When street art is done on an abandoned dilapidated building, ok, fine. When street art is done on the monumental staircase of a neo-Romanesque-cum-neo-Gothic nineteenth century church, in a working class neighbourhood, man, what the f#!*.
At witnessing an artwork stuck to the steps of Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix church at Ménilmontant, at first, I’m surprised at such audacity. Parisian graffiti artists have codes which dictate that churches are left alone. Moreover, my education at Holy Trinity (Church of England) primary school in London, and years involved with the Scout Association, served to ennoble me with a sense of religious morality, and respect and fear of God and his less ethereal manifestations in the form of vicar, bishop, church, cathedral, all of which I’m certain allow no room for illegal art interventions of any kind.
Church ground is Holy and no place for street art. In God’s backyard there are rules, which are clearly written in his popular guidebook – nowhere in its pages does it mention anything about wheat pasting, urban art, graffiti, nor even, Banksy.
If street art isn’t mentioned in the Bible, then we must infer that it’s unconnected to Christianity, and has no place on the steps of a church, even in Paris’ number one area for graffiti and street, Belleville-Ménilmontant. Just like mentioning that Banksy is more famous than Jesus (but not more so than Andy Warhol, nor, for that matter, The Beatles) is blasphemy, unsanctioned art work on a church is the graffiti equivalent of Lucifer.
However, on further reflection, it becomes apparent that, perhaps, the church thinks differently: the artwork hasn’t been removed; the stained glass-style depiction of a church pasted to the steps is rather lovely and in no way defaces the church ground; and, rather than causing offence, serves to draw one to inspect the work more closely, thus, drawing the viewer into the fold of our heavenly Father.
Bible salespeople are always seeking to adapt to societal trends in order to stay ahead and appear to be attuned to our modern lives. This writer experienced first-hand Christian youth groups co-opting youth culture in England: hip hop dance classes, fashion shows, graffiti workshops. Street art insitu is not as radical as one may first think.
New media is one example of how the church is ensuring it maintains a lead in the spiritual marketplace. The communications strategy used by Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, for example. Social media buttons on its website link not just to a Facebook page with fresh content of glimmering gold crosses, epic shots of people holding candles in prayer, and big jingly bells, but there is also Twitter, Google+, Flickr, You Tube, and, FourSquare. (For those of you who haven’t attended church recently, Foursquare is a social networking application for smartphones where users must ‘check in’ wherever they are, whether it be a bar, restaurant, nightclub, or historic Roman Rite Catholic Marian cathedral. Moreover, check into the same place on multiple occasions and you’re eventually crowned Mayor (no Mayor of Mayors badge, yet). In light of this tech-savvy new way of promoting Christianity, ordaining a (divine) street art intervention on a church is a significant likelihood.
Christian organisations understand that to keep people connected to their message they must communicate in a language familiar to their audience. If street art on the steps of Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix is actually an initiative by the church to appear cooler, then I applaud its sagacity.