Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/ CS183* (2017-19) imagines two classrooms, each based on a real course taught by adjunct lecturers in United States’ tertiary education institutions. Evangelical pastor John Wimber taught ‘MC510: Signs and Wonders’ in the School of World Mission and Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary between 1982 and 1986. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s class ‘CS183: Startup’ was taught in Stanford’s Computer Science faculty in 2012. Where Wimber’s class offered practical instruction in faith healing to aspiring missionaries, Thiel’s was an effort to teach radical non-conformity to the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.
These two learning environments—which are in many ways incomparable — come together as paired sculptural abstractions in Michael Stevenson’s artwork. Both Wimber and Thiel’s classes were motivated by a mission imperative and a strong future orientation, and both used the academy as a platform in an attempt to change the world. In both cases, the practical nature of the instruction and the teachers’ visionary stance resolved into a form of politically conservative avant-gardism in which faith and business sense become echoes of each other.
With classroom equipment including solar panels, cigars, eggs, a used bungee-jumping elastic, heatsink, airline comfort blankets and meal replacement powder, Stevenson’s installation is built from materials with a metaphoric or experiential association with power, energy, or the potential for explosive transformation. Translating Wimber and Thiel’s future-oriented pedagogy into sculptural form, the mirrored rooms of the installation pulse like the positive and negative terminals of a battery that can contain, control or direct powerful energies.
Anna Parlane is an art historian and writer based in Melbourne. She received her PhD from Melbourne University in 2018, where she currently works as a researcher and sessional academic.
Michael Stevenson (born 1964, New Zealand) is an artist based in Berlin. Significant recent projects include Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2019); 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018); Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland (2017); Art Basel, Basel (2016); Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2015); and Doijma River Biennale, Osaka (2015).