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by Bill Johnson
Recently, a handful of fellow travelers from CCC and I navigated an intense 12-mile stretch of Manhattan in pursuit of the creative and thoughtfully curated city-wide exhibit Stations of the Cross. Conceived and curated by Dr. Aaron Rosen and Rev. Dr. Catriona Laing, the exhibition seeks to compel interested parties to embark upon an intense journey, visiting spaces both familiar and unfamiliar, sacred and secular.
This outdoor exhibition is as much about the journey required of its viewer, as it is a collection of artistic works due to its purposeful blend of physicality with spirituality. Likewise, the art in the exhibit varies with each location. It contains a mix of existing and historical work with contemporary, cutting-edge art commissioned for the exhibit. The selected contemporary art represents different styles, races, ideologies and faiths, (or some having, perhaps, no faith) from a variety of artists. This intentional variety makes the journey from site to site a hunt worth pursuing. It promises that each stop will be a startling discovery, simultaneously delivering experiences that have both monumental proportions and can be deeply personal.
Our journey began quietly, with our viewing of a petite illuminated Book of Hours at the Met Cloisters and ended with a visit to the unavoidably stark and massive Reflecting Absence at the National 9/11 Memorial. Each selected piece ensures the viewer will take the time to stop moving and consider the Station represented in the piece, reflecting on the layers of meaning that any of the contemporary artists intended to convey. Dr. Aaron Rosen and Rev. Dr. Catriona Laing have succeeded in their goal of curating a Christ-centered experience through art in the Stations of the Cross in a way that tells a timeless story that remains relevant and is inclusive to a broad audience.
On the whole, it reminds us that the Passion of Christ is neither simple nor direct—it is a series of specific starts and stops speaking to the fullness of time and humanity. Through this exhibition, we are not only challenged to reflect on the suffering of Christ, through the interplay between pilgrim, place, art and the passion, but also on the suffering around us today, here, now. Just as Christ’s suffering and triumph is telegraphed to us through the passion itself, this exhibit is a love letter to participants who choose to experience it. Each stop is thoughtfully selected and placed—both the art and its host site offer a contemplative respite to the pilgrim participating in this journey.
Starting in London in 2016, the exhibit traveled to Washington D.C. in 2017 and is currently closing its New York leg of the trip. Stations will be in Amsterdam next year before arriving in Detroit in 2020 through the Cranbrook Project for Music, Arts and Education. The scale and character of each city offers to imbue each exhibition with subtle changes. We have a clear opportunity in Detroit in 2020 to create a unique, place-specific and culturally referential modern narrative that accompanies the age-old Passion story. What will we learn about our city and ourselves when Stations comes to Detroit?
Please join Dr. Aaron Rosen this morning at 9:00 AM for a special forum around Stations of the Cross. Visit http://www.artstations.org to learn more about the exhibition.
Image attr: Stations, G. Roland Biermann, c. 2016-2018