The Temple of the Holy Embryo is the brainchild of Mike Carson, a fine arts teacher from Vail--and for this performance-art piece, his tongue is located in his cheek.
Carson says the temple originated as a frustrated reaction to the outrage over stem-cell research.
"I was watching the public debate regarding stem-cell research and the harvesting of early-stage embryos, and it just kept going through my mind that people are putting these clumps of cells up on a pedestal," says Carson. "So one day, I was talking to a friend of mine, and I said, 'I'm going to make a temple and just fill it with all kinds of things about embryos, so that if everyone wants to worship them, they can worship them.' That's what it seems like we want, so let's do it; let's take it to the logical conclusion."
The temple itself will contain the grand altar of Mother Egg, a sculpture that Carson is making, as well as paintings of embryos, light effects and seven priests in dramatic costumes--a reference to a passage in Revelation. Obviously, there is a fertility theme. Even the event's timing is part of this ovulation focus, as it is happening during the new moon.
The central piece in the temple, Carson says, is an automated video display that he worked on for more than a year.
"I wrote these programs that basically control Mother Egg. She'll speak at times and demand submission and demand allegiance while she dictates public policy. Every 28 minutes, there's this main video that's called the subjugation dogma. ... This ovum is dictating our public policy, so let's realize our fetish. When you come in, the priests will lead you into the temple, and Mother Egg will take over from there."
Carson realizes the religious implications may not sit well with some people, but he says being offensive isn't the goal of the piece. If anyone wants to discuss the Temple of the Holy Embryo, Carson will be happy to oblige.
"There are two parts to that. There's the stay-in-your-character part where, as the high priest of the Temple of the Holy Embryo, if someone sacrileges against the egg, I'm just going to say, 'blessed be the zygote,' or, 'Mother Egg commands your submission,' or whatever I need to say as high priest. But then there are going to be the people out on the street who want to really talk about it, and I'm all for that. The whole purpose of this is to generate public discourse. It's not about offending people."
Carson says that his reaction to the stem-cell debate is partially influenced by having Parkinson's disease.
"I'm not doing this because of my own diagnosis or whatever," says Carson. "It's so late now that any stem-cell research that's approved in the next (presidential) administration will never help me, I don't think. That's not the main impetus, although it makes me very sensitive to these types of issues."
The other part of his motivation comes from the belief that people don't really understand the research involved.
"Sometimes you don't see the forest for the trees, and I feel like, with this type of research, we're at a state like that," says Carson. "We're at a state where we can't realize what we're doing, which is fetishising these clumps of cells. Part of it comes from me being an amateur social researcher."
Carson says that he isn't worried about the temple affecting his job. Although he isn't telling his students about the project, he knows they'll learn about it.
"Some people will say, 'Why are artists political?'" says Carson. "Well, if you're truly an artist, there's no escape from politics, because what you're doing is interpreting the symbols of your civilization. By doing that, you'll venture into what's called politics and public policy. Part of being an art teacher is being a model of a working artist for people, and that's what I'm doing. My kids are probably going to see that this event occurred, and they'll have to evaluate it on their own terms, just like they evaluated Jackson Pollock or Robert Mapplethorpe."
The Temple of the Holy Embryo can be found from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1 and 2, at the ArtFare The Muse, 55 N. Sixth Ave. Admission is free. For more information, visit templeoftheholyembryo.com, or call ArtFare at 903-0918.