‘Burnouts’ by Simon Davidson

Bringing destruction and beauty together Simon Davidson explores the sub-culture of burnout competitions. Whilst I admire most sub cultures just for the sheer dedication and love people put into their hobbies, this series takes burnouts from a destructive sport to almost angelic looking works of art. The combination of hard bold metal surrounded by smoke clouds almost makes it appear as if the cars are floating on clouds, lost in the moment and pure enjoyment.


“For the past six years I have been photographing the sub-culture of burnout competitions in Australia. The guys and girls who compete in the various competitions across Australia are a passionate bunch. As a photographer I enjoy the visual feast of a superb and powerful car on the black of the burnout pad juxtaposed against the softness of the tire smoke. In reality a burnout is extremely loud and aggressive but in the photos there is a sense of calm… poetic in a way.”

Modern Icons by Danil Rusanov

This series compelled me to write about it.

“Modern Icons”
By Danil Rusanov

What I find particularly compelling about this series is the use of objects rather than people. In most of the series I have seen which  discusses modern society and relates it to religion, they use people, pop icons and celebrity. But this series looks at the average person and which objects and themes become their icons. We also see a sinister side to this, the subjects looked almost possessed by the devil, this is reinforced but the dark shadows and garish light.

A really beautiful series which portrays modern life in a traditional way so that it makes us question our society.

 

 

The Representation of Religion in the work of David LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles

“The Representation of religion in the work of David LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles” – by Daisy Ware-Jarrett

There is no doubt that Religion has played a key part in Art’s history, especially in Europe. When we look at some of the most iconic sculptures and paintings from the last 1000 years that have emerged from Europe, most of them have religious themes. Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ (1501-1504) refers to the biblical story of David and Goliath, Leonardo Da Vinici’s ‘Last Super’ (1496-1498) to Jesus’s last meal with his disciples and Raphael’s ‘Sistine Madonna’ (1513-1514) depicts Mary holding the new born baby Jesus. But why did all the great artists feel the need to paint religious narratives? In many cases it wasn’t because the artists were religious. At the time that all these pieces of art were being produced, the Church was the centre of Europes power; politics, money and art were regulated and controlled by the Church. Churches would commission artists to produce divine imagery, maybe as a self promotional tool, or to aid the mass illiterate public at that time about religious stories. It also benefited the artists, because the Church was the only place that really had Art on display, other then the bourgeoisie’s homes, but these weren’t accessible to the public. So where does this leave Religion in Art today? In a society which is obsessed with possessions and in which the Church has little power and money.

In a video interview with ‘The Art Newspaper’ (2008), American photographer David LaChapelle explains that “You don’t mention Christ or Jesus in art circles… unless it’s done in some real ironic way”. He uses the controversial photograph ‘Piss Christ’(1) (1987) by Andres Serrano as an example of modern arts representation of religion. This idea, that religion is unapproachable as a serious subject matter in art is something that LaChapelle himself tries to overcome. A lot of LaChapelles work is based on religion, mainly because of his Catholic upbringing; this supports the ideas of Roland Barthes(a), who says the Photographers way of seeing is reflected in their work. One of his images ‘Last Super’(2) from the ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ series (2003) conveys iconic religious imagery in a contemporary way. When looking at the image you notice a direct reference to Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Super’(3) which i mentioned before. Everything from the Jesus figures clothing to his mannerisms are the same. There has been a lot on controversy surrounding this depiction of Jesus, I asked a variety of religious and non religious people (either in the church or studying religion) for their opinions on the images I will be talking about in this essay. One man particularly picked up on the representation of Jesus in ‘Last Super’. “he looks like the singer from Reef” Martyn Chapple (Church Deacon in Morpeth, UK) this is true, LaChapelle has represented Jesus in a very European way. A long haired, white Jesus figure is a common depiction that features in the work of Artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, perhaps this2

representation would stem from LaChapelles religious roots and saturation of Catholic Imagery. Nikki Carmichael (Youth and School Worker) agrees with Martyn Chapple, “the image used of Jesus I find inaccurate. He wasn’t white, surely,”. Contradicting to this Georgie Horth, Atheist, studying Philosophy says ‘Religion is a way to get through life and to deal with the problems that arise because of it, I personally like how Jesus is presented here, he takes on an almost Superheroic role’. The referal to Jesus as a superhero is interesting, is that what Jesus is considered to be today? an equal with batman? Rather then Jesus being a superhero I see it more as Hollywood representing superheroes to us so many times in a jesus-like way, sacrificing themselves to save people, and being an omnipresent hope, society regards these mythical heros to be modern day gods. This shows that it’s not just LaChapelle’s way of seeing that effects the image, it is also ours as the viewer (b). The representation of Jesus is similar in the work of Pierre et Gilles, ‘Jésus D’Amour’ (4) (1979) a inhuman glow burst from behind Jesus’ head, a sight that we are so familiar with because of the representations of religion in the past; This accompanied with the European look we talked about before does make you think it is a higly unrealistic representation of Jesus, but thats just it, it is just a representation, emphasis on the RE. LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles have done what nearly all artist do and have done before, subliminally used their experience in the past a projected this onto their work. So this cannot really be called an unfair representation, it might be offensive to you as an individual, but to all 3 Photographers it is their way of seeing.

The depiction of Jesus is not the only controversial subject in LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles work. The Sexualisation of Religion is too. Sex is a huge part of our society, we live in a culture saturated it, in music videos, song lyrics, advertising and un-policed 24 hour access to porn online. The Specsavers 2008 Viral advert is a great example of sex in advertising (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0YKdr0SbH4), a funny but sexual advertisement that is accessible online via anyone who can work computers, which is from the age of 7 (2011 European Commission survey( c)). So how do we respond to the often called sexual representation of religious figures in Pierre et Gilles work? In “St Sebastian”(5)(1987) we see a man who we believe to be the Martyr Saint Sebastian (due to the title), a loin cloth tied around the lower part of his sculpted body, his hands are tied to a post and in correlation with the story of Saint Sebastian he is being killed with arrows. St Sebastian’s eyes do not express pain in this image, as they stare off into the distance he seems at peace whilst he dies, this could be how Pierre et Gilles felt a Martyr would experience death, liberated and peaceful. But this peaceful glare and use of dreamlike post-production can be seen in a sexual way. Martyn Chapple (Church Deacon) suggests it is “homosexually provocative” which he describes as “not cool”, but if we look at older depictions of Saint Sebastian there has always been some sort of sexual nature, the way Pierre et Gilles have represented Saint Sebastian is no different to how Botticelli did in 1474 (6), over 500 years prior; or to Andrea Mantegna’s depiction (7) in 1478. These representations were celebrated in an era where religion was not questioned and sacrilegious imagery wasn’t allowed, therefore you have to ask yourself if the negative denotation is a product of the society we live in? We are so exposed to images of sex, the idea of a naked man being tied to a post instantly makes us read the image in a sadomasochist way, just like before, Pierre et Gilles have taken a common depiction and re-presented it to us, it is our interpretation which should be questioned.

Todays culture, in the West especially, Religion has become less important compared to the significant role it has played in our history. One way that both photographers interoperate modern day religion is through the obsession of Celebrity. Footballers, Musicians and Film Stars have become the gods of our time, what they do,wear and act likes has the power to influence a mass population.

“It is definitely true that celebrities are our modern day gods and goddesses, and we build them up and tear them down. Madonna has been torn down. Michael Jordan has been torn down.” – David LaChapelle

LaChapelle has very clear views on celebrity, and the way he talks about Madonna in this quote is reflected in his piece, ‘Madonna: Sacred Heart’(8)(1998), LaChapelle uses props like the crown and colours like purple and gold to show Madonna’s royalty-like status in society, and her “title” as the Queen of Pop. He also plays on her role as a religious influencer, the use of a iconic sacred heart, refers to Madonnas once devout dedication to the Catholic church, also, the Sacred Heart is a devotion taken in the Catholic church, part of this devotion is “I consecrate myself and my whole family to you…To you we give our bodies, our hearts and our souls. To you we dedicate our home and our country.” in this sense LaChapelle is representing Madonna as a god, the public devote themselves too her in the same way they do to Jesus or Mary (the usual beholders of the sacred heart). The Halo reinforces this idea, as does Madonnas name, Mary is also known as Madonna in religious stories. Through all of these technique LaChapelle is making a very strong comment on the role of celebrity today. Pierre et Gilles use similar iconic subjects and imagery to convey a sense of divinity, ‘Sainte marie MacKillop, Kylie Minogue’(9) (1995) depicts the Australian Saint, Marie MacKillop via the use of Australian Pop star Kylie Minogue, a modern day Australian Saint? not really, but that is how Pierre et Gilles see Kylie’s power and recognition, the equivalent to a saints. It’s not only La Chapelle and Pierre et Gilles that have picked up on Celebrity as gods, adidas has too, their 2006 campaign(10) uses the iconic imagery of the Sistine Chapel but replaces saints and religious figures with footballers, this advert is a much more positive outlook on the situation though, using the celebrity status as gods to promote their clothing brand.

It seems to me that Religion has not lost it’s place in modern day Art, the representations may not be the same as they were a few hundred years ago, but the concept has remained the same. In the 1500’s the Church had status and power, and were able to monopolise society. Today the power lies in Hollywood, Sex and Celebrity, LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles have taken the iconic religious imagery that represented the Churches power and applied this to this modern day situation. Neither intend to shock or upset the viewer with their representations of religion, they are simply using it as a tool to point out flaws in our society.

Bibliography and theory references

Image references

Madonna

I thought it would be really hard to find articles or videos relating to Madonna (the pop star) and religion, but apparently not, by typing into google Madonna and religion, she is all that comes up. Literally. Does this show how celebrities have become more important than religion in our society? probably. Here is some stuff i’ve found regarding Madonna and religion.


This video is taken from 2006 and shows Madonna talking about why she chose Kabbalah and why she thinks people don’t like it.

The Religious Affiliation of Pop Singer, Actress, Madonna

a snippet from an essay which can be found here

“From: Gary Strauss, “Stars unleash their passion”, published in USA Today, 4 July 2005 (http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2005-07-04-celebs-religion_x.htm; viewed 21 November 2005):

What happens when a Hollywood star spouts off about religion?

…The relationship between celebrities and religion can be mutually beneficial. “Religious groups clearly feel having a celebrity endorsement helps give pizazz and credibility, just like any product that benefits from a celebrity endorser,” says Steve Waldman, editor ofbeliefnet.com, a multi-faith and spiritual Web site. “It’s particularly true with Scientology or Kabbalah.”

…There has been little apparent fallout on others who are vocal about their not-so-mainstream religious beliefs. Madonna is an advocate of Kabbalism. Her embrace of the mystical Jewish movement seemingly has no effect on her singing career. Her film career is more affected by a string of box-office failures (The Next Best Thing, Swept Away).

“In film entertainment, she’s not taken seriously,” Speier says.”

This is a great video which talks about how religion is like a trend to Madonna and once everyone follows her trend she changes it.

WATCH IT HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David LaChapelle ‘The Church of David LaChapelle’

WORDPRESS APRIL 18, 2011

A lot of Christians might feel shocked when they first encounter the work of David LaChapelle. A renowned photographer and film-maker, LaChapelle is equally ranked among The Top Ten Most Important People in Photography in the World by American Photo as he is sometimes scornfully called the king of ‘kitsch’ or, bluntly, of ‘bad taste’ by his adversaries. The artist isn’t too proud to answer his critics:

“I use pop imagery – that’s my vocabulary; glamour and beauty is my vocabulary. They get angry when you use pop imagery (the things that are accessible) to talk about anything other than the completely superficial. And you know what? Let ‘em be angry … I’m into narrative and clarity. I’m not into obscurity. I’m not into people having to read and research – I’m just into the title, and the image, and the image being the language. If people don’t want to take ten seconds to look at a picture and put it together, I can’t help that, but I stand by it and I love it. And I will keep doing it. And I ain’t going away.” (Taken from an interview for Dazed and Confused, March 2010, by Anna Carnick).

LaChapelle’s work displays a tremendous knowledge and admiration of western art’s history, and is peppered with Christian symbolism and imagery, as is shown especially by the ‘Jesus is My Homeboy’ and ‘American Jesus’ series.
The American Jesus series revolves around images of Michael Jackson (a lookalike that is), depicted in various Biblical and even typically Catholic scenes. If some Christians already find these questionable or offensive, they will really get irritated by the image entitled ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, which features a papal figure sitting on a throne before a pile of dead, naked men. The photographer seems to easily condemn the Catholic Church. However, when asked about his intentions behind his particular treatment of forms of corruption within the Church, LaChapelle answers with wit and nuance:

“I’m not condemning the Catholic Church — it’s too big, it’s like condemning a nation and that would be prejudiced. But what I’m doing here is pointing out an irony: Here you have an institution that has systematically protected pedophile priests and then you have an innocent Michael Jackson, who California spent millions of dollars trying to prosecute and could not do it because it was complete bulls–t.” (Taken from an interview for WWD, issue 07/13/2010, by Amanda Fitzsimons).
Moreover, LaChapelle has no problems whatsoever referring to his Catholic upbringing (the quote is taken from the same interview for WWD):
“I still go to church occasionally. I went the other day and found peace. I had this duality growing up with my dad being a strict Catholic and his brother being a priest and my mother finding God in nature, so I’ve taken a little from both [traditions].”

http://s0.videopress.com/player.swf?v=1.03

From the point of view of his Christian background, it’s no coincidence that LaChapelle has developed a special interest for two groups of people in particular: rich and famous celebrities on the one hand, and economically deprived young people on the other. His preoccupation with the Christ figure has led him to some enthralling insights. Those familiar with mimetic theory will find them fascinating as well.
I’m glad to share David LaChapelle’s views in the following two sections.

1. The sacrificial celebrity cults as producers of modern day ‘scapegoat-gods’
The biblical writings unanimously reject phenomena like gossip and the spread of false rumors about other people. Already one of the ten commandments forbids ‘to give false testimony against a neighbor’ (Exodus 20:16).
Those who gossip – and we are all tempted to do so from time to time – create alliances based on the exclusion of the one who is gossiped about. The Book of Proverbs warns for the seductive nature of voyeurism, and its destructive, dehumanizing consequences. People shouldn’t deliver themselves too easily to the delights of gossip:
Remove perverse speech from your mouth; keep devious talk far from your lips. (Proverbs 4:24).
The north wind brings forth rain, and a gossiping tongue brings forth an angry look. (Proverbs 25:23).
Where there is no wood, a fire goes out, and where there is no gossip, contention ceases. Like charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious person to kindle strife. The words of a gossip are like delicious morsels; they go down into a person’s innermost being. Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. The one who hates others disguises it with his lips, but he stores up deceit within him. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations within him. Though his hatred may be concealed by deceit, his evil will be uncovered in the assembly. The one who digs a pit will fall into it; the one who rolls a stone – it will come back on him. A lying tongue hates those crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:20-28).

http://s0.videopress.com/player.swf?v=1.03

A gossiped-about person is either spoken of in unrealistically praiseful terms, or, on the contrary, in a non-proportional degrading way. In other words, gossiped-about persons become the ‘sacred’ glue that hold certain communities together. The gossiped-about persons become divinized idols or equally deceitfully presented demonized ‘monsters’. David LaChapelle, inspired by his Christian background, clearly understands these mechanisms, as is demonstrated in an interview with digital magazine Nowness:
It is definitely true that celebrities are our modern day gods and goddesses, and we build them up and tear them down.
Madonna has been torn down. Michael Jordan has been torn down. Michael Jackson was destroyed. Like no other person in our times. You have to remember that Michael Jackson was innocent. He was proved innocent in our courts. If you read the transcripts of the trial it is insanity, it should never have gone to court. We spent tens of millions of dollars to prosecute him when we don’t have money for schools in California.

Why is that?
Not because he was a celebrity but because he looked different. He was obsessive about privacy and it made him “other,” it made him different, and he went from being the most famous, most beloved singer to the most reviled, joked about—he couldn’t open a newspaper without reading horror stories about himself.
Judeo Christian Scripture unveils and denounces the mechanisms by which a human being’s true, imperfect ‘black-and-white’ nature is sacrificed for the sake of an unreal ‘image’. David LaChapelle saw this happening to Michael Jackson (in the aforementioned interview with WWD):

WWD: Why did you choose to photograph Michael in a variety of religious scenes?
David LaChapelle: Michael had paintings of himself at Neverland depicting himself as a knight and surrounded by cherubs and angels. People might think he’s an egomaniac, but he’s not. It’s because the world turned against him. I mean, Michael couldn’t even get B-listers to show up for the second trial. [With these pictures he’s saying] “I’m not the joke and the horror the media is making me out to be.”
WWD: Michael stars in the show’s title piece “American Jesus.” Do you believe him to be a modern-day Jesus?
D.L.: I believe Michael in a sense is an American martyr. Martyrs are persecuted and Michael was persecuted. Michael was innocent and martyrs are innocent. If you go on YouTube and watch interviews with Michael, you don’t see a crack in the facade. There’s this purity and this innocence that continued [throughout his life]. If it had been an act, he couldn’t have kept it up. If you watch his [1992] concerts from Budapest and compare it to a Madonna concert of today, you’ll see such uplifting beauty and a message that you won’t see in any other artist of our time.

In the interview with the aforementioned Nowness LaChapelle goes even further and states:
We persecuted Michael Jackson. Every person who ever bought a tabloid or watched the news, we all contributed to his death by taking in that form of gossip.
The Bible is concerned with ‘truth’ and takes sides with the wrongfully presented and the wrongfully accused persons – the scapegoats! The prophet Isaiah calls out to the people of Israel:
“You must remove the burdensome yoke from among you and stop pointing fingers and speaking sinfully.” (Isaiah 58:9b).
Jesus, the one who is called the Christ, even goes so far as to bless the victims of gossip and false rumors:
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me.” (Matthew 5:11).

It is no coincidence then that the easily gossiped-about persons in the Jewish community at the time of the New Testament, like prostitutes or the infamous tax collectors, are among Christ’s favorites. He shares meals with these ‘sinners’, like with the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Even one of his apostles – Levi or ‘Matthew’ – is known to be a former tax collector (Luke 5:27-39).
The apostle Paul asks us to transform our imitative, mimetic abilities in order to become ‘children of God’. Instead of reinforcing processes of victimization by imitating the ones who gossip and ‘point fingers’, he asks us to become ‘imitators of Christ’. Christ is the One who was eventually sacrificed, because he completely delivered himself to Compassion:
Be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. […] There should be no vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting – all of which are out of character – but rather thanksgiving. For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:1-5).

Christ completely imitated and ‘incarnated’ his ‘Father’ – a Love which ‘refuses sacrifice and desires mercy’ – see for instance Matthew 9:13. Therefore Christ could not defend himself by starting some sort of ‘civil war’, because that would imply sacrifices of others. In any case, Christ doesn’t want us to be suicidal, but he is very much aware of the risks in taking sides with the excluded and the outcasts. It might mean that these become members of the community again, but it might also have as a consequence that the outcast’s defender is excluded oneself and that he ‘has to take up his cross’ to be ‘crucified’. Christ’s preference for the victims of gossip and rumors indeed often meant he himself became gossiped-about. Nevertheless, he kept approaching people like tax collectors in liberating ways. Many a victim of gossip, like these tax collectors at the time of Jesus, imitates the reasoning of his attackers and thinks it’s ‘part of the deal’ of being a ‘celebrity’. Jesus points out that people shouldn’t accept being gossiped about by the self-declared ‘righteous’ and ‘elected’:

Jesus told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!’ I tell you that this man went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14).

2. The ‘richness’ of ‘poor’ people and the ‘poverty’ of the ‘rich’
Jesus distinguishes two kinds of motivations to give (of) oneself: there are those who give and sacrifice in order to receive some kind of ‘reward’, and there are those who give in order to let others come to life. The first are the real ‘poor people’ in the eyes of Jesus because they worryingly adhere and enslave themselves to ‘material’, ‘worldly’ things like ‘wealth’ or ‘social status’. They also have the ‘mimetic’ (i.e. imitative) tendency to enviously compare themselves to others and to compete with their thus conceived ‘enemies’ in order to ‘rise above’ them. In the above mentioned parable, Jesus denounces this mechanism wherein people not only sacrifice themselves to a deceitful self-image, but also sacrifice others in presenting them in an equally deceitful and degrading way. Real richness, according to Jesus, comes with those who develop a realistic, ‘truthful’ view about themselves and who are able to give whatever they received:
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box. He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all offered their gifts out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4).

David LaChapelle pays particular attention to this kind of unconditional life bringing and therefore community enhancing way of ‘giving’ in his film Rize. Therein socially and economically deprived youngsters aren’t reduced to their situation, but are shown as talented people who are able to rebuild their communities in new, joyful and colorful ways. They really are ‘Church builders’, able to ‘give back’ inspired by the love they experience from each other. From the point of view of mimetic theory, their dancing not only ritualizes mimetic rivalry and restrains violence, but it also celebrates the grateful experience of life itself. Here’s what the synopsis of the film has to say:
“Rize” reveals a groundbreaking dance phenomenon that’s exploding on the streets of South Central, Los Angeles. Taking advantage of unprecedented access, this documentary film brings to first light a revolutionary form of artistic expression borne from oppression. The aggressive and visually stunning dance modernizes moves indigenous to African tribal rituals and features mind-blowing, athletic movement sped up to impossible speeds. “Rize” tracks the fascinating evolution of the dance: we meet Tommy Johnson (Tommy the Clown), who first created the style as a response to the 1992 Rodney King riots and named it “Clowning”, as well as the kids who developed the movement into what they now call Krumping. The kids use dance as an alternative to gangs and hustling: they form their own troupes and paint their faces like warriors, meeting to outperform rival gangs of dancers or just to hone their skills. For the dancers, Krumping becomes a way of life – and, because it’s authentic expression (in complete opposition to the bling-bling hip-hop culture), the dance becomes a vital part of who they are.

Like “Paris is Burning” or “Style Wars” before it, “Rize” illuminates an entire community by focusing on an artform as a movement that the disenfranchised have created. But the true stars of the film are the dancers themselves: surrounded by drug addiction, gang activity, and impoverishment, they have managed to somehow rise above. The film offers an intimate, completely fresh portrayal of kids in South Central as they reveal their spirit and creativity. These kids have created art – and often family – where before there was none.

It is evident that the young dancers are able to found communities in non-exclusive ways. In this way, they really are building the Church – the Community – Jesus dreamt of:
Realizing THOMAS ”TOMMY THE CLOWN” JOHNSON had become a positive role model for the kids in South Central, he created the Battle Zone to provide an alternative outlet for the kids in the community to battle it out on the dance floor instead of on the streets. In 2003, Tommy the Clown’s Battle Zone hosted a sold-out performance at the Los Angeles Forum. Tommy continues the battles every third Saturday of every month at Debbie Allen Dance Academy – a non-profit dance studio where kids from the community can learn all forms of dance training. Tommy the Clown emerged as a community icon and was asked to be a spokesperson for Governor Gray Davis’ Census Campaign which involved outreach to schools, neighborhood questionnaire assistance centers and statewide agencies which succeeded with the highest mail-in response rates in four decades. He formed strategic partnerships with counties and cities, all while delivering smiles and laughter. […] Truly an entertainer for all ages, Tommy the Clown’s mission is to reach out to communities across the world that are in need of a positive alternative lifestyle.

DRAGON was born Jason Green in Frankfurt on November 2, 1981. A military baby, he spent his initial years living throughout Germany, his very first in a hospital, the result of being born prematurely. His family eventually moved to California and settled in Compton. Dragon first crossed paths with Tommy the Clown while dancing for Platinum Clowns, a rival clown group, in competition. Dancing since the age of 19, Dragon has appeared in such music videos as Blink 182′s “I’m Feelin’ It,” and in various awards shows including the Choreographer Awards and the 2005 NAACP Awards. Outside of the Clowning world, Dragon is also an accomplished artist whose experience spans across fashion design, the graphic arts, multi-media, airbrushing, and comic book art. Now residing in Carson, CA, Dragon is currently studying to be a minister. He rediscovered the church after years of distancing himself from it, only to realize how truly unhappy he was with his life. Dragon now believes that the principles our nation was established upon – religion, principle, respect – have been compromised by our drive for material things which have no true value. Through the church, he hopes to someday help others find their own spiritual foundation for a happy life.

TIGHT EYEZ, real name Ceasare Willis, is one of the founders of Krumping. He created the Krump movement in 2000 with his brothers and Lil C and Mijo. While living in New York, Tight Eyez dreamed of launching a dance that would get everyone “hyped up.” He soon moved to Los Angeles and founded Clown dancing, which thereafter evolved into Krumping. He went on to perform with many clown groups before finally meeting and joining creative forces with Tommy the Clown. Tight Eyez has turned his life over to God and changed his life through Jesus. He uses the Krump movement to help young people in faith to change their lives. His goal is to establish his own Krump Organization, of which he would be the CEO, and hopes to open schools for youth to dance, exercise their talent and utilize their inner gifts. Hopefully, by the age of 23…

Christian Jones, a/k/a BABY TIGHT EYEZ, was born and raised in the Church. His grandfather was the founder of the Christian Tabernacle of Love, Faith and Deliverance, and his Aunt is now Pastor of Christian Tabernacle Ministries. After his grandfather passed on in 1998, he took up the organ, which he plays at services. Baby Tight Eyez learned how to Krump dance at the heels of Tight Eyez, Lil C, Mijo, and Dragon, and considers them among his closest friends in the Krump movement. When he is not dancing, he loves to hang with his homies. His goal is to launch a big dance studio where everyone could Krump for free. He would also like to buy his pastors a new church. He hopes to give back to those who do not have, to give back to his neighborhood, to give those who are as he once was.
I compiled a film with some of the documentary’s testimonies, and combined them with fragments of pop diva Madonna‘s 2006 Confessions Tour. I know that her allusion to the crucifixion of Christ – as shown at the ending of this compilation – stirred a lot of controversy, but I hope people are ableto see it as an artistic commentary on what happens when deprived people are given voice and rediscover their dignity: it means that the love of Christ, Christ himself, is in our midst. Although some of the youngsters explain their life story in a sacrificial way (in the sense of ‘I had to endure what happened to me to receive a rewarding insight or gift’ – the Nietzschean ‘What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger’ type of explanation), above all they try to ‘enlighten’ the world with their dance talents. These are really ‘tales of resurrection’ wherein the gift of life is passed on to others.

On a personal note, I’d like to end this post by thanking Mr. LaChapelle for allowing me the use of his Intervention picture for the cover of my book Vrouwen, Jezus en rock-’n-roll – Met René Girard naar een dialoog tussen het christelijk verhaal en de populaire cultuur. I truly consider it an honor.

By Erik Buys

DOWNLOAD PDF (8.5 MB)

‘Pierre et Gilles’ by Taschen

This book is practically the summary of Pierre et Gilles working lives together. Pages 12-65 pages feature a visual timeline of their lives. These are some of the quotes that relate to religion.

“On returning from India, Pierre et Gilles start working on religious themes and saints. They make several videos, TV ads for La sardine and jingles for Canal+.” – 1987 (Page 36)

“At the same time as their work on the saints, they explore ,mythological themes” – 1988 (Page 38)

And these are some of the Images with reference to Religion

‘Sainte Marie MacKillop, Kylie Minogue 1995’

Saint Mary MacKillop was canonised in october 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, 101 years after her death, she is the first Australian Saint to be recognised by the church. For part of her life she was Banned from the Church because of her involvement in helping to expose a sex-abusing priest. Pierre et Gilles’ photography depicting Kylie Minogue as her cannot be in celebration of her being canonised because the image was taken 15 years before it happened, this leads me to think that they have a strong knowledge of the Catholic church. In fact there is a picture in this book that suggests this too.

“Gilles on the first day of his communion”

This is a photo of ‘Gilles on the first day of his communion’, there are no images of pierre’s childhood in relation to religion, so this is something i will definitely have to explore more.

‘Diane, Naomi Campbell, 1997’

This portrail of the Roman Goddess Diana, (the huntress and protector of the wild) uses Naomi Campbell at the height of her modelling career. Are they referencing the way we view celebrities? like gods? are they making a strong comment on our celebrity cult society? probably.

The List of celebrity represented as religious icons goes on…
Claudia Schiffer as Venus

Christianity

 These are the Representations of Christianity in this book…


Hindu

The book talks about Pierre et Gilles’ travels to India and home their religious work started after this, could it have been the Hindu religion that made them so interested in art, and maybe offered them a culture shock, going to work which still idolises and lives by gods, not celebrity like the West.

These images are two of my favourites of Pierre et Gilles’ work, the colours representing femininity and masculinity compliment eachother well and realte to the story of Krishna and

Buddhism

Ancient Roman/Greek

David LaChapelle ‘Jesus is my home boy’

A video of the opening night of ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ in London (13/10/2008) made by Matt Robinson

What i found interesting about this video was finding out that in this shot

the tear which is a reference to the biblical story of Mary Magdalene but instead of washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, the tear on this womans face is seamen. This raises all sorts of questions, is it a reference to her prostitute past? is it about jesus’ apparent relationship with Mary Magdalene? LaChapelle leaves this to us to decode, he always says he isn’t trying to be controversial or shock anyone, maybe it’s because we live in such a sexualised culture this is how it might be in a modern day situation. A lot of people raise issues of sexuality in David LaChapelle’s work, in this case, Mary Magdalene has been depicted naked for a long time, it is meant to reference her sins, as LaChapelle is doing in this image by putting her in red underwear, the colour of the devil.

Maru Magdalene by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli painted in the 1500's and she is naked

David LaChapelle ‘Venus and Mars’ 2007

Interview taken from www.flavorwire.com
Monday Sep 28, 2009 by 

Exclusive Q&A: David LaChapelle

David LaChapelle, one of the most well-known (and controversial) photographers working today, recently retired from a publishing career spanning more than 20 years to focus full-time on his personal fine art. His much-anticipated new work, The Rape of Africa, a year-long labor of passion and persistence, casts a regal Naomi Campbell in the role of Venus from the Botticelli masterpiece Venus and Mars. It’s a monumental tableaux that seduces viewers with sexy bling, only to shock them with the environmental devastation and violent conflicts that pervade African mining.

Exhibited at LA’s David DeSanctis Gallery alongside a compendium of process renderings, collages, and drawings, this sensational work infuses LaChapelle’s unapologetic opulence with profound pangs of conscience. We caught up with him on the eve of the LA opening (and the morning after his Guadalajara Museum of Art survey opened to a rock star welcome) to discuss his departure from the commercial scene three years ago, and the subsequent liberation of his artistic side.

Flavorpill: What about the mythology of the Venus and Mars painting spoke to you as a foundation for a political commentary on the crisis in Africa?

David LaChapelle: Botticelli used ancient mythology, unlike Michelangelo who used Christian images. Religions have, I felt, been meant to be interpreted like myths. But it’s the human truth that holds up over time. Greed, right and wrong.

Venus and Mars is an ages-old contrast between war and love, murder and beauty, all the light and darkness in the world. When Botticelli painted this work, objects of antiquity were used as metaphors that were relevant to the day. Old Master paintings were not decorative objects. And the idea of Africa — it wasn’t just specifically about Africa. But the recession is driving up gold prices ten fold, which increases mining, which is as deadly to the environment as it is to the slaves who work in these massive gold mines. You can see them from outer space, like negative pyramids. So here you see Mars draped in gold and diamonds, in a post-coital state. And Africa being the cradle of civilization, he’s basically raping the Maternal, degrading and destroying that which gives the Earth life.

FP: So it’s more than a new take on classical art; it’s contemporary and political?

DL: Political art can be heavy-handed. I use beauty to attract people. If you want nihilistic and ugly just watch the news. As an artist you have the choice to use beauty as a tool to communicate. Since I’ve stopped working for publications, where I’d really been known for pop culture and celebrities, and gotten back to what I started out wanting to do in New York City galleries 20 years ago — when I couldn’t sell my pictures to anyone but Interview — and that’s make work that’s accessible. But now I can use what I’ve learned and apply it. I’m not selling anything anymore, except ideas.

Botticelli was in love with his model, he used the same one for Birth of Venus, the one that everyone knows. I chose Naomi Campbell because she is a great beauty of our day. There’s a tendency in the art world to see something beautiful and assume it’s superficial — but I’m not going to deny where I come from. I try to achieve balance. It’s more challenging than to make something aggressive. I want to attract, not repel.

FP: Is the work you’re making now different than what you’ve become known for in your career?

DL: If you look closely, you’ll see a hidden agenda that has been there all along. Plastic surgery, celebrity worship, accumulation — all the American obsessions. In the new work, it’s no longer hidden. I’ve learned to communicate, to not be intimidated. I feel like I’ve been in school for the last 20 years. Now it’s a rebirth, it’s liberating, and I don’t take it lightly. I walked away at the height of my career because I knew something big was coming. That’s the great thing about art — you can get better at it.

David LaChapelle ‘American Jesus’

American Jesus is a series entitled by LaChapelle in relation to  Walt Witman’s Poetry, in the one versions introduction chapter to ‘leaves of grass’ there is a reference to him as the American Jesus, because he didn’t see the body as sinful thing and he found god in nature, as LaChapelle explains in this video interview. In this series LaChapelle explore religion and modern day, Sets of images like ‘Jesus is my home boy’ play on the well know phrase used as a joke, the images bring biblical scenarios and imagery together with modern day culture, creating Pop Art out of the Christian Faith. Some people have strong opinions about this, (you can read Elisabeth Kay’s review here on artnet.com which expresses a negative response) they believe it is sacrilegious and sexualising religion, I see it as a unique insight, all the references are correct and are realistic as a modern day scenario. The Images with michael Jackson Caused the most controversy, they were realised after his death and picture him as a martyr.

‘Anointing’ 2003
‘last supper’ 2003
‘hold me, carry me boldly’

Video explaining the Michael Jackson Images…
[redlasso id=”4e92b6ec-3fd2-4847-950d-399adb3e4b35″]

‘Awakened Jesse’ 2003
‘The deluge’
‘Pieta with Courtney Love’

 Video explaining courtney love shoot…

The Mary Profile Picture Project

Caroline Jaine created this Project, it’s aim was to create a cross-faith project in which people named Mary would send a profile picture of themselves via social medias to Caroline Jaine and she would exhibit them. Watch the video to see more.

Background info – taken from website

“Last year I learned that Mary was not just a key figure in the Catholic faith, but that the same woman – Maryam – is important in Islam too.  She is the only woman to be named in the Qur’an – in fact she has a whole chapter named after her.   And she was of course Jewish.  Although I am neither a Catholic nor Muslim nor Jew, I am a peace-builder, and the role that Mary could play as a bridge between faiths immediately interested me.

 As a visual artist concerned with portraiture, I am intrigued by how Mary is visually depicted – essentially in Catholicism.  Her grace and femininity are frequently illustrated, but she is often shown to be fragile, with her head bowed and eyes cast down.  Mary is seen by the faiths as the embodiment of integrity, compassion and honesty but she is also a single mother and a refugee and I wonder whether her resilience could be better portrayed?  How might a modern day Mary look?

 Across the globe there must be millions of Mary’s, Maryams, Marias and Miryams.  All taking the name of Our Lady – a living proof that she lives on amongst us all in many faiths.

This project is about demonstrating the diversity in the living Mary today. And exploring whether there is a power in her feminine quality, which is visually under-represented.

 *In some interpretations (but by no means all) Islam rejects depictions of humans and animals in art – especially stories from the Qur’an.  It is for this reason that I seek photographic images rather than painted or drawn self-portraits.  The aim of this project is to unite, not divide. “