Jonas Bendiksen: Among the Messiahs

Discussion in 'Religions & Cults' started by ramonmercado, Jan 10, 2018.

  1. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

    Messages:
    44,153
    Likes Received:
    13,896
    Trophy Points:
    269
    LOCATION:
    Dublin
    Multiple Messiahs! Will the real Jesus Christ please stand up, please stand up!

    Jonas Bendiksen: Among the Messiahs
    Around the world, men claim to be the Second Coming of Christ. The photographer recounts the years he spent documenting—and befriending—six of them.
    By Brook Wilensky-LanfordShareTweetE-mail
    [​IMG]
    In the compound chapel, disciples shut the curtains in front of INRI Cristo after he has delivered the sermon of the day. Brazil, 2014. Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017).

    If you had asked photographer Jonas Bendiksen four years ago if he ever thought he would meet Jesus, he might have given you a quizzical look. The award-winning documentarian from Norway is a self-described “skeptic,” known for his ethereal images of abandoned technology in Central Asia in Satellites (Aperture, 2006), and his epic visual exploration of people and homes around the world in The Places We Live (Aperture, 2008). The premise of his new project is a departure from the secular: Bendiksen embeds himself in the lives and communities of men who claim to be the Second Coming of Christ. That’s right—men, plural: Bendiksen encounters six of these modern day Jesuses.

    They are worth introducing here: Inri Christo, from Brazil, had his first awakening as Christ in 1979. Jesus of Kitwe, Zambia, was twenty-four when he received his revelation, and it turned his life upside down. Former M15 agent and whistleblower David Shayler has been fighting the forces of evil as Jesus in northeast England since 2007. Jesus Matayoshi has his own political party in Japan, which bases its policies on Matayoshi’s identity as Christ reborn. Moses Hlongwane, the Messiah of South Africa, has about thirty disciples. Vissarion, the Christ of Siberia, had his first revelations as the Soviet Union was unraveling around him, and his Church of the Latest Testament has attracted hundreds of followers since the 1990s. Bendiksen spent three years following each of these Messiahs and their communities—and emerged with intimate portraits of people of abiding faith.

    [​IMG]
    Cap of Moses Hlongwane, the Jesus of South Africa. South Africa, 2016. Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017).
    Bendiksen compiled his images, the writings of the six Jesuses, and narratives of his own experience into a 400-plus-page book called The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017). Though it would be easy to approach this material with tongue planted in cheek, the resulting work is not an exposé or a parody: Bendiksen takes each of his subject’s claims at face value, and approaches them with generosity. It is designed to be as immersive an experience as Bendiksen’s own in getting to know his six subjects. I was curious about every aspect of this project: Where do you find six people who claim to be Jesus? How do you approach them and their disciples? How do they approach you? And most of all, how does someone who grew up in what he calls a “godless” home end up in a years-long pilgrimage, and with what results? The following interview ranges from the practical to the theological, the ridiculous to the sublime, and back again. And every step along the way is surprising.

    —Brook Wilensky-Lanford for Guernica

    Guernica: I want to get your sense of how this project relates to your previous work. You’ve said that you want to look at enclaves, places where people are living in isolation, right?

    Jonas Bendiksen: At the end of the day, a lot of my work tends to revolve around people on the outside of something, someone on the periphery. This idea of faith and religion and belief is something that has been a mystery to me, that I’ve always been curious about. I’ve always enjoyed reading religious texts, although I didn’t grow up with faith myself. I grew up in a rather godless home, you could say. But you open a newspaper, and you can see the power and influence of faith on society. It’s important for people to have it. And that’s why it’s this fascinating mystery to me, which I wanted to somehow touch and feel and put a face to and try to relate to—what is this thing called faith? What it is like? What can you believe in?

    [​IMG]
    David Shayler giving a sermon on the law as his cross-dressing alter ego, Dolores. David says his partial identity as a woman gives the Messiah practical insight into the world from a female perspective. England, 2015. Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017).
    Guernica: It’s interesting to me that you mention that you grew up in what you call a “godless household.” Coming from an American context, although I and many of the people I knew grew up without religion, it’s less common to say that you grew up godless. And it’s even more unusual to hear someone say they grew up in a godless home but still enjoyed reading scripture! Did you feel that faith was an absence in your life, or just that you were looking at the world and wanting to answer a question?

    Jonas Bendiksen: I don’t think it came out of longing, this project. It’s more like looking at all the faith that is out there—I’m continuously meeting people who have this thing in their lives, and in a way it’s been like this chasm that’s made me wonder—because I’ve never felt that I myself have a lack of meaning in my life, okay? I have so much meaning in my life! But generally, I have to create myself. I have to find myself, and it derives from the role I play for other people, the people I love and what they are to me and my society, and that’s how I construct a meaningful life. Whereas people whom I’ve met who have real faith, they, per definition in a way, have more meaning in life. You know, when I walk out in the street, I see forces of nature at play, and I see cause and consequence, and science, and this kind of normal stuff. They see, or can see, signs from God, or proof of a cosmic level of meaning, that the universe and the Lord has a personal interest in their lives, or that they have some sort of cosmic role to play. We actually view the whole universe in two quite completely different ways. You can think of it as a small thing or as a really, really big thing. I wanted to try to understand what it’s like to be that other guy who has that sense of cosmic meaning, that closeness to the creator. I somehow needed to grapple with that profound difference. ...

    https://www.guernicamag.com/jonas-bendiksen-messiahs/
     
  2. Vardoger

    Vardoger Bring the Beat Back!!

    Messages:
    4,136
    Likes Received:
    2,293
    Trophy Points:
    169
    LOCATION:
    Scandinavia
    They are not Messiahs. They're naughty boys!
     

Share This Page