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Culture, Contradictions & the Cross

In the Worldview class I am teaching in our church’s academy, which is based on materials from Summit Ministries, we have been looking at postmodernism and its influence on culture.  Through this I became familiar with a building that serves as a monument to this worldview, which is the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts located on the campus of Ohio State University.  Being a University of Michigan grad, I might be accused of just finding yet another reason to dislike the Buckeyes.  However, the testimony of this building transcends its location as it points to the monumental confusion of a generation that has turned from Christ.

Designed by Peter Eisenman, known as a “deconstructionist architect,” the Wexner Center is a building of contradictions.  Stairways lead up to walls.  Columns stop midway down to the floor.  Arches over windows stop two thirds of the way around. Walls hang out over spaces.  An outside tower (that you can see in the picture above) is split apart.  One website states, “The Wexner can feel alternately cramped and spacious; it can be disorienting to the point of near nausea (grids, grids, grids!), and has a stairway that seems like it simply must be in violation of numerous safety codes.”  The Wexner is the postmodernist’s tribute to the worldview that believes there are no absolute truths, no ultimate story, and no true foundation.

In this first video of time-lapse photography, you can see a lobby in the Wexner being prepared for a ribbon display by Megan Geckler.  You will see some of the disorienting features of the building such as the hanging wall.  Yet notice something else.  The wall seemingly hanging in space is still supported by something.  The workers hanging the ribbons are using the scientific technology of hydraulic lifts.  The ribbons themselves, of varied colors, form beautiful patterns and geometric forms.  Even in the lobby of an art center devoted to claiming there is no ultimate order and reality, order and reality shine forth.  The contradictions of this generation’s false worldview are on vivid display!

Seeing these contradictions made me thankful for the following video from David Murray.  In this short review of the recent Grand Rapids Art Festival, Professor Murray in a touching way comments on several different displays showing man’s struggles and his cry for redemption.  Sin-diffracted viewpoints can only be corrected by the cross, the only means of looking at this beautiful yet broken world.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jared Olivetti #

    Great stuff, Barry. I always love reading about architecture…it seems one place in life where our theology and worldview can be literally seen and felt.

    October 26, 2011
  2. In the classic work “Stones of Venice,” author John Russkin argued that architecture reflects the morals of the society that builds it. That was in 1851. Quite an interesting topic!

    October 27, 2011
  3. Thanks for your comments, Jared and Sharon. I have not read Russkin’s work, so I’ll have to add it to my wish list!

    October 27, 2011
  4. Thanks so much for your kind words about my work! I really enjoyed working in Eisenman’s supposed “impossible” space :)

    October 29, 2011
  5. Megan,

    You’re welcome! Not only is your work colorful, intricate and fascinating to view, but it reminded me a bit of the creativity of my daughters. They love to put up colored streamers in our home to celebrate birthdays, etc., though of course not nearly to the extent of your work!

    October 31, 2011

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