How a film sparked de­bate

An art project seeks to unite faith groups us­ing sparklers — and God’s name. By DanaGloger

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

THERE ARE STRICT rules in Ju­daism which gov­ern how and where the He­brew name of God can be writ­ten. Now, two non-Jewish artists have created a work that chal­lenges those rules while en­cour­ag­ing un­der­stand­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent faiths.

Nick Crowe and Ian Rawl­in­son have made a film called The Name of God, in which Jews, Chris­tians and Mus­lims write their re­spec­tive re­li­gion’s ver­sion of God’s name.

But they do it us­ing sparklers, waved in the air, so that the “word” van­ishes al­most im­me­di­ately.

Forty-two-year-old Rawl­in­son, whose work has been ex­hib­ited in gal­leries through­out Bri­tain, ex­plains: “Be­cause, by us­ing a sparkler, the writ­ing van­ishes and doesn’t en­dure, it was OK to write the word.”

The two artists were com­mis­sioned by the Foun­da­tion for Arts and Cre­ative Technology (FACT) in Liver­pool to cre­ate three new video works, of which The Name of God is one. “We had long been pre­oc­cu­pied with as­pects of faith and with the im­age of fire as a metaphor­i­cal tool,” says Rawl­in­son. “The two as­pects have been quite prom­i­nent in our re­cent­works,andthei­de­abehindth­is­film was to ex­plain faith and to use light as a metaphor for that.”

The artists, who have been work­ing to­gether for 14 years, con­tacted Liver­pool’s Princes Road Syn­a­gogue, the Liver­pool Ara­bic Cen­tre and the Some­where Else Methodist Church to find 10 par­tic­i­pants for the project. The film was made at the FACT gallery in the city.

Ac­cord­ing to Rawl­in­son, the film serves as a metaphor for faith re­quir­ing con­tin­ual re­newal and af­fir­ma­tion by the be­liever.

“You have to keep writ­ing to see the let­ters at all,” he ex­plains. “And this rep­re­sents the idea that faith needs to be con­tin­u­ally re­newed and in­volves ef­fort.”

But he ad­mits that he and Nick Crowe, who works in a range of me­dia, had not planned for the work to have this mean­ing.

“We were just in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing faith us­ing fire and the metaphor evolved from the work but was not nec­es­sar­ily what we set out to do,” says Rawl­in­son. He adds that not ev­ery viewer will take the same mean- ing from the film, and that there may also be other in­ter­pre­ta­tions. “With all art, peo­ple come away with dif­fer­ent ideas and mean­ings. We don’t want to tell the viewer what to think,” he says.

The film also serves an in­ter­faith pur­pose by in­clud­ing peo­ple from three re­li­gions. But Rawl­in­son says that there was an as­sump­tion be­fore the project was filmed that there would be re­li­gious ten­sions. “When we spoke to out­side peo­ple about this project, there was of­ten a very im­me­di­ate as­sump­tion that the Jewish and Mus­lim peo­ple in­volved would be at each other’s throats in the film­ing room.

“We were very sur­prised by that at­ti­tude as that did not hap­pen at all. It was ac­tu­ally a very re­laxed at­mos­phere and every­one got on very well.”

All the Jewish par­tic­i­pants in the film are mem­bers of the Princes Road Syn­a­gogue. Rawl­in­son and Crowe met the syn­a­gogue’s se­nior min­is­ter, Rabbi Zvi Solomons, and he spoke to his con­gre­gants about the project.

“It seemed like an in­ter­est­ing idea,” says Rabbi Solomons. “The three re­li­gions all have in com­mon the rev­er­ence of God’s name, al­though we all call God by dif­fer­ent names.”

The rabbi, who is him­self fea­tured in the film, says that he wrote God’s name in sev­eral dif­fer­ent ways, in both He­brew and English. “The work is about the tem­po­rary na­ture of the hu­man im­print in this world and en­cour­ages peo­ple to think about their re­la­tion­ship with God,” he ex­plains. “It also brought peo­ple of dif­fer­ent re­li­gions to­gether, as well as peo­ple from my own con­gre­ga­tion who wouldn’t nor­mally be to­gether, so it was very good to be in­volved in that kind of project.” The Name of God is show­ing at FACT’s Liver­pool gallery un­til Jan­uary 13. For tick­ets, call 0151 707 4450

Artists Nick Crowe ( left) and Ian Rawl­in­son

In The Name of God, Jews, Chris­tians and Mus­lim write their re­li­gion’s holi­est words… with sparklers

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