I read a devotional recently that touched upon our disposable culture. We are all too familiar with this in regards to our use of products, ever growing pace of production, and consumption of physical objects. However what fascinated me beyond that was the connection to disposability in the more intangible things, our relationships and commitments, which is something far more consequential. A quote from the devotional: “…Many times true commitment in relationships is seen as optional. Marriages struggle to survive. Long term employees are discharged just before retirement for cheaper options….It seems as if nothing lasts.” I began thinking about commitment versus disposability as well as temporal versus permanent. I find it interesting how we often opt for temporal or disposable commitments to each other, to our goals, to our convictions, to our Lord. Yet at the same time, we were made for eternity, we believe in loyalty, we long for committed relationships and need them. However no one is exempt from this struggle of keeping promises or not letting commitments fade out. It is a constant battle within us.
For me personally, reading this devotional hit home as I realized that I often make commitments to myself and to God that I don’t keep. So often I decide to face my fears and complete a project, focus on developing a good habit, or even something more invisible as being aware of my own selfish attitudes. While I believe heartedly in these good things, I find that after a brief time of establishing a commitment I have long forgotten about them or feel less convicted and let them slip into the periphery of my life. Why is it that we so often dispose of what we truly deem as of utmost importance?
For this yearlong residency with Spark and Echo Arts, I will create a series of works that will explore the struggle and beauty of this battle we each face. Each piece will be tied to a Bible verse or verses that I personally feel holds the heart of this reality and yet inherently explains universally what we all face in some way. I have spent the past few months both being inspired and wrestling with how to connect my own artwork with the Bible and how to bring that forth to speak to an audience. After many late nights of trying to pin down vague inspirations and contemplating the feelings around these concepts, I’ve honed my ideas into four concrete pieces. These will come in the form of sculptures, performance, video, and a documented event. Although I am setting out to make these specific works, I anticipate things will change, but even in that lays some truth about making commitments and what time does to that. More on this will be explored later. I am very excited to see these ideas become reality, to move from my personal warehouse to the public sphere, and to experience dialogue with others of how these works relate to personal lives, communal living, and the specific stories we each carry.
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Disposable Commitments, Melissa Beck
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)
This first piece, while simple is a pertinent way of sculpturally manifesting this idea of “disposable commitments”. Porcelain china dishes are stacked in a plastic bag, taking the place of disposable foam plates. Two similar yet vastly different entities juxtaposed. Dishes that are long lasting, intended to be used over and over have been cheapened to mere disposable plates. What was intended and made to last a lifetime has become temporal and discarded. As a sculpture artist, I am drawn to objects and things in the visible world that when arranged in a certain way or setting reflect an invisible truth or reality. It helps me to see what is beneath the surface in our lives, but is most definitely there. I could have used any objects, but dishes reminded me of a marriage. Permanent not disposable dishes are a traditional gift at weddings because they symbolize two becoming one for the long haul. In this commitment is a lifetime promise to not just experience and create dreams together but also to do the mundane daily life of eating meals, cooking, cleaning, entertaining guests, and continuing routine together year after year. Yet this ultimate commitment, which is esteemed as the most committed relationship two people can have, is often reduced to less. It is cheapened, abandoned, severed and lost. Even in our loyalty to friends or goals, sometimes they start out as permanent in our minds and souls, but somewhere along the line they seem to fade, blending into the periphery of our lives and being cluttered among other discards. In photographing this piece, I found that the stack of dishes amongst trash blends in quite easily. The colors mesh with the environment and yet there is something odd about these china dishes inside a plastic bag. It isn’t right. It isn’t right because we know these plates like our commitments were made for more and yet we constantly battle to keep ourselves from doing the very things that cause us to discard of our commitments.
See Melissa’s previous work for Spark and Echo Arts here.