Your own personal Jesus

Project Narrative

The leaders of the various organized faiths often assert that their way is the only entry in to heaven. But with hundreds of different faiths, is there any one that can be said to be “correct”? And with billions of members, is there even a cohesive platform on which they can all agree?

This project is meant to force the participant into an examination of their idea of faith, ritual, and spirituality. It provides a microscopic (only large enough for a single person’s head) “safe space” that mimics both traditional and non-traditional religious institutions. It is an effort to impart upon them the idea that all faith is personal, without regard as to what the content of that faith is or who they share it with.

In design, the project is three, small “churches” that surround a central “tree”. Each church is of a different design (Christian, Islamic, etc.) and is on a platform. The churches are hollow, and by going underneath their platforms, the participant can fit their head up in to each church. The inside is decorated with all of the familiar trappings of a place of worship, and soft music plays from hidden speakers.

Physical Description

This piece consists of three different “churches”. Each is clearly different in design: one is influenced by the Christian faith; another by Islam; and the third is a modern interpretation of a more ancient, more feminine belief system. They are made of stone and wood, evoking the traditional images of faith that we have become accustomed to.

All three are supported by platforms, allowing a single participant to look underneath them and even put their head up in to them, revealing an 18”x18” space of personal worship.

The insides of the micro-cathedrals are decorated in traditional fashion, with respect to each of their belief systems. Stained-glass windows (back illuminated with LED’s) adorn the walls. Music evocative of each faith plays softly over concealed speakers. But the traditional images of Islam and Christianity are replaced by words and images of a more inclusive world, asking the participant to re-evaluate their place in spiritual society.

The three churches are aesthetically linked by a central tree. This tree is covered in wire and lit by LED’s, hinting that it is both a modern and ancient construct. As with the churches, the tree can be looked in to, but only imperfectly. It’s narrower width, and higher reach makes it difficult to see all of its internal aspects, alluding to fundamental truths that may never be reached.

In construction, this installation is in four parts, and each part is constructed separately. The first, is the tree itself. This is on a platform of pressure-treated wood and rebar with a head-sized hole in the center. From the center hole, an MDF “pipe” extends upward to form the central structure. Around the exterior, a chicken wire mesh form the trunk and branches. This mesh is covered in bare copper wire as well as florist’s wire in green and brown. The interior and exterior are lit by LED “stars”.

The second part is the “Christian cathedral”. This is made of wood and based on a 3D puzzle of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris that has been scaled up to be about 3’x3’x4’ in size and is painted to resemble stone. Exterior illumination is via LED lighting and backlit “stained glass” windows made of acrylic. The interior is constructed from 18” square stone tiles with more backlit windows in the style of Medieval illuminated manuscripts. Additional cathedral trappings are included such as an organ balcony that conceals a tiny MP3 player and speakers issuing Gregorian and Baroque music.

The third is the “Islamic mosque”. The exterior is made of sandstone tile and is a perfect cube but for the addition of a single minaret. The seams of the cube will be lit by EL wire and LED’s will illuminate the minaret. The interior is made of 18” stone tile and, as before, will be adorned with backlit “stained glass” windows. These windows will feature geometric designs. Again, a concealed MP3 player will be included, with recitations of Arabic poetry.

The fourth is the “new age” place of worship. It is organic in form, most closely resembling the works of Gaudi, while also evoking Druidic and shamanic themes. The exterior is made of chicken wire, covered in fabric and then finished with a thin, sealed mortar. Exterior illumination is provided by LED “stars”. The interior is wood panels with similar stained glass windows that display images of nature. A concealed MP3 player is also included, issuing various natural sounds and chants.

Materials

Dimensional pressure-treated lumber will be the primary structural element for most of the parts of the installation, with rebar and steel bracing as required. For aesthetic purposes, stone tiles will be cemented against plywood sheeting on the interior and parts of the exterior of the pieces. Two of the pieces will also make use of fabric-wrapped chicken wire, covered with a thin layer of mortar and sealed.

Dimensions

This installation consists of up to four, distinct pieces. Three of the four will be designed as rectangular boxes, each of which fits in to an area of 3’L x 4’W x 6’H. The third is cylindrical in structure, fitting in to a 3’DIA footprint and being 6’ in height. The three boxes will be placed around the cylinder, about 5’ away from it; giving an overall installation footprint of a cylinder 18’ in diameter and 8’ high.

Interactivity

This is primarily a meditative piece, providing space for up to four participants at once, each in their own individual space. The spaces are designed to guide a participant in considering what faith and spirituality mean to them.

Safety and Illumination

The structures that are planned are small, fitting in to a (roughly) 4’x4’ footprint for each one. But they do have their own safety issues as all of them are designed such that a person can only fit their head in to them. This makes stability of the structure paramount, as any unaccounted-for top and side loading could cause the participant to be entrapped.

With that in mind, each structure will be supported by four legs, any one of which could bear the entire vertical force. These legs will be secured to the playa by 3/8” rebar threaded through them. Lateral bracing will be added such as to eliminate any torsional forces. Additionally, wind loading will be minimized by positioning the smallest area toward prevailing winds.

The structures are designed in four parts: the legs to support the weight, a “table” surface to hold fast the miniature structures and distribute their weight evenly to the legs, and then the inner and outer structures themselves. The inner structure is designed as a cube such that it can bear all of the weight in the event of an outer structure failure. The outer structure is as light as aesthetics will allow. By using this layered approach, there will be little chance of any structural failure, even in extremely high wind and rain.

Each of the four individual pieces will have their own lighting in the form of exterior and interior LED,s and EL wire. Such lighting is integral to the installation. Additionally, the entire perimeter of the installation will be marked with solar lights, spaced approximately every four feet (15 lights in total). The solar panels used to power the installation will be on the perimeter of the piece and will have their own lights in order to clearly mark their location.

No guy wires are currently planned, but if it is later determined that they are needed then they will be marked with EL wire cable-tied to the guy wires. Likewise, no exposed rebar is planned, but if it is later determined to be needed, then all exposed rebar will be lit with a solar light.