Skillful Productions Produces SoundCrawl

Hi There! We're Skillful Productions, a creative services company in Nashville.

You may have seen OUR POSTERS, come to OUR EVENTS, bought our MUSIC, or seen one of our VIDEOS.

Our specialties are Experience Design and Event Production, especially arts experiences. But along the way, we've picked up chops in a host of other fields as well. We're a comprehensive creative agency; we walk projects from inception to completion, and create in whichever mediums fit the project best.

To contact us, leave us a comment.

Thanks. We look forward to working with you.

This has been a skillful production.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Evangelical Art Escapism

I can't believe it's almost been a full week since this happened, but last week my small group had a, er, lengthy discussion on arts and church and all kinds of great stuff. A great distinction was made : some art is escapist, some art is expository. (some is a willful distraction from this life, some is trying to say something about this life)

So specifically speaking Evangelicals traditionally believe that the primary purpose of the church (and christians individually) is to Evangelize the Lost. One of the reasons evangelicals prioritize evangelism is because they want everyone to know Jesus, and he gave the Great Commandment. The other reason is that at the end of Matthew, Jesus says that once the world knows Jesus, the world will end. Hang on this next part is a little tricky and a product of N.T. Wright. Most evangelicals belive in some version of Rapture, that is, at this end of the world, all the good christians will leave, and everyone that's left will be sent to hell. the most impactful part of that sentence as it relates to art is will leave. Many Evangelical Christians think they are bound for somewhere else: (songs like "this world is not my home," "I'll Fly Away" etc) Consequently, they hold the Earth and most of humanity (including human culture, and strangely enough, the evironment) as being less than Christian, and in varying degrees of worthlessness. This is why the adjective Christian becomes so important. Christian cookbooks are worthwhile, non-christian cookbooks are of the devil. Christian Pro Wrestling is acceptable entertainment, the WWE is a waste of time and money. Christian Financial Planning is good stewardship, Stock Brokers are greedy... etc.

The end of all this mess is that Evangelicals have by and large seen the products of humanity as inherently evil and beneath Christian dignity, and sought desperately to fill their needs (for society, belonging and entertainment) through their own "Christian" channels. Much of this pseudo-culture is meant to exist in a vacuum, and build a Christian ghetto that holds itself above the rest of society (in its own eyes).

All of this pseudo-culture is an Escape from "the world" inside this Christian ghetto there is no sin, no strife, no worry, no pain and no regret. Anything that says otherwise is "of the world."
Unfortunately, that's all a lie. Sin, strife, worry, pain and regret are part of the human experience, and there is not a single soul saved or condemned that doesn't know this to be true. We all lie to ourselves: I rationalize my sin, others rationalize their idolatry, etc. The fundamental human conflict is that of the ancient "chariot driver" where a persons rational mind attempts to control their passionate, selfish and ultimately animal desires.

Around the circle last thursday sat various people in varying relationships to the Christian Ghetto. Some struggle to see thoughtful art in works that portray nudity or violence. Others struggled with sometimes esoteric ways fallen artists manage to portray Biblical truths without recognizing it themselves. (Is all truth really God's? Some weren't so sure)

I'm somewhat to the left on all this, one of the most significant films in my life is Sideways, which a good friend described as DISGUSTING (because it contains sex, and full male nudity-but not of the protagonist, who I identify with) It's too bad that two scenes overshadow the entire work. What do I say to Christians from the bubble when they react so violently to art that moves me?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Common Man?

Another week, another post. I spent some time at the World Convention this week, and had some quite robust conversations. I was there on behalf of a scholarly publication, the Stone-Campbell Journal. It's an academic, peer-reviewed journal. A passer-by remarked: 'Theology is all well and good for Academics, but what are you doing for the Common Man? "

This comment is not all that rare anytime someone from Christianity specializes in, well , anything. This same comment was leveled at Mozart by the Court of Austria when they critiqued his opera. It motivated the Nazis to ban artists and composers like Schoenberg and Hindemith. And it continues to ring in the hallways, conferences and eardrums of arts and music ministers in churches throughout the world. It is true that fields like avant garde art, and academics require some education before their full significance can be understood. It's also true that some forward thinking scholarship and avant garde art isn't good (in that it's bad work).

But what continues to befuddle me in these conversations is that the party raising the issue isn't a "common man." In this case the gentleman who spoke those words has a Phd. in New Testament! The Opera committee at the Court of Austria all had musical training, Hitler's Arts council included numerous Musicologists and Composers. In short, the challenge to "create for the common man" always comes from an Elitist position, with a insulting view of rest of society. If perhaps, someone were to take a poll at a Wal-Mart or Shopping mall that information could purport to represent the views of the "common-people" of the U.S. But I'm not sure they'd be insulted by abstract art, dissonant music, or a scholarly paper even if they lacked the training to appreciate it fully. As an artist, I want people to "get" what I create, but ideas at hand get first priority, just like the scholars. Giving justice to the idea is first, and hopefully it can be presented in a way that communicates well. In many cases, the training just helps a knowledgeable person appreciate the idea extra, it's not often a prerequisite to understand the work at all.

I'd love to hear some feedback from people without advanced training in the arts.. I'm not a "common man" either, so I'd love some insight.

P.S. I'm not sure that in 21st century America, in an Information Economy, that anyone is a "Common man" The guys at Car Talk went to M.I.T. My mechanic knows as much about cars as I do about music. Where are the cars for the "common man?" They keep building cars that only trained mechanics can appreciate.... (you see my point)