The following article appeared in LIG, September 2007, and forms part of a series of articles entitled "Christ in the Arts"
Christ and Consumerism
Danie Du Toit
The South African Artist, Zak Benjamin, has made a number of representations of Christ. We have already discussed one of his works (LIG, August 2007 – Come Dine).
This month we introduce another of his depictions of Christ. The painting should be viewed against the backdrop of the consumerist society of which we are members – a society where we are told that our quality of life depends upon what we are able to purchase. We are encouraged to spend. We are made to believe that Life has meaning… only if one can afford expensive holidays and own luxury cars. In "Christ and Consumerism" Zak Benjamin comments upon such a mentality and suggests that it is possible to have other values: the values taught by Christ.
Centrally placed and dominating the painting is a laptop. Instead of having the normal letters and numbers on its keyboard, this laptop has images of things to buy – the kind of things society often perceives as signs of success and as status symbols: a house, a car, a sound system.
And then, unexpectedly, Jesus peers at us through the monitor’s screen. He seems to ask “And… what’s keeping you so busy?” The viewer, examining the painting, becomes the one examined.
It is of note that the artist has portrayed Jesus in such a way that the screen does not hold Him. His head, surrounded by an aureole of light, is also visible outside, beyond the screen.
The candles at either side of the laptop are symbols Zak Benjamin regularly uses to portray the light of Christ and of God in our lives.
All we do in life, including those things done in pursuit of greater wealth and higher status, will inevitably be examined in this light.
Translation by E. Buber-deVilliers