The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Tuesday, March 27, 2007
An architecture critic Lawrence Cheek re-examines the widely heralded downtown Seattle Public Library, and he sees little to praise:

Its provocation has infused us with new thinking about the possibilities of architecture and urbanism, far more than the Space Needle and Experience Music Project ever did. The Needle is beautiful and EMP is bizarre, but the Central Library has both of these qualities plus a visible structural integrity that seems almost spiritual. We feel these qualities at gut level when we walk around the building or wander through as sightseers. It's only when we settle in for a day's real library work that the design failures suddenly intrude.

One of the dissapointments Cheek points out is that there are no places within the library that are truly comfortable for study and reading.

I still remember visiting the main Research branch of the NYPL, with its wood tables and green lamp shades, which almost beg the visitor to sit and read. What a contrast. The Alvar Aalto designed library at Mt. Angel Abbey (where I worked for a year) was a delight - beautiful light combined with very human spaces and furniture.

To be fair, I still haven't visited the new SPL. I will have to weigh in when I have done so.

Monday, March 26, 2007
Think Small
Christian culture isn't just paintings in museums or sonatas in concert halls. Its the small stuff too.

Make that the small stuff for small people. In this regard I will put a plug in for Dana Dirksen's music CDs for children, including songs celebrating the Children's Catechism. Dana had a concert for kids in Vancouver, WA Friday night that I attended. She connects so will with children.

Put these along side the excellent CDs by Judy Rogers and Jamie Soles.

This is what Christian culture is all about. Not to take away anything from the fine arts.

(Did I mention that my wife and several of my kids have sung on Dana's CDs?)

Thursday, March 22, 2007
A Novel Use of Paper
ReadN.D. Wilson's napkin writing project entry published by Esquire.

(N.D. = Nathan Wilson of Credenda Agenda and Right Behind fame...)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The things you Find
on the internet. I can't remember now how exactly I came across this, but I really like this image created by illustrator Albert Kim.

He gave it the title "Post Tenebras Lux". Dignified, yet with a very subtle, playful edge.

Thursday, March 15, 2007
All that Jazz
from a Christian perpective. A nice article from William Edgar on the improvisational medium...

A really good introduction.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Frightening Factiod
According to this article from Variety on a proposed Thomas Kinkade movie in the works, comes these figures:

Kinkade's company asserts it's sold $1.7 billion of artwork at retail over the past 15 years along with $2.4 billion in licensed product sales -- such as greeting cards and calendars -- over the past decade, resulting in Kinkade art being found in one out of every 10 U.S. households.

We are one sick nation. Or make that one sick church, since majority of his patrons are evangelical Christians. Sentimental kitsch is big business.

No news on the movie's title. Maybe, "Its a Beautiful Light"?

Monday, March 12, 2007
Hard to believe that this quote comes from Virginia Postrel, design pundit. It from an article she wrote in The Atlantic about "soft lofts" - new loft-like condos being build in America's kewl cities.

It has to be one of the most bizarre definitions I have come across:

Aesthetic authenticity comes not from some preexisting definition of truth but from a match between form and desire. To be fully authentic, a design must serve the emotional, expressive, and practical purposes of its users. Authenticity is thus what “seems right”—a decidedly subjective and changeable criterion, not something that can be deduced from nature. What we find authentic can evolve over time, as new styles develop through appropriation and recombination of old ideas.

Or maybe it isn't so hard to believe.

(I found this at Richard Florida's blog. An irony since I wrote book reviews of Postrel and Florida's books for Comment a while back.)

More from IAM Conf
Mako Fujimura (the founder of IAM and conference host) talk "Being a Child of the Creative Age " is now online.

(You can also see John Hendrix's sketch for Mako's talk!)

Friday, March 09, 2007
Is Ecclesiocentricity the Problem?
Andrew Sandlin gets it only half right when he says that Ecclesiocentricity is the reason why we are so culturally irrelevant:

One of the most deleterious errors in the history of Christianity has been the persistent tendency to equate the kingdom of God with the church.

It all depends on what he means by "church." He is spot on correct if by church he means the institutional church. The Kingdom of God is surely larger than the institutional church. This is the Roman error in a nutshell: equating Christian culture with the institutional church (i.e. everything is subsumed under ecclesiastical authority). This indeed is deadly to the promotion of Christian culture even if this might seem to be counter intuitive.

But if we take "church" to refer to the covenant community of those who profess Christ, who gather together to do ecclesiastical stuff, but who also raise kids, paint, write, build houses, run restaurants, serve as policemen, etc. - if this is what we mean by church, then Sandlin has it wrong. It is God's people who are (or at least ought to be) subject to King of kings in all their endeavors - ecclesiastical, cultural and otherwise. In this sense the church is the Kingdom. Its a matter of definition.

I must admit that Sandlin baffles me, when he says:

In the Reformed sector, the persistence of the Regulative Principle of Worship — both in its Puritan (minimalist) and Covenant Renewal (maximalist) forms — undermines the Kingdom by obsessing over the forms of worship, the very trend that Jehovah abominated in His people in the Old Testament.

Does worship have no effect on our conception of Kingdom and culture? "Obsessing" over anything (even wrongly equating Kingdom with church!) is a bad idea. Was this really the OT problem? Seems to me they weren't careful enough. Being sober-minded and diligent over the right priorities in worship is the school whereby we are trained to be sober-minded and diligent about cultural activities as well.

Sadly, Sandlin does not offer very much of a positive vision in this piece of what we ought to be in our posture towards culture-making and Kingdom matters.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Trip/Conference Thoughts Pt. 5
This is probably my last post in this series. I could say so much more...

I end with this delightful drawing by busy illustrator John Hendrix (be sure check out his web site) of my talk at the conference. I love the way he captured what I had to say. Thanks, John!
(The arrow through my ear didn't hurt at all...)

Monday, March 05, 2007
Trip/Conference Thoughts Pt. 4
A number of themes came out in many of the presentations at the IAM conference (which strangely enough, I ended up talking about as well):

1. Culture has a future in the New Heavens and the New Earth. This future is tied to God's redemption of creation in the future (Romans 8:17ff).

2. We need a new way of thinking about art that stands apart from the "usual" way of art-making. A key aspect of this is service.

3. Art patronage needs to be fixed. I'm not sure that everyone agreed on the solution. But everyone saw that there is a real problem. Artists are not making a living. Do we need more funding from the government? Some thought so. (I would vigorously disagree.) We need way more praying and thinking about this. How is this supposed to work?

I just recently came across this article from Image magazine by Wayne Forte which I think is a start of a conversation on the problem of patronage. Community is the key.

Friday, March 02, 2007
Trip/Conference Thoughts Pt. 3
Another speaker at the conference I really admired was Dick Staub. He conducted several interviews with speakers which came off really well. I got to watch Dick more or less pre-interviewing one of the keynoters behind the scenes before he later "chatted" them onstage. What a great listener! He is also the master of the segway and the kind word. He is a pro. An example to the rest of us...

Dick is from the Northwest (as were several other attendees). Maybe I will run into him sometime soon.

More thoughts next week. DV.

Thursday, March 01, 2007
I remember using slides in art history class. But they were nothing like this.

Talk about modern!

Trip/Conference Thoughts Pt. 2
When I grow up, I want to able to give presentations like Jeremy Begbie. His talk Friday night was a delight. He talked about two notions of newness: the modernist avant-garde idea and the Christian idea of re/newness. He read his paper - but it was lively and polished - dare I say he spoke with a musical cadence. He played for us musical examples on the piano. His powerpoint was minimalistic and pointed.

I only wish I was there to hear his talk on Saturday night.