Alternate Universe

 

I would give anything to be sitting in bed in my flat in South Kensington. Instead, I am trapped in an Alternate Universe. I am here in my bed under the same quilt, but the room is too big and the dog curled up next to me is too fluffy. The window at the end of my bed looks out on a suburban street rather than rainy mews. I drink my coffee from the same mug, I cry the same tears, the same books are piled next to my bed, but this isn’t the right universe. This isn’t the place where I belong.

Here there are people to love and be loved by. A few here. A few there. Him. Her. Them. Bright points of light in a dark sky that have been glowing for years and years. Here in this alternate universe there are lovely people & beautiful places & great adventures & joyful songs, but my soul is cold. Here feels like floating in a cold space without quite enough air to fill my lungs.

In the Promised Land I am Casey MacKenzie in full color. After a lifetime without quite enough oxygen I stepped off the plane on the fifth of May and breathed deep. I was embraced into the warm hug of community. My soul warmed and was nurtured in ancient churches, pubs, council flats and late night vigils in the church parking lot. There are so many to love & be loved by & the bright points of light start to shine as lifelong bonds begin to form in the warm glow of of a rich community.

In this Promised Land there is heartbreak and tears. Homesickness, fatigue, pain and loss, but a walk by the river in the glow of Albert or Ben does wonders for a hurting heart. There will always be tears, but in London the tears punctuate profound joy, dreams achieved, and Sunday evenings in the balcony.

When I cross a bridge, any bridge, over the Thames my heart fills with a kind of joy I did not know existed. I feel so full of light & love & joy & endless possibility that I fear I will burst into a star or a sunbeam.

But that is gone now. Now, I look around this room which is too big and this dog which is too small and realize my coffee has gone cold and it feels like sad poetry.

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Banished from Britain

How can I describe the last week?

I had a plan, and it didn’t work. I was kicked out of the land I love, the land I’ve always dreamed of, the land where I feel the most myself, a land full of people I love, the land I have chosen to call home.

The Brits whom I love, who I’ve not yet known even two years, kicked into action. They helped me move, they cooked for me, cleaned for me, held me when I cried. I’ve rarely felt so loved.

Do I feel like a failure? A reject? A victim of cosmic chance? I want to say yes, but that would be a lie. Down in the deepest depths I know there is a Plan. I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be for this (hopefully very short) season. I have no doubt that I will return to London, I will work and love and laugh and drink and live and then retire to my little cottage (lighthouse) on the sea.

Landing in California is like crawling in bed after drinking 3 Red Bulls. Yeah, I love my bed- it’s  warm and cozy and comfortable and I usually hate leaving it… but i have so much to do- so much energy, so many plans, a life to live! I am being forced to rest, to think, to sleep. I should be thankful for this time. I am working really hard (counter productive maybe) to be thankful for this time out with the people I’ve been missing.

I’m laying low for now. I don’t want to answer questions, my heart is broken and I ache for London… but this season will be good. I will look back on it the way I look back on my Great American Road Trip- I was so deeply hurt & shattered, but God met me. I grew, I rested, and I found peace & adventure.

On Baptised by Blood (Part 1)

I did what I set out to do, and I did it really well. So why do I feel so lost?

Finishing a project of this magnitude feels like a break up. It’s exciting and consuming, and then all of a sudden it’s over. All of a sudden there is nothing. There is nothing left to occupy my thoughts and my heart. After a breakup, one is left piecing a broken heart back together, rubbing fingers along the sharp edges to feel the intensity of the pain which seems to lend value of the now broken relationship.

With art the pain is similar, but there is completion. Something whole and real has been extracted from my soul for all to see. In my minds eye it looks like a giant, sharp piece of obsidian that’s been painfully pulled from my center leaving me empty and breathless. I look at the photos and reread my thesis in the same way one traces the raw edges of a broken heart. I want to feel the weight of it in my chest again, the emptiness hasn’t brought the relief I expected.

I was asked to write a reflection on Baptised by Blood, but I just can’t do it. Not yet. It’s too close. I am still too stunned.

What I can say is that I set out on an academic pursuit to find a space between art and religious practice. I think I found it. I set out to make work that is intelligent but accessible. I did that. I set out to raise the money to make a huge installation happen. We did that. I set out to make work that is personal and honest and painful and sacrificial. I gave it everything.

My hope now is that it was worth it. That it brought joy and honor to the Father. That it started conversation and interest and thought. And that somehow, someway that project will pave the way for future projects.

(Photos from the installation will be live on CaseyMacKenzie.co.uk this week.)

Thoughts

Laying on the floor at St Sepulchre’s while I was setting up my show, Baptised by Blood, I had a thought…

I want to live in a church
Churches that aren’t churches anymore are sad
I want to live at a church
I should live in a vicarage
I need to marry a vicar
Is a vicar the same as a pastor?
I want to live in a church

The Vision 2.0

Back in March while I was in the 24-7 Prayer room I wrote my own version of The Vision.

Today I am feeling exceptionally low. I am tired and I have nothing left to give- and a lot left to do. I’m in a place where I’m not convinced dream chasing is all it’s cracked up to be. Swan diving into the unknown is easy (for me). Landing and climbing the next mountain is so hard. And it’s even harder when you live 5000 miles from your mom.

Anyway, I reread my vision tonight. I suppose I still stand by it, but I am becoming seriously concerned about the cost. Can’t I be both extraordinary and ordinary? Can I be an expert and an innovator in my field, can I have a big airy studio in a cottage with a mortgage and a partner and a family? If I can’t have it all I’m not convinced I want any of it.

I understand now why not so many people chase their dreams. Dream chasing is really freaking hard. It’s exhausting and it’s lonely, and it’s scary.


What is the Vision?

The Vision is Spirit. It’s art.

The Vision is art that moves. Art that brings glory to His name. Art that breaks down barriers. Breaks down the walls between art & God & fashion & culture. Art that inspires and defines. Art that is intelligent.

(The spirit in me. Moving me. Making me. Driving my ideas.)

The vision is a spacious white studio with lots of windows & a big table & large format Epson printer. The Vision is not held back by earthly things. By bureaucracy or by lack of funding & resources.

The Vision is multimedia art installations driven by photography & washed in the Spirit. The Vision is exhibitions that give life & change life.

The Vision does not follow the rules. It is loved & reviled across media & spheres of culture. Hated by churches, loved by critics. Loved by Christians, hated by bloggers. Moving between spheres of influence as easily & seamlessly as changing clothes.

The Vision is success & visibility but in love & humility. The Vision can handle attention & bad press. The Vision gives all the work & the glory & the pain to God.

The Vision works hard. Loves hard. Gives everything.

The Vision is fulfilling.

The Vision is not alone.

(The Vision is probably really messy.)

The Vision & a prayer

Several months ago I was asked to write a short article about my somewhat extraordinary experience with 24/7 Prayer. It was never published, so here you go…

Summer 2001. Youth With a Mission, Ensenada, Mexico: It was the first night of a youth group mission trip. A British guy came on stage and shared ‘The Vision’. He said it came out of London, but no one really knew much about it. The words on that crumpled up piece of paper with the MSN logo at the top seared my brain and my heart. They changed my life. They made my palms sweat and my eyes water. At that moment I wanted to leap from my chair and sing, and shout… and yell… and get a tattoo. From that moment on I was different.

Fast forward a twelve years and I’ve just moved to London from California. I don’t know very many people but I’m determined to build a life in the city I’ve been drawn to my whole life. Happenstance and a Google glitch brought me to the youth service at HTB my second week in London. I stood awkwardly on my own waiting for the service to start when Bill Cahusac spotted me and made me feel welcome. Later that week the Cahusac family invited me over for supper where I regaled them with my life story. When I got to the part about ‘The Vision’ Bill stopped me— “You know my boss, Pete Grieg, wrote that?”

And suddenly the last twelve years make sense. The twelve years of trials and disappointments. The twelve years it took me to achieve my dream of moving to London. God was there all along. God’s plan was in motion.

I did not choose 24-7 Prayer, God chose it for me. Spending an hour in a room praying sounds intimidating, but from the first time I walked into the prayer hut in July, I wanted to hunker down and stay forever. Though we can pray from anywhere, to walk into this space is to walk where fellow soldiers of the faith, fighters of the good fight, feeble criers of desperation and earnest seekers of Truth have walked. It is a safe place where walls come down and insecurities lose their sting; where inner monologue quiets enough to let the Lord speak clearly. Stepping into the Prayer Hut is like being enveloped in a warm soft blanket on the couch at God’s feet. Something I desperately need, and have long been searching for. 

I’ve been making my way towards this place for a dozen years and I am so thankful to have finally arrived. I’ve come home.

On Shia.

Image
A couple weeks ago my course leader arranged a symposium for our Fashion Spectacle class. A handful of people in various parts of the industry came and spoke with us about their exeroences. About halfway through the day he said that we would be Skyping with UAL alum Nastja Säde Rönkkö and that she had a performance piece for us.
When the Skype call started we were all shocked to see Shia LeBeouf’s face pop up on the big screen! Afterward I learned that a few people thought it must have been a video. He introduced himself and then began reading from Guy DuBord’s The Society of Spectacle. It took a couple of minutes for me to catch onto what he was reading and to get my head wrapped around what was happening. To be honest it was hard to pay attention and not immediately start texting and tweeting about it!
It was a really interesting and exciting experience. I feel lucky that I got to experience it first hand and I am very thankful to our course leader for arranging it. We’ve been talking about how spectacle is built into our society and how necessarily fashion- particularly fashion photography- fit into that. Of course Shia is not a fashion photographer, but he is the best possible person to explore this concept of spectacle with. Because he is a well known celebrity his mere presence makes him a spectacle- the media attention and his ‘antics’ make the spectacular nature of his existence even more pronounced and obvious. However, to make it more interesting, the text he was reading decries the society of spectacle that we live in and his presentation was utterly boring and void of spectacle as it were. It was early morning in LA, he was dressed very casually, drinking coffee and reading to a bunch of students a text they should have already read. The spectacle ceases to be spectacular… But then one remembers again who he is and he just keeps reading and reading and reading for ages and the whole thing circles back around to being utterly spectacular.
The whole experience is a bit of a mind bender. Is he a brilliant artist? Or is he a wannabe cavorting with great artists? We might never know, but I absolutely love participating in the conversation.