John Hurrell – 22 August, 2018
People in opposite political or philosophical camps, who used to regularly discuss their points of difference in an effort to reach agreement, no longer do so, and confrontational taunting and yelling seems to be the new norm. Shrillness has replaced conversation—seemingly this is everywhere. It is a recent (I think calamitous) phenomenon.
First will be last and last, first
11 August - 1 September 2018
(Performances: Tues - Fri 11 am - 5 pm; Sat 11 am - 3 pm)
A meditation on humility that comes from St. John’s Gospel (1) in the New Testament, ‘Uhila performs this washing activity on the feet of volunteering gallery visitors who wish to take up his cleansing offer. In Biblical times it was refreshingly practical (as much as philosophical) for sandal wearers to experience it after a long walk, though the philosophical benefits were said to go to the washer.
However to expose your feet, and socks and shoes, involves a vulnerability in terms of cleanliness, possible disease, deformity, wear and tear, or fashion status—though you are receiving ablutions from somebody who is prostrate before you—and you (by revealing your possible material weaknesses) are being humble too.
There is an argument that this attitude is harmful, that humility encourages passivity and reinforces the injustices of the status quo by discouraging resistance; that religions often encourage it as a means of stratifying social hierarchies and encouraging blind acceptance of social cruelty.
However here is a counterargument to support ‘Uhila. It goes like this:
Today, we are living in extraordinarily troubled times where so many powerful world leaders seem to be—if not calculatedly evil or aggressive—then incredibly selfish or stupid. Tragically the world seems to have followed suit. People in opposite political or philosophical camps, who used to regularly discuss their points of difference in an effort to reach agreement, no longer do so, and confrontational taunting and yelling seems to be the new norm. Shrillness has replaced conversation; seemingly this is everywhere. It is a recent (I think calamitous) phenomenon.
In his offering of humility as a notion to think in depth about, ‘Uhila seems to be striving for social airs and assumed senses of entitlement to be deflated, and careful listening to be embraced. Both sides (from many conflicts) need to get off their ‘high horses,’ come down and meet halfway to listen and talk.
This is my interpretation, my own private extrapolation, not the artist‘s. I’m taking a guess, looking at what ‘being humble’ involves in today’s political climate.
You might argue—for reasons I anticipate in paragraph three—that such meekness is far too extreme. ‘Uhila is a Christian, I am not—though we were both raised Methodists. We talked about this while he washed my feet. It provided a good opportunity for conversation. There are six days remaining.
(1). The exhibition title comes from Matthew 20: 16, and the activity references John 13: 13-14. (“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”)
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