Eugene Cho

upside down church?

What’s your first impression when you see this sculpture?  What do you think?

[not sure where I snagged this photo from…apologies]

This is one of my favorites pieces of art and it happens to be in Vancouver…or at least, used to be in Vancouver.  Known by most as “the upside down church,” it’s actual name is “Device to Root Out Evil.” 

How’s that for a name? 

My first thoughts when I saw this sculpture was the challenge for the church to be subversive.

Here’s the article from the Vancouver Sun about the art that caused a great amount of controversy:

Alas, Vancouver loses its upside-down church [by Douglas Todd]

Vancouver won’t have its upside-down church sculpture to kick around anymore.

It was announced today (Monday, June 2) the mischievous outdoor sculpture is heading on a lease to Calgary’s Glenbow Museum, after the Vancouver parks board voted to dismantle it – despite many adoring the debate-provoking work, called Device to Root Out Evil.

American artist Dennis Oppenheim’s 1997 work came to Vancouver as part of the 2005 Sculpture Biennale. But Vancouver residents were divided on it. Owned by the Benefic Foundation, a non-profit, the inverted church could be worth a lot of money after all this controversy. But nobody is talking about how much the Glenbow Museum is paying.

Images of the sculpture were last week displayed on giant screens at the annual conference of the B.C. United Church. The liberal church leaders used the sculpture as a positive symbol of how Christianity has been metaphorically turned on its head in recent decades, and needs to reconfigure itself to get a fresh message across to the public.

Anticipating that the “Device” might disappear from Vancouver, my three-week-old column argues that the mini-park at the foot of Bute Street should become the site of rotating works of controversial art. This would parallel the changing works of art that are placed on top of the “Fourth Plinth” in London’s Trafalgar Square, causing wonderful cultural debates.

One thing I can’t resist saying: The condo dwellers who complained the sculpture blocks their view of the Vancouver waterfront must be smoking something quite strong. Go take a look at the site. No one’s view is being blocked, not even that of the property-value obsessed types who live near the gorgeous little park.

Filed under: religion, , , , ,

16 Responses

  1. a sister in Christ says:

    Church is people, not a building.
    Christ often turned our human values upside down.

  2. Randall says:

    I think it’s cute and funny.

    And I like it a whole lot better than this work of “art.”

  3. DK says:

    For one – it’s great art. I know it’s subjective but it’s just beautiful and mysterious.

    For two – I initially thought it was a schoolhouse.

  4. Melissa says:

    I love the image it gives me of disgruntled elders and deacons being tossed from their pews and flying toward the ceiling.

    The church (we) always seem to need reminders to keep from becoming antiquated and set in our ways.

  5. dillun says:

    thats awesome . i like the red windows

  6. Megan says:

    How did he get it to balance?

  7. .je says:

    downtown vancouver .. i have a few pictures of my own from last summer .. always reminded me of the old “here’s the church, here’s the steeple” children’s hand game .. (as a kid it always seemed odd to me that the people were hanging from the roof like bats)

  8. Darren P. says:

    Ahh, I love it. My first thought deals with my personal temptation to build the power of the insititutional church and this reminds me that we’re callled to be upside down.

  9. I found another version of this piece of art – it was planned for Stanford in 2004, but rejected because it was too controversial. http://metamedia.stanford.edu/~mshanks/weblog/?p=200

    Interestingly, I can’t help but see the satirical side to this piece.

  10. Hey, I know that churches are always looking for ways to save money, but believe me… there are better ways to collect loose change.

  11. Oh my Gosssshhhhhh!!!! I almost fell off of my chair in amazement at the prestigous “ART”–which captures it soooo good!! Hummmmm…..I’ll leave out a small naughty comment of churches needing to be placed right side up it seems….so , we humbl;y go the Our Father for direction and Love….and quitely Ask His permission to place us right-side-up it seems!!! This is sooooooo cute….gotta love it!!!

    Although for the mega churches…the top-heaviness might just become too much…..Oh dear….lets keep them in “love and deepnesses of Hope and Prayers”….Praying for God Blessings and a Light too shine through small embalances and dispare…..yep.

  12. This statue certainly makes you think. An upside down church – that gets noticed. Just like if we inverted how we do church. Imagine if we were the church and transitioned from a mindset where we think people need to come find us to the approach where God’s people look for and serve their neighbors. Both the statue and a functional upside down church will get people talking. Are they talking?

  13. Mark Petersen says:

    I used to jog past that sculpture whenever I was in town. As good art does, it was shocking the first time I viewed it, but the more I saw it, the more I LOVED it as a public work of art. It is public condemnation of religiosity. I will be sad to see it go.

  14. […] to Eugene Cho for this news.  Also just realized the sculpture is owned by the Benefic Foundation. Posted by […]

  15. […] stop staring at it.  It’s as provocative and subversive as this art referred to as “Upside Down Church” but named “Device to Root out Evil” by the […]

  16. mimi says:

    I saw this church (or as almost identical sculpture) in Majorca in Spain a few years ago. It was right next to their museum of modern art.

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First day of our daughter's college years at this great school. We love you. We're so proud of you.We believe in you. Go Huskies. Go Dawgs. And also, beat Stanford this Friday. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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