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‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord’ – that is what art does. Phyllis Novak

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Mocan, Liviu - VM - Jonathan Tame

Liviu Mocan: Invitation/Decalogue
Laws of Life and Love
by Jonathan Tame
According to the vision of Romanian artist Liviu Mocan, this sculpture about the Decalogue (or Ten Commandments) is about encounter – with God and with others – that can lead to transformation. His monumental sculpture entitled Invitation/Decalogue consists of ten pillars, 4.5 meters high, resembling human fingers. Set in a circle, the pillars have two sides: a smooth, well rounded side facing inwards, creating a sense of peace and well-being within in the circle.  On the other side, facing outwards, each pillar narrows to a sharp, vertical blade, expressing a sombre warning.
This work was commissioned by a group of Christians working in Geneva’s international community. Liviu Mocan developed the idea of this sculpture in the early 1990s, when Christian artists enjoyed a new found freedom of expression in his country after the collapse of communism. He had to wait for some years for the right time and place to create it. This turned out to be in the city of Geneva as part of the celebrations for Calvin’s 500th anniversary in 2009. Calvin was profoundly influenced by the Ten Commandments, using them as the moral foundation for building Geneva’s society after the Reformation. A permanent location in Geneva could not be obtained for the sculpture in bronze, so instead Mocan made it in fibreglass covered with gold leaf. This portable version was exhibited at three locations in Geneva during 2009/10, and is now travelling in the USA. 

So how does this sculpture facilitate encounter with God and others? It expresses four metaphors in the form of invitations, which visitors can explore as they walk in and out of the sculpture, or sit on the small seats cut into each pillar.

Firstly, the ten fingers represent an invitation to relationship. Standing inside the circle is like being held in a giant pair of hands. The sculptor expresses the Ten Commandments as fingers – warm, personal, inviting – reminding us that God wrote these laws of life on two tablets of stone with his finger. The protected space within the hands suggests that following God’s laws offers us a life that is safe because of the life enhancing nature of these commandments. It extends an invitation to a life with God, sheltered within God’s love, resulting in loving God and others. Jesus validated this by stating that the whole law is summed up in loving God wholeheartedly and in loving our neighbour as ourselves – love being the essence of relationship.

Secondly, the two contrasted sides of each pillar are an invitation to ethical reflection. They reflect the dual consequences of God’s law: blessing generally comes to those who respect the law, but negative consequences follow when the law is disregarded – and not just when caught! An invitation to ethical reflection might be to consider: where is my life, or the organization I work for, or my nation, in relationship to different facets of God’s law, and how are the consequences of this worked out, both positively and negatively?

Thirdly, the space created by the circle of pillars is an invitation to freedom, the freedom to seek the common good and live at peace with one’s neighbour. This may mean accepting some limits to personal freedoms: the ten columns are like fence posts, creating and protecting an inner space for flourishing within God’s law. One is however at liberty to move out of the circle, which can be seen as stepping into an individualistic and autonomous freedom: I choose my beliefs and values, and live my life just as I want. The sculpture suggests that this is when one loses community with God and others.

Fourthly, the grandeur of the columns is an invitation to hope. The sheer size and weight of the pillars reflect the significance of the Decalogue as a foundation for society, one that has stood the test of time and the evolution of civilizations. When institutions collapse – a failed state, a broken marriage, a banking system close to meltdown – the Decalogue offers hope by inviting us to revisit a set of timeless foundations for wise and good institutions.

This sculpture, though simple in form, yet embodies several layers of meaning, creating a space for interaction and encounter – one which promises to go on perplexing some and inspiring others on both sides of the Atlantic. 

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Liviu Mocan: Invitation/Decalogue, 2008/09, fibreglass, gold leaf, stain and varnish; 7.6m diameter x 4.6m height.
Liviu Mocan was born in 1955 and studied at the fine arts faculty of the University of Cluj-Napoca. His public sculptures have been erected in Germany, the US, Egypt, Norway as well as in his native Romania. Prior to making Invitation/Decalogue, Liviu's most recent monumental sculpture, entitled Illseed, was unveiled outside a public hospital in Auckland by the prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark.
Jonathan Tame is a social entrepreneur and missions trainer, with a passion for biblical world view, whole-life discipleship, mission innovation, and arts in communication. He currently works with Relationships Global in Cambridge.
 ArtWay Visual Meditation July 25, 2010