Body Psalms Project             -Tim Holmes Studio
Designs for social engineering using art films

The Body Psalms Project is a multi-tiered exercise in social engagement using art as a doorway to reach people wherever their lives have meaning, whether that be through traditional institutions or on the street. Art is a radical act of the soul and this work is aimed at engaging souls– wherever they are– in creative struggle through various means:

Film
screenings-

•Screened without or intro as part of larger presentation, as in a film festival
•Presented with commentary on culture and the body
•Presented as a teaser to a community workshop

Workshops for purposes of:

Personal Awareness- Communities are invited to delve into their responses to the state of the body in contemporary culture, exploring the value of the body through:
Personal journaling
Discussion of cultural and religious body issues
Creating personal stories using various art forms
Engaging in dialog stimulated by participant’s body stories.

Community healing- Designed to address other hot issues using the body and body issues as a doorway to view conflicts, a catalyst for individual creative struggle and a metaphor to address them and find solutions.  The focus remains peripheral to the main conflict, on the esthetic expression and uses the purity of art and its pathway to truth.


•Performances-  
Live Dances for events/worship/demos/etc.

Community performances

Wrapped around various Body Psalms films and live danced poems, community members’ body stories are developed and woven into a powerful performances. The performance approaches a deeply serious issue from different perspectives with humor, grace and poignancy. Performances are followed by audience discussions.

•Context performances-

The same film that appears in a film festival as a clever use of the medium appears in an art museum as video sculpture and in a church as radical worship.
The meaning and scope of the work is most powerfully revealed as the viewer experiences the work in different contexts, revealing that each of us are a community of personalities with sensibilities that morph unconsciously with a change in local circumstances.

•Exhibitions
(museums, galleries, churches):


Full multi-media exhibit- utilizing film, drawings, photos, storyboards, costumes, etc.
Flatwork exhibit- drawings, photos, designs, etc.
Classes (universities, civic groups, churches):
Art creates a dynamic social alchemy in open format classes, designed to wrest the body as presented in mass media, from exploitation- by agents of advertising and porn- and re-infuse it with the sense of our original hallowed creation. Syllabi for university, community groups, church, youth, etc.

•Worship:

The central power of the Body Psalms statement is revealed through the context of presentation, as the answer to the question,”Who is it for?” reveals the work as art or as worship. (Why do we do this? Is it for God, ourselves, our congregation, the public?)
Body Psalms films and/or live performances are incorporated into worship as:
• Participation in masses or services as both a genuine form of esthetic praise and a radical challenge to current ideas.
• The ultimate vision: a full mass with danced invocation, scripture “reading” and closing before benediction.

BODY PSALMS is a series of short films and rituals by artist Tim Holmes, being used to wrest the body image in mass media from exploitation- by agents of advertising and porn- and re-infuse it with the sense of our original sacred creation.

"I believe that the true challenge of the artist, in any medium or technique, is to pose the perfect question".   -Tim Holmes
The Reason Why Body Awareness is Crucial in Our Time

The only difference between you and a dead person is your body. A Martian plopped down in one of our cities might conclude from the omnipresent appearance of body images in our media, that we are worshipers of our own bodies. How could they know that we are not worshiping them but allowing powerful forces to use those body images to separate us from our money?

Exploitation of the body is like an environmental disaster- nobody can really be blamed for it but we all suffer in ways of which we're generally not even aware.

Background-
In the creation story at the very birth of Western culture the human body was "created in the image of God", and declared by God "very, very good". Christians still believe that our bodies are sacred incarnations of the divine, an evaluation that is echoed in most other world faiths as well. The human body, what Christians refer to as the "Temple of God" has become overrun by thieves.
Yet one look at the state of the body in contemporary American culture- which is rapidly becoming world monoculture- demonstrates that the body is anything but sacred. We not only mistreat our own and other's bodies, but we treat the image of the human body as mere property to be sold to the highest bidder. Pornographers and advertisers (distinguished from each other only by degree of exploitation they will sink to) act as copyright "owners" of the body image, to use and abuse at their will, to the degradation of both our concept of our vessels in the world- our own bodies.
Westerners have tended to treat the body as the plaything of the devil, unworthy of our respect even while we overindulge its appetites. In western civilization powerful religious forces have tried to gain power over its adherents over the past 1700 years by casting the body as the root of sin. Unfortunately, the body and its intelligence is not so easily dispensed with.
As one example, the recent revelation of years of sexual abuse of minors by priests is directly related to a tragic effect of traditional Catholic treatment of the priest's body. According to this tradition, the priest drapes his body in black as a symbol of devotion to divine will. But if an individual is not very careful that devotion to unseen forces become confused with ignoring the body's own voice which longs for physical connection. Those desires don't simply disappear, they are repressed, becoming powerful and monstrous, sometimes eventually exploding out in abusive ways. It's not that the body is inherently bad, it's that if a person doesn't treat the flesh with the respect and dignity that it deserves, it will eventually rebel.
This is an example with obvious consequences, but unless we intentionally honor and respect the intelligent energy of the flesh, most all of us end up mistreating our bodies, which lends cause to the amount of addiction, disease, and violence in our world.

The crucial need for change-
American culture, although a secular in facade if not in character, has its roots in the Christian faith and is deeply influenced by Christian tradition and morality. That morality evolves with awakening awareness and scientific understanding, moving sometimes ahead and sometimes behind the psyche of the whole of civilization.
With the birth of the advertising industry in the late 19th century, the prospects for healthy treatment of the body dimmed considerably, and has been further declining since. Now with the rapid spread of such global phenomena as capitalism, open borders, the internet, etc., the possibilities for exploitation of the body are rapidly getting worse. And there are few organizations or institutions who are equipped or prepared to counter this erosion of values.
Simultaneously- and partly because of globalization itself- the evolution of human consciousness has developed to the point- for the first time in history- that humanity now has the fresh capacity to effectively turn this situation around, and it is not a moment too soon. I believe the time is ripe to reclaim the body as our sacred trust.

We NEED the vitamins in body images-
There apparently is something crucial to our survival in having access to bodies and body images. The reason body images appear so often in advertising and the media is because we crave them. Artists have created them in nearly every culture we know of throughout all of the 40,000-some years we can see of human history. Our culture is no different in that respect.
Some would insist that humans are driven by evil passions and that the reason we crave body images is that we are all weak by nature. I say instead that the reason we crave a close connection to human bodies is because there is some nourishment in them crucial to our well being, some social glue that on an unconscious level reassures us that we are all brothers and sisters of a common family. For a million years of evolution we were provided plenty of this vitamin through important rituals like dancing together about the campfire. But with modern civilization we jettisoned such tribal ritual as meaningless primitive relics, without investigating what needs these rituals might fulfill that we have yet to understand.
As a result I suspect that most of us are chronically anemic,; short on some important social vitamin. I believe that our craving of the flesh-a fairly consistent symptom throughout the world, proven by the effectiveness of fleshy advertizing right round the globe- is a reflection of an honest need that we simply can't make logical sense of. Rather than fulfilling our minimum daily requirement by dancing in each other's presence as our progenitors did, we are wracked with modern addictions, desperately trying to nourish a deep part of ourselves that we don't understand and can't seem to ever fill, no matter how much we consume. Devoid of this true nourishment we so desperately need, we take whatever gruel we can get, no matter how thin.

A Vision of Healing
There have been fairly constant historic attempts to eradicate porn and even to soften shockingly exploitive advertising in our time, but these attempts are doomed to failure if porn is not then replaced with a more nourishing alternative. We refuse to give up body images because deep down we cannot live without them. But we clearly have had that alternative source of healthy, positive, beautiful “body connection vitamins” all along. That is ART. Art is the universal language of possibility and hope.
The only way to permanently eradicate porn and exploitation of the flesh is to provide healthy alternative body images. In an environment of readily available “body connection vitamins” exploitation will largely disappear because it simply cannot compete. If people are given healthy images they will find nothing attractive in unhealthy ones.

I envision a future where body images appear perhaps no less universally than they do today, but where every such image reminds us of our sacred formation and our duty to love the neighbors, creatures and the world that surrounds us.” -Tim Holmes

The role of the church-
Much of the foundation of our culture was cultivated in the light of religious tradition. I intentionally use this work to approach “the church” (the loci of the spiritual entities of our civilization, not any particular denomination or group) because that is where the vague focus of moral authority still lies. Although the Christian church has no real power in a democratic system, it still is the originator and locus of the social morality compass. If there is going to be a significant improvement in the moral climate of culture, it pretty much has to happen with the help of the church, as has been the case with all the great social movements in Western history.

Body Psalms- a series of short films-
I can think of no more direct way of encouraging a re-visioning of the body in contemporary culture than by encouraging healthy, nourishing artistic body images. This is how I conceived of the Body Psalms film series. These works are intended to be at once beautiful, real, provocative and hopeful. They are created for a general audience, but I hope that one day something like them will appear in worship, where we can celebrate the body beautiful in a sacred atmosphere at the very pinnacle of human expression, free from the fear of exploitation or even of our own natural enjoyment that is a natural part of ingesting “body connection vitamins”.

A timeline for change-
With a problem that is 1700 years old I believe the solution will be neither easy nor rapid. Nevertheless, all change begins with one person. The only change that I can count on is the one that happens in my own heart. Yet that is the most important change in the whole world, because it means that if I receive that gift I know it can give it to another. If that person is moved they may go out and spread the word, perhaps by sharing or creating their own artistic vision. We are never required to be successful, only to work for the good.
My hope is that in some future era the body will be as foreign to advertising and porn as the ritual human sacrifice is to authentic religion. One day people will feast their eyes on beautiful bodies through images produced by religious communities as a way of bridging differences, of emphasizing the common humanity of all people. One day we will not fear exposing children to flesh any more than we hesitate to introduce them to money- so that they can learn how to threat their own and other people's with love and respect . Once the body becomes associated with the sacred it will be that much harder for anyone to harm or misuse or even disrespect another person, creature or the very body of our beloved home, the earth. Then we will truly know what if feels like to inhabit heaven on earth.