Monday, March 10, 2008

Determining authenticity

I was in the skateboarding shop yesterday, where I saw a book called "Obey, supply and demand: the Art of Shephard Fairey" about Fairey, an artist who created a black and white logo called the Giant icon. He glued it in public spaces to confront people's expectations about public art.

In some instances, Fairey glued the Giant icon over a Sprite ad that said "Obey your thirst," so that only the word Obey appeared, with the Giant icon beneath it.

Fairey was arrested 13 times because of hanging his street art illegally. Simultaneously, he was earning money as a freelance graphic designer for companies such as Levi and Universal pictures.

"Sometimes I feel like a double agent," Fairey said in an interview in reference to his work both supporting and subverting corporate America.

The book raises three questions I'd like to explore:

1. Dualism:

Is Fairey authentic or is he a sell-out?

This question, the book argues, is a false one because it suggests that there are only two choices.

That got me thinking (again) about how often we put people or things into either/or categories. Either you're a sell-out or you're authentic. Either the Bible was written by God or it was constructed by patriarchal men with an agenda. Either you are an evangelical Christian or you're a Democrat. We impose a grid and then have a difficult time wrapping our minds around people or things who are both/and, not either/or. How open are we to people who defy our expectations? How often do we treat people who don't fit our categories as suspect rather than questioning whether the categories themselves might be suspect?

2. Authenticity:

I know that "authenticity" is an important value to the emerging church. But what does authenticity mean? Is it the same as the Quaker testimony of integrity? Is it the same as the simplicity testimony (being plain?). Would Fairey be more authentic (plainer, living with more integrity?) if he didn't straddle two worlds? Or is he more authentic for throwing out the preconceived script?

3. And the most important questions of all:): what is this book doing in a skateboard shop? What am *I* doing in a skateboard shop?

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