Christian Pavilion

The Christian pavilion wood and glass building was contemporary. Its massive beams, shaped like giant curved check marks, plunged to the ground, and forced the visitor underground to its theater to view a depressing film. Then its beams soared up into a tall, light hall of hope where the setting was a garden patio filled with cedar trees. Its cool fountains and concrete stools were a respite for the visitor who they hoped would associate it with joy, peace and union with God.

The pavilion's theme was "The Eight Day", man's day on earth in which he can create what he will. It was this Christian view of reality and responsibility that this pavilion attempted to drive home. Its film and visual displays stirred universal controversy.

Christian pavilion.

At the pavilion's entrance the visitor encountered a series of cubes, the sides of which were composed of more than 300 photographs. They showed normal aspects of life - a newborn infant, animals, lovers, flowers, a class reunion, beauty, ugliness, love, hate, life and death. One of the cubes was mirrored so that the visitor was startled by his own face. It emphasized the fact that everyone is part of the picture, part of life.

From the world as it is, the visitor descended stairs into the pit of human experience. The surrounding images on his journey were nightmarish. Photomontages created a woman with aspirin breasts and a lock for a head. A bathing beauty had a man's legs and thighs and a skirt hung on a male torso topped, not by a head, but by a camera. Here was a sexually confused man, bested by machines and degraded by drugs and alcohol. More horrors followed; terrible images of starving, diseased, violent children, of sick and senile, of riots, skid-row bums and segregated Negroes.

The most shocking exhibit was the film The Eight Day? The designer worked for months searching through newsreel footage to piece his 13 minute horror story of war, atrocity, murder, terror, from the First World War to the more recent self-immolation (burning himself to death) of Asian monks. This is succeeded by peace celebrations which turned out to be only a lull before still more violence. The violent present was illustrated by film of Cuba, China, Viet Nam and the assassination of President Kennedy. The film ended with a sequence of three images; a bomb exploding; a flower budding; and a final bomb obliterating the just-opened blossom.

The visitor ascended from that cramped hell to a spacious final zone dominated by giant photographs and a series of five biblical quotations. Here the feeling was that live could have relevance and meaning, that hope is not a dirty word, that "the light still shines in the darkness and the darkness shall never put in out."

The pavilion's low-keyed message that "hope is to be discovered like the presence of God, by each human being." However, this far from obvious message baffled many visitors. Many remarked that the pavilion was everything from blasphemous to outrageously poor taste. Yet on the whole the reaction was gratifying, especially among young teenagers, many who revisited the pavilion time after time.

Copyright © Jeffrey Stanton 1997
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