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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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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