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The Still Point is a collaboration between Faith and Global Engagement and International Arts Movement (Hong Kong Chapter). It is a three-week line-up of exhibitions, concerts, performances and talks engaging art, faith and humanity. The festival consists of a touring presentation of an artistic collaboration entitled the QU4RTETS, as well as works and performances by artists in Hong Kong conceived in response to the QU4RTETS, as well as the larger themes of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
— T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” in Four Quartets, 15–16.
T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets
The title “The Still Point” comes from the first quartet “Burnt Norton” in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets – one of the most seminal works of the twentieth century. Remarkably, the work achieved its iconic status by integrating artistic excellence with the Christian faith, in a culture full of anti-Christian sentiment. It has thus become an example of a creative masterpiece and a personal expression of a vision derived from the Christian gospel message that Eliot embraced in a multicultural milieu. In Eliot’s vision, the “still point” is where the human experience of time evokes wonder, fear and longing for continuance and redemption, and where the presence of a saving grace is the pivotal point for the entire creation. “The Still Point” festival aims to renew this vision for the twenty-first century.
The QU4RTETS Project
As a collaboration in word, image and music between artists Makoto Fujimura and Bruce Herman, composer Christopher Theofanidis, and theologian Jeremy Begbie, the QU4RTETSbegan as the artists were seeking to find a living voice through Eliot’s words to guide them through their experiences of personal devastation caused by a house fire and post–911 disorientation. Four Quartets, which Eliot conceived in the ravages of WWII, demonstrated an artistic, emotional, intellectual and spiritual journey of experiencing darkness that not only amplifies darkness, but also points to a hope that lies beneath the rubbles. The text opened up a way in which art could mediate dark journeys and lead to "the still point" where imagination is met with grace and truth. Most importantly, it inspired a generative means of creating artistic responses in the midst of chaos, which the four artists undertook through the QU4RTETS. In the process, they became companions in the journey in and out of the world’s and their own darkness, as they were allowed to hope, create, and re-humanise.
As a result, Fujimura and Herman have made a substantive response in painting, not so much making direct allusion to passages in Eliot’s poem as attempting to find (in Eliot’s words) the “objective correlative” between the poet’s themes and their own works; while Theofanidis has produced a compelling score that evokes the brooding and brilliant light of Eliot’s poem. In effect, the painters and composers are collaborating in an intentional dialogue with the poem, revealing the staying power of its genius and its self-declared reliance on the Christian literary and theological tradition.
The Still Point
To that end, the organisers are pleased to present “The Still Point” comprising exhibitions, performances and talks related to the QU4RTETS project, as well as those conceived in similar response to the broader and timeless themes of Eliot’s Four Quartets by artists in Hong Kong.
In relation to the QU4RTETS, there will be the QU4RTETS exhibition of paintings by Makoto Fujimura and Bruce Herman; a distinguished lecture on the arts, spirituality and faith by Prof. Jeremy Begbie; an opening concert “QU4RTETS for Ground Zero” with the Hong Kong premier of works by Christopher Theofanidis and Aenon Loo performed by the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble; a Music Colloquia with Christopher Theofanidis; and a QU4RTETS Exhibition Gallery Talk.
Specially-conceived and curated presentations in Hong Kong as response to T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and the QU4RTETS project include: “Hope Beneath the Rubble: Two Dance Acts” by Hong Kong-based dance company Passoverdance and Tokyo-based choreographer-dancer Airi Suzuki; an exhibition of works by Hong Kong visual artists Ray Chan, Gabriel Leung, and Stephen Wong Chun Hei entitled “At the Still Point of the Turning World” at Galerie Ora-ora; “Music for Eternity” a choral concert featuring renowned counter-ternor Iestyn Davies and Hong Kong vocalists Yuki Ip and Caleb Woo and the chamber choir Die Konzertisten; a newly-written play “Only Through Time” by The Black Sheep Family and the Creative Writing Studio of HKU; a string quartet performance entitled “The Moment in the Rose Garden” by Kung Chi Shing and Tsui Chin Hung; an “Art-Faith-Humanity Roulette: A Sequential Dialogue” between artists, designers and architects of the Christian faith including Colin Seah (Founder, Ministry of Design, Singapore), Tan Zixi (Illustrator, Singapore), Geoff Poon (Founder, AMENPAPA/Urban Anchor, Hong Kong), Justin Wong Chiu-tat (New Media & Comic Artist, Hong Kong) and Evelyna Liang-Kan Yee Woo (Artist/Community Art Veteran, Hong Kong) and Aaron Tan (Founder, RAD, Hong Kong); and a fashion presentation “The Still Point – Sons ‘n’ Daughters” with new pieces by Joanna Chu Liao, Hidy Ng, Lulu Cheung, Noel Chu, Enoch Ho, and Barney Cheng.
The above line-up of “The Still Point” aims to be a catalyst for renewing a vision for artistic excellence, embedded in Christian literary and theological tradition. The Still Point aims to inspire a “generative” or life-giving means to create artistic response, so that artists might mediate dark journeys, engage a generation, and bear fruit among future creative practitioners and a vast audience.