I Am Mountain, Literalism & the Christian Complex

I am Mountain

Obviously nobody likes to create art like this and immediately have to explain or defend it in the first 48 hours. – Chris McGrath

‘Liturgical post-rock collective’ Gungor released their third album, I Am Mountain, earlier this week. Received with intense praise, in its musical quality, I Am Mountain continues Gungor’s journey of innovation, trumping Beautiful Things and Ghosts Upon The Earth.

The album has received equally intense criticism, with some of the more common criticisms being: “It’s not ‘Christian’ enough”. “There’s too much mythological language”. “Where is the hope?”

As Michael Gungor writes on his own blog, “explaining poetry with prose can sometimes be counterproductive”. It’s not wrong of people to want answers. We all do. But I say this: not every art piece produced by Christians needs to be a comprehensive picture of the gospel of Jesus. Christian Contemporary Music has attempted that and runs the risk of being inauthentic: what, you’ve got it all figured out? Attempting to answer our own hard questions is overwhelming. Michael speaks more about that in his book The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse.

My dancer friend Kim Stevenson is quoted in WeMakeStuff Volume 01, saying: “We do not give God enough credit for how much He can work through our art without it being a literal story about winning souls. God is so real to me while creating that I know He is integrated throughout my work. We need to dive into work that is relevant, pushing boundaries and moving ahead. We need to maintain high standards in our craft, and God will do the rest”.

Even Jesus did not summarize the kingdom of God in one artistic composition. Further, he was famous for speaking metaphorically, not literally. He compared the kingdom of God to this and that, allowing the meanings to rise and connect from the deep places of his listeners’ subconscious.

My friend Steffen, a marketer, tells me that 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously rather than consciously. Art forms carry power in their ability to bypass the rational-logical conscious filters and speak to the “heart”.

The final song is a perfect example of art speaking to the heart: this track, which is an exquisite wordless symphony, could speak – without using words – the messages these critics are desirous to hear in this album. Unexpected. Ironic. The message is potentially left unreceived by people looking for literalism. Yet… “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

It’s upsetting that some self-professed “long-time fans” are upset with Gungor, as if they’ve let them down. Let me ask you, on what grounds do you support an artist? As long as they give you the right warm fuzzies? It’s okay for Gungor to put out an album that focuses on questions and even heavier material. Michael Gungor himself doesn’t see it as a heavy album (see video below), but if that’s what the band is experiencing, their art is how they process it. Shunning their material and criticizing them publicly for it is like ostracizing your friend because they are asking hard questions in their personal life. These criticisms reek of an inability to empathize. They stink of objectification and narrow-mindedness.

When we shut ourselves off the the artist’s process, and just expect them to deliver a product that we can consume, we’ve lost sight of the purpose of art. Art’s purpose is to ask the right questions, not deliver all the right answers.

Here’s a video about what Gungor say about it:

Hanzane Skimboards: Custom Artistry Meets Recreation

This summer I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Siemens and Nick Niebuhr, the duo behind Hanzane Skimboards, based out of White Rock, BC. Their boards are handcrafted and handpainted. Each board is unique. And they sell for less than the competition . . . what’s with that?

Kyle Lynch Creative
Kyle Lynch Creative

CK: How did this all start?

Hanzane: We looked up how to create a board online! I took a piece of plywood, cut it into shape, soaked it for a couple days, clamped it and let it dry, painted and varnished it and it was good to go. That’s how Hanzane started. Our first challenge was finding a base material that was strong enough to withstand rubbing against the sand and rocks; that’s where we’ve had the most innovation and change. Now, our skimboards are a wood core with fibreglass on the bottom and sealer on top. We bought some tools and learned from others too. We’ve had this board shape for about two years now.

hanzane4

CK: Do your boards differ from other companies’ boards?

Hanzane: In size, our boards are a couple inches different but the shape is fairly standard. Some people do asymmetrical shapes with a distinct nose and tail but we think having both ends symmetrical gives you a longer lasting board because you don’t wear down one end so fast. We’ve changed our shapes a little bit and this year we’re working with boards that are a little bigger so they don’t sink as easily in deep water. I’ve tried to use what I know from my own style of riding; hopefully people will like that.

CK: Starting with the art, a lot of things stand out about Hanzane.

Hanzane: Our boards are handcrafted and handpainted. The art is one thing; there’s also the process and the pricing. A pretty standard company in skimboarding will sell their stuff for about $180 plus tax. They will also make cheaper beginner boards. Our boards are $120, so we’re significantly cheaper while putting out a quality product. While established companies use more mechanization, that isn’t necessary for the quality of the board.

CK: Who does the art and how does it get onto the boards?

Hanzane: We prime and paint directly on the wood surface and finish it with a heavy-duty sealer. Each board is unique. We will also create custom designs based on the customer’s idea and preference. Chris (Siemens) does a lot of the art but we have art from Laura Klassen, Tessa Nickel, Catherine Bennington, Nick, and several others.

The artists at the We Have So Much To Give open-air showcase
The artists at the We Have So Much To Give open-air showcase

hanzane3CK: If someone wants to have you create a new original design, is that an extra charge?

Hanzane: We charge about ten bucks extra for that.

CK: So, for ten dollars I could get an original custom design, and the board is still cheaper than the competition’s?

Hanzane: Exactly, We pride ourselves in every board being different. There are a lot of companies -skateboard, skimboard, snowboard- who just do lines of standard identical boards. We do create some stencils, which are reusable, but none of them is identical.

hanzane1

CK: Your stencilled boards remind me of POGs! They’re all a little different. I want to collect them all.

Hanzane: [Laughs] That’s awesome!

CK: Do you have a website that people can buy from?

Hanzane: The majority of our boards have sold to people in the local area but we’re beginning to get request from other provinces. Our boards sell through a website called skimbc.com

We have a lot of fun doing this. It’s something we enjoy and we try to make a point to not worry too much about making a profit but in taking joy in the riding and making of skimboards and making sure that those two things never become disconnected. We don’t want to turn into a factory that cranks them out and doesn’t care about what happens afterward. We love making things by hand and doing it ourselves rather than outsourcing. We also try to make a point of connecting and communicating with each customer so the whole process is congruent. Our focus is doing skimboarding and woodworking well.

Find Hanzane on Facebook. 

hanzane2
Art by Jon Janzen (Sunblind)

Brocken Spectre @ Converge Magazine Social

Brocken Spectre (Colin Ablitt, Nic Campbell, Colin Campbell, Scott Bjerkness) played our Converge Magazine social on Saturday, June 2, at the gorgeous Five Stones Church in New Westminster (exposed brick, hardwood floors, right on the river).

Playing an unfamiliar venue to a largely-unfamiliar crowd can be a big challenge. Being a social event with appetizers aplenty and drinks flowing, everyone is already pretty chatty. But halfway through their first song, “Parallel Dances“, something magical happened. A stillness was setting over the room; everyone was tuning in. A couple minutes later, and a big round of applause for a band that barely anyone in the room knew (yet).

Brocken Spectre will be playing a show with In Contra and Aida Saturday, June 16 at the Southside Community Church venue. Doors open at 6:39. Tickets are well-worth it at $10.

Russ Rosen @ Granville Island Backstage Lounge

The Russ Rosen Band is playing April 22 at Backstage Lounge on Granville Island. Doors at 7:00 pm.

Opening up the evening is the amazing reggae/dancehall/gospel artist Ezra Kwizera.

Come for the afternoon and enjoy all that Granville Island has to offer. Then settle in for an evening of story and song from Russ’s new recording “Waiting For Abraham” with musicians Brett Ziegler, Chad Bjorgan and Jonathan Perkins.

Tickets $8.00 or $20 with a CD.

Facebook event link: http://www.facebook.com/events/329673780419492/

Ezra Kwizera
Ezra Kwizera
Russ Rosen Band
Russ Rosen Band Event Poster