Kingdom Come

Threshold to the Kingdom , by Mark Wallinger at Salisbury Cathedral, Spirit and Endeavour exhibition

I am warmed by the sun streaming through the window and lulled by the jazz filling the air, thick with mood – immersed in the atmosphere of the cafe. Shortly before, I was immersed in other music and other sensations: an airport’s international arrivals gate: people coming, passing through closed doors that smoothly and automatically open, bordering the space from no place to this place, a point of transition – a beginning, the start of something new. And the guard stays seated throughout the comings and comings, a sentinel of something official? Most people I watch carry baggage crossing the threshold, some furtively, many determindly with some place else to be, “Wishing you a happy onward journey” ringing in their ears, perhaps. A few – the old ladies – are met by others – other old ladies, and they all stop and embrace and smile and laugh, “Welcome!” Yet I am not at an airport – these days they are ghost-towns, places of masks and distance, locations of hiddenness.

I am watching an 11 minute clip of the arrivals gate, a film that has stretched briefer moments, elongating them into a slowed present: everything seems exaggerated and open for inspection. The sounds that fill the air here are the chants of human voices, singing harmonies of ancient sacred music – from this century or the last, this millennium or the last or the one before that. And as my ears are filled with holy chants my eyes see the international arrivals gate behind the altar of the cathedral and under the great dark windows: Madonna blues and purples, occasional yellows and reds, dedicated to all who have been incarcerated, bound and fettered because matters of conscience.

‘We see through a glass darkly …’ utters St Paul: we don’t know what awaits us, beyond – the other side of death. Maybe its as easy as arriving at another place. It reminded me of Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection at Cookham, where the dead are raised from thier graves to be greeted with warmth and surprise… “It’s you!”, “Hello again!”.

This is not about religious dogma – proclaimed through the centuries of the Church: of Jesus’ death, resurrection and the hope of things to come. This art work is about a hint, an idea, a faith, that our lives are part of something bigger; that this precious life – ours, in this body for a time – continues and journeys on; we depart, to arrive somewhere else…

For more on Connection with the World, see https://howtowriteaboutart.com/connecting-with-the-world/

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