rev Billy and his "church" have been developing this kind of protest against various abuses of consumerism for the last five years or so. Combining street theatre with the discourse and imagery of gospel revivalist preaching and song, they encourage people to think about what our consumption is doing to our ecosystems, society and souls.

I would love to hear what people think of this as a form of creative protest. Is it effective? Distracting? Humourous? Counterproductive?


Rich said...

Billy is a true prophet - I read Tertullian's "Idolatry" today - Billy is in that tradition.I hope he (as the head of his church) gets to meet Rowan Williams.

But I realize that some people won't like this - if they happen to be church types then they should ask themselves why their church has left it up to Billy to judge the rampant capitalization of life. Billy would be out of a job if our church leaders were doing theirs.

byron smith said...

Billy would be out of a job if our church leaders were doing theirs.

jessica smith said...

Fascinating. Very provocative. While it made me think of 'The Poisonwood Bible' and plays on major misunderstandings of Christianity, it puts BP in the category of an idol/Satan and that's a helpful move.

byron smith said...

Mark Engler: Occupy the pulpit.

"On the one hand, Reverend Billy’s routine is easy to understand. It’s a campy appropriation of the costume and vocal inflections of the old-time revival preacher, put in the service of anti-corporate street theater. And it works. The performances are fun to watch. [...]

"At the same time, as someone who grew up on the Catholic left, there is something about Talen’s act that’s always been a bit confusing to me. When you think about it, we shouldn’t need an ironic borrowing of church mannerisms in order to hear a sermon against corporate greed. After all, why should railing against the evils of consumerism have to be done as a half-in-jest parody by a fake preacher? Shouldn’t our real preachers be doing the same thing in earnest?

"In this respect, Reverend Billy’s act is an indictment of Christian religious leaders—a routine that points to that failure of most mainstream ministers to join with movements for social and economic justice, to champion public demonstrations, and to be outspoken and unafraid in denouncing the idolatry of the market. If greater numbers of actually ordained ministers were stepping up to give their own rousing speeches to protest encampments—and bringing their own gospel choirs with them—Talen’s shtick would hardly be necessary."

byron smith said...

Guardian: Rev Billy and the bankers.