k e i t h p i p e r 'First Corinthians'
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|First Corinthians (this is my body)|
“That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
From Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Chapter 11, verse 23-24
According to the prevailing scholarship around the composition of what came to known as the Christian Bible, the earliest account of the conceptual process known as ‘transubstantiation’ appears in the ‘letter’ sent by the Apostle Paul to the fledging Christian community in the Greek town of Corinth somewhere between 53 and 57 AD. This predates by at least a decade, the first consolidated narratives around the life of Christ as told in the three ‘Synoptic’ Gospels of Mark, Luke and Mathew, all of which repeat the ‘transubstantiation’ narrative. In this narrative Christ issues an injunction to his followers to ‘break bread’ and to eat it as symbolic of his body, in a ritualistic act of remembrance.
What interests me here is the context in which Paul chooses to first recount this narrative within ‘Chapter 11’ of his first letter to the church in Corinth. In this Chapter, Paul complains bitterly about falling standards of social and sexual conduct within the Church and calls for stricter and more heavily delineated gender roles, with the power of the patriarchy firmly re-established. His reference to the ‘sacrificial’ bread of the ‘Last Supper’ comes after a disapproving preamble about the pitfalls of bringing packed lunches into churches.
It is this tension between bread as sacred and bread as profane, and it’s echoing around views of the sexualised and gendered body as embedded deeply within ritualised hierarchies of formalised religion, that I have attempted to reference and explore within this video work.
As a child of Caribbean descent, who grew up in a Christian Fundamentalist family in Birmingham in the 1960s and 70s, the imagery of bread and wine hold particular resonance. Within this work I re-explore that resonance, hinting at traditions of bodily ‘transubstantiation’ that pre-date and parallel those which have been absorbed and transmitted through Christian ritual through the symbolism of flame.
Keith Piper 2014.
A single screen constantly looping HD video work produced for BREADMATTERS IV - Crossing Boundaries Intersecting the Grain. The ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation. Nicosia, Cyprus. November 2014