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Things Too Wonderful To Know

As I write this, it is the first Sunday of Advent -- a liturgical season in Christian tradition that means ‘to come’ or ‘coming.’ Advent takes place over the four weeks leading up to Christmastide. It is marked by anticipation, longing, and waiting, keeping watch and keeping step with the nighttime pace of this season, which delivers us into the arms of Christmas.
“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:3b

As I write this, it is the first Sunday of Advent -- a liturgical season in Christian tradition that means ‘to come’ or ‘coming.’ Advent takes place over the four weeks leading up to Christmastide. It is marked by anticipation, longing, and waiting, keeping watch and keeping step with the nighttime pace of this season, which delivers us into the arms of Christmas. But to hurry through this part of the journey would be to skip the overture -- before we see the sky illuminated by Divine song, first, we bow and bend. We enter the posture of Sister Night who cloaks the sky with her darkened covering. In Advent, we prepare our hearts by searching its shadows as we wait for what is to come.

And what, exactly, is coming? Where is the world we dream of and hope for?

We enter Advent at the close of 2020 with our hearts, bodies, and minds unraveled by its unending losses. Even as we cover ourselves with face masks, we are unmasking a capitalistic society that was built on the grounds of brutality, racism, white supremacy, and violence. This year has, in many ways, revealed the damage of power and privilege on a spiritual, existential, systemic, and cultural level. The murder of George Floyd, Amaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor sparked global protests for justice for Black lives and Black bodies; our youth have desperately called for more action and policy to slow climate change; stolen land continues to be withheld from indigeounous nations, who know how to sustain it, even as the entire West Coast burned in one of the hottest summers we’ve ever seen. Political melee and ruthless leadership wear out our screens and our souls; incarcerated persons and marginalized communities continue to be most vulnerable to COVID; overwhelmed and under-resourced hospitals…Nadia Bolz-Weber recently shared that grief is a common denominator for all of us now.

In many ways, some worlds are ending and, yet, transformed worlds are also emerging.

The word “inbreak” means exactly what it sounds like -- a breaking in. It can also mean a violent interruption or invasion. Despite its militant-esque roots, this word also has the potential to be descriptive of harkening, healing, growth, transformation, and emergence. So perhaps this term can be reclaimed to some extent, in the sense of making “swords into plowshares" and “spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4.) It is in this sense that Dea and I chose this word, or happened upon it, rather, as the name of this inaugural artist residency of Dea Studios.

InBreak Residency is a cohort of five artists from various mediums, backgrounds, faiths, racial and gender identities. Over the course of the twelve weeks of the residency, our aim is to offer a grounding structure to practice and embody the intersections of art, race, and faith for the purpose of moving toward collective healing and social change. InBreak, the word and residency, acknowledges the destruction and deep fractures caused by racialization and racism, and it draws our eyes to the horizon of a felt and dreamed-of world that is emerging.

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In her blog entry, Dea presented the central, future-facing question that we will be engaging with the cohort during the residency: “what can a post-racialized society look like?” InBreak Residency is meant to engage not only our minds, but our bodies, relationships, and artistic work in imagining the answer to this question. Taking our cues from trauma therapist and author Resmaa Menakem, the healing of racialized trauma is not something that can be educated or rationalized away. While education is no small matter in conversations on race and racial healing, to rely only on the mind and rational thought would repeat disembodied patriarchal footsteps that played a part in leading us to these fractures in the first place. The work of mending racialized trauma on individual, social, and interpersonal levels is a healing process that takes place in the body. In a society and culture that has driven us away from connection to our body and has marginalized bodies that do not fit the narrative of the empire and colonizer, this in itself is a radical invitation.

“My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.” Job. 42:5

To briefly explore another definition, liturgy (leitourgia) means the work or service of the people or the public. Liturgy and liturgical expressions in the context of this residency involves caring for the body, movement and play, rhythm-keeping, deep listening, and shaping a space with the group that will proffer the public-facing artwork of each artist. In the coming weeks, I will be a part of shaping and facilitating our weekly gatherings, offering support to the residents as they form their projects, and bringing awareness to the spiritual landscapes that are being crossed both individually and collectively as we journey together through the intersections of art, race, and faith. In other words, “the work of the people” here is to make room in the spirit, in the body, the mind, the community, and in our artistic work for that hoped-for inbreaking of a new world to take place.

We are in a liminal time––I recently heard it called a mythological time––an extended advent in time that is pregnant with possibility of what can be. In this corner of the virtual world, this cohort of artists will spend the first weeks of the New Year actively dreaming together about what new worlds are breaking in and are still to come. May we indeed speak of things too wonderful to imagine, too great to fully know.

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InBreak Residency Graphic: Dea Studios invites artists of any discipline, writers, and preachers to participate in the InBreak Residency, a collaborative virtual process exploring art, race, and faith.