Tuesday 4 December 2012
Christian artist Aaron Moore is making waves for poverty today, launching his latest exhibition in which all his possessions take centre stage– to be auctioned and sold for charity.
The 34 year old from Cronulla in Sydney’s south says he wants to challenge himself and others in the way we respond to poverty. Citing Jesus’ teaching on the rich young man (Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:17-25), Moore has entitled the exhibition One Thing You Lack.
Tonight, the exhibition will launch and Moore has a week to sell everything he owns, including his motorbike, surfboards, all his clothes, a watch given to him by his father and handed down from his grandfather, and a sentimental coin collection, also a family keepsake. He’s also giving away all he has in savings. He’d sell his apartment too, but he doesn’t own it. Instead, Moore has arranged for an auction of 5 nights in his sea-view shared apartment, at the consent of his roommates.
“There’s no easy answer to these moral questions about responsibility for poverty,” says Moore. “But we’re going to the movies and drinking chai lattes while 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty.”
“I don’t have it figured out – I’m not a saint or a monk. I was on a dirt floor in Africa on mission and at the end of my month there blew a chunk of money bungee jumping before I came home. I’m pointing that out, and opening up discussion. Perhaps Christ’s words to the rich man are relevant to us today – they’re certainly relevant to me.”
In the eyes of most Australians, Moore is not rich. He doesn’t own his home or drive an expensive car. With a quick head calculation, Moore estimates his possessions and savings total less than $20,000. But on world standards, Moore says he is one of the wealthiest. In fact, the Globalrichlist.com tells him he is 58,086,141st richest person in the world. (You can rank yourself here.)
Moore also points to philosopher Peter Singer’s ‘drowning child’ analogy to explain his motive for the exhibition. In 1997, Singer wrote an article for New Internationalist, in which he asked the question of who is morally responsible for saving a child drowning in a pond as you walk by. According to Singer, the responsibility one feels in such a situation should extend beyond location to children perishing overseas. Singer argues the child drowning in a pond next to you and the child dying from the effects of poverty overseas are “equally within your means to save, at no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to yourself.”
In comparing the two positions on rich and poor, Moore says, “Christ’s words are different. Whilst the poor are assisted through what Christ says, he’s pretty much talking about the rich man and the thing that needs to change in him. I think that’s relevant for me, and others like me. We need to change.”
Giving his ‘stuff’ away hasn’t been an easy decision for Moore– nowhere near as easy as he thought.
“In our heads, we like to think we aren’t the rich young man that Jesus talks to. We think it won’t be difficult to give it all away. But I’ve caught myself trying to hide things so they don’t get sold, making excuses for why I should keep my grandfather’s watch. I’ve struggled with that… It’s really sad when I look at my own life and my own heart.”
Moore is currently studying at the New South Wales College of Fine Art while working as global missions manager at NGO Global Concern. He says his experience on mission has brought him to this point.
“On one trip a few months ago I was in Kenya visiting an orphanage in the mountains. It’s cold there, and there are a few hundred kids. They wanted to install a hot water system, but they didn’t have the money. Some of the kids were getting sick – they’d boil water on fire for the little ones, but couldn’t do it for all.
“Twenty four hours later, I was leaving Kenya. I flew through Dubai and stopped over there. I went to a mall with an indoor skiing field. It cost $50 for half a day. I skied the whole day, got some exercise before getting back onto the plane. And yet it was only 24 hours ago I was saying ‘no’ to an orphanage wanting hot showers because we didn’t have the money. Now I’m here spending my own money skiing in the desert. Is there something wrong with that?”
Moore is realistic about his latest ‘live art’ foray. It’s not that he won’t ever again have possessions, or a place to live. In fact, in six months time, his life may look quite similar to how it looked yesterday. But it’s an exploration of putting Christ’s words into action and testing his own fortitude and faith.
“The experience I’ve had to go through in letting things go is quite different and a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’m learning, I’m changing. It cuts at the core of who we are,” he says. “On the inside, I hope I’ll be quite different after this.”
To find out more about Aaron Moore’s latest exhibition, click here.