“Wait here and stay awake with me” Matthew 6
I wonder what you see in the first picture; graffiti on a wall, a cryptic message perhaps. This piece is part of Portal – a series of interventions I made around Bradford city centre, exploring the concept of escape and other worlds.
We may feel like we need to escape at the moment, to find the exit hatch from this ongoing lockdown. We may have had enough of inertia, perhaps we feel useless – unable to help as we usually do, we may feel lonely or bored, we may be sick of the inside of our own thoughts, or we may feel overwhelmed both by the situation and the demands it is putting on us.
The second image shows one of two found object artworks; ladders propped against the walls with texts taken from the story of Jacob’s Ladder from the bible. In the story, Jacob runs away from a tricky situation he has got himself into. Sleeping rough along the way, he has a dream of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, a connector between the visceral and the spiritual; his reality and a larger reality. As he wakes up, he declares “this is the gate of heaven, the house of God!”.
The ladders were part of an exhibition called ‘Ordinary Time’ which contemplated on, as Ikea puts it “the wonderful everyday”. Ordinary Time in the church calendar is the period between Pentecost and Advent – so the larger part of the year – but also ‘the time in-between’, where there are no particularly special festivals. I wanted to think about the need to celebrate each day, no matter how non-eventful or monotonous.
One of my treasured possessions is a little artist’s book called ‘notes on the ordinary’ by Julie Johnstone. It is full of gem-like remarks. Here are a few to consider: the ordinary is only noticed in its absence / most days an ordinary day is sufficient to our needs / to see the ordinary we need to see differently / we can only rest in the presence of the ordinary / the ordinary is always waiting to be discovered.
Can I suggest that if we return to the first picture we choose to focus on entry rather than exit? That we find a way to make each and every day something to celebrate, however challenging this might be, especially now. That, like Jacob, we connect with a larger reality which transforms our daily ordinary into the extraordinary like gold leaf on wood? and as we ‘wait here’, maybe feeling like we are in a dream like Neo in the Matrix, that we stay awake, we enter in, we rest, we learn.
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- What would you like to escape at the moment?
- Are you learning anything?
- What feels real? What feels unreal?
You will need: time and your phone
- Take yourself for a walk around your home, your garden or, if you can, your neighbourhood. Allow half an hour and walk slowly
- Spend time with everything, look carefully. Want do you notice? Think about colours, shapes, textures, the effect of light, sounds, smells, sensations like warmth on your skin, or the breeze on your face.
- At the end of half an hour, shut your eyes wherever you have got to, and remember one thing that has especially struck you. Remind yourself of how it looked, smelt, sounded, felt like. If you can, go back and photo this one thing with your phone (or draw it if you prefer), and, if you would like, keep it as your screensaver for this week.