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Nothing is off limits in divine enquiries

by
08 October 2021

Phill Hopkins’s latest art project involved the question: ‘What if you could ask God anything?’

Phill Hopkins

House of Questions interactive art project in Church of the Epiphany in Leeds. See gallery for more images

House of Questions interactive art project in Church of the Epiphany in Leeds. See gallery for more images

“I AM on a journey. It’s Valentine’s Day 2020. A week earlier I was awarded a visual-art bursary from Leeds Church Institute. As the train moves through the dark evening, I am drawing and thinking, as I spend much of my time doing.

I have read many new things and engaged in many conversations with those interested in art and theology. I have uncovered various new things and have often surprised myself. I know, from my own experience, that siting contemporary visual art in a church can be problematic.

There is much debate as to whether there is a place for the questioning nature of art in our contemporary sacred spaces. It seems to me that when music, in all its forms, is used within a church, it is rarely questioned. As a contemporary visual artist, I think there is a vital need for the siting of art in the places where we worship. Surely, it is part of our innate desire to express ourselves and our spirituality?

I’m making images of a house, a place where people could sit together. In the top right-hand corner of the page, I write: “Title: House of ? questions”. I’m thinking: what if we were not just allowed but actively encouraged to ask questions about anything we wanted, even though they may not be easy to answer, if at all? What if, when hearing the questions of others, we realised that, in our answers, different opinions were lodged?

What if, although we held contrasting views, even at odds, it might be possible to sit gently with one another in our polarity? What if I made a house where a group of people, with their differing views, could take a seat? Not to shout, not to argue, but perhaps, to simply begin to talk and listen.

 

DURING lockdown in April 2020, I had the idea of collecting responses to a question. I devised a question which I thought would provide some space to respond.

As we were all starting to use video conferencing and getting used to meeting each other via a screen — not to mention seeing ourselves — I sent out an invitation to make a video response to my question.

In my work, I often “go around the houses”, literally, when developing ideas, and usually come back to my original thinking. In House of Questions, I have come back to rest in my initial idea. In response to this premise, during the six months of the bursary, I created a large body of work consisting of photographs, drawings, sculptures, mixed-media pieces, videos, and the final installation.

Perhaps some questions can be just let hanging in the air. I’d like to offer some places to begin. In response you might start by asking: What does a question tell us about the asker? Where might they be coming from?

When you hear a question, what does it tell you about yourself? Where might you be coming from? Why might you be reacting in the way you are to a particular question? Is it useful to ask any question or are there some that are pointless? What questions do we avoid and why?


Th
e participants in the project were invited to ask God anything in a self-recorded video. Click on the picture above to see some of their questions. . .

Forthcoming Events

27 November 2021
An Advent Retreat with Poetry and Music
With Esther de Waal, Gregory Cameron, Peter Graystone, Richard Carter, and Rachel Mann.

25 January 2022
Preaching Lament and Hope
A Durham workshop from the College of Preachers.

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