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:
without or intro as part of larger presentation, as in a film
with commentary on culture and the body
a teaser to a community workshop
Workshops for purposes of:
Communities are invited to delve
into their responses to the state of the body in contemporary
culture, exploring the value of the body through:
cultural and religious body issues
stories using various art forms
Engaging in dialog
stimulated by participant’s body stories.
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.
Live Dances for
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.
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.
(museums, galleries, churches):
multi-media exhibit- utilizing film,
drawings, photos, storyboards, costumes, etc.
exhibit- drawings, photos, designs, etc.
Classes (universities, civic groups,
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,
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
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.
believe that the true challenge of the artist, in any medium or
technique, is to pose the perfect question". -Tim Holmes
Reason Why Body Awareness is Crucial in Our Time
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
crucial need for change-
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.
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.
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.
the vitamins in body images-
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.
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.
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
Vision of Healing
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.
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
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.”
role of the church-
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
a series of short films-
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
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”.
timeline for change-
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
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.