“The Compassion Project” is a conceptual art billboard undertaking that uses the vernacular of Christian marketing campaigns to examine spirituality and politics in America. Based in York, Alabama, the artist team Shana Berger and Nathan Purath engage religious preconceptions by exploring the phrase “Even in hell there is compassion.” Hell, compassion, the democratizing of resurrection, and redemption, this expression offers traditional fundamentalist Christian heritage an expanded way of viewing damnation. The art installations illustrate that escape from hell is universally available to every human through compassion.
Artists Berger and Purath installed billboards in New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta. Their work highlights the challenges faced when considering complex expressions of faith and spirituality. They will exhibit project documents and conduct workshops and lectures at:
Space One Eleven (SOE)
November 6, 2009 – January 8, 2010
Opening Reception November 6, 2009
(All events are free and open to the public!)
Berger and Purath are inspired by a Buddhist folktale told by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn. The story tells that in a past life, prior to enlightenment, the Buddha was in hell.
A guard in hell whose duty was to cause suffering was torturing the Buddha along with another man. The Buddha, tired of seeing his companion in pain, told the guard that he should not beat the man or cause suffering in others. The guard became very angry and stuck his fork in the heart of the Buddha. The Buddha died, but was simultaneously reborn into a new life on earth. “Even in hell there is compassion.”
Berger and Purath’s billboards use the same memorable black background and white serif font of the pervasive “God Speaks” religious advertising crusade. The “God Speaks” billboards are written in casual modern day English. They invoke an obvious ideological association and critique from a conservative Christian God. Some ofthe phrases include, “All I know is everything,” “The real Supreme Court meets up here,” and “One nation under me,” all signed God.
The billboards were respectfully declined in Birmingham, AL and Knoxville, TN by Lamar Advertising. This sadly demonstrates economic influences on morality.
Berger and Purath ask for audience participation with an interactive website www.thecompassionproject.net and a toll free number, 1-800-515-5690.
“FOUND AROUND THE SOUTH, TWO”
Berger and Purath’s “The Compassion Project” is part of “Found Around the South, Two.” Conceived and curated by SOE’s founding directors. Anne Arrasmith and Peter Prinz, it echoes Space One Eleven’s first exhibit, “Found Around the South” (1986) which brought regional artists together to explore how Deep South concerns, while often described as “peculiar,” were (and are) relevant to all.
Now, 23 years later, from their base in Birmingham, Alabama noted for its post Civil War industry, its leadership in the movement for civil rights and its current recognition for cutting edge medicine, Arrasmith and Prinz have designed a series of six projects. Running from 2009-2012,” Found Around the South, Two” focuses on work done by today’s organizing artists/curators based in the Deep South who address issues that ripple out into the world.
“Found Around the South, Two” brings attention to their interests concerning race, politics, religion, sex not to mention class, gender and the changing demographics of the Deep South. The series explores the area’s unfortunate attachment to anti intellectualism while celebrating its renowned friendliness, delicious emphasis on food, road house R&B, jazz, gospel and Rock & Roll!
The “heat” remains in this unique place as it continues to shine the light on what’s important to the world.