The Embedded: The City Loved



The Embedded III, Oil, acrylic, pens and virtual on canvas. 2017. MacDonald. Azotus Arts.

Jacques Ellul: Meaning in the City & The Embedded

It is the desire to exclude God from his creation. And it is this solidarity in a name, this unity in separation from God, which was to keep men ever again being separated on earth. And the sign and symbol of this this, man’s environment, built by man for man, with any other intervention or power excluded, that man could make a name for himself. It was there that this pretension of becoming a subject, never again to be an object, could be realized. The cities of our time are most certainly that place where man can with impunity declaure himself master of nature. It is only in an urban civilization that man has the metaphysical possibility of saying ‘I killed God.’ [1]


The Embedded I, (partial section). 1989. Oil on canvas 36 x 48. 

But we will need help to round-out and fill in some of the blanks that Ellul’s dialectical schematic provides. With this direct goal in mind, I am bringing in key thinkers from the last Century from a variety of angles such as Anders Nygren (theologian), Ernest Becker (cultural anthropologist), Johan Huizinga (historian and cultural theorist) and Andre Malraux (art theorist and novelist) to explain some of the City’s inner workings and motivations. These are meant to expand and explicate Ellul’s essential thesis, even as the painting seeks to illustrate various aspects of it.

This is followed by a brief look at artists Natalie Jeremijenko, and Patricia Johanson,  whose current works in urban settings fall into categories like “visionary/subversive” (Jeremijenko) and“visionary/restorative” (Johanson) .

Greek Words in The Embedded

Of the Greek words in the painting, I will only have space to comment on one with any depth: Eros (acquisitive love) as the raw harnessing/acquisitive power of the City which has not the means to power, provide materials to house, feed or sustain its inhabitants. It also does not have the inherent materials to build its towers, walls  and massive structures – both external and internal which will incase, transport,  and make its world-view, ambitions and agendas take form and move from policy to reality. That must all be supplied from the surrounding country on a daily basis, or now, shipped in via a global scenario, from the world.[2]  And the great example is Babylon for as Ellul summarizes:

Each city has one aspect of the leprosy of the cities, but she has them all. Everything said about Babylon is in fact to be understood for the cities as a whole. As all the other cities, Babylon (representative of all the others) is at the hub of civilization. Business operates for the city, industry is developed for the city, ships ply the seas for the city, luxury and beauty blossoms forth in the city, power rises and becomes great in the city. There is everything for sale, the bodies and souls of men. She is the very home of civilization and when the great city vanishes, there is no more civilization, a world disappears. She is the one struck in war, and she is the first to be struck in the war between the Lord and the powers of the world. A city greater than a simple city — the finishing of a work that can in no wise be finished, which man starts over indefinitely with every the same purpose and the same access. Babylon, Venice, Paris, New York — they are all the same city, only one Babel always reappearing, a city form the beginning mortally wounded: ‘and they left off building the city.’[3]

The other Greek words (for “mind, body and spirit” are simply the channels by which humanity usually try to work out their existential dilemma — often within a Appolonian/Dionysian tension.[4]

Ellul on the Meaning of the City: the Origins via Cain

Ellul notes that after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden for killing his brother Abel, Cain travels to the land of Nod (which is East of Eden and means “land of wandering” in Hebrew) where he has a son and also builds a city.[5]


The Embedded II, 2009. Oil on canvas 20″ x 30″. MacDonald Azotus Arts.

In a straight-forward, but fairly lengthy argument, Ellul takes us from Cain on the run, through the birth of his son Enoch (whose name means “Initiation”) and how it connects with Cain building the first city named Enoch. One significant aspect of his conclusion is that:

with Enoch we now have a sure starting place for all of civilization. Paradise becomes a legend and creation a myth. Now we have to which we can fasten our history, and the ramparts of the Canaanite or Peruvian give us a sure material knowledge of homo faber.”[6] 

Later, Ellul will summarize Cain saying he  “bends all of creation to his will. He knows full well that by God’s order he has received dominion over creation, and he assumes control. He forces creation to follow his destiny, his destiny of slavery and sin, and his revolt to escape from it. From this taking possession, from this revolution, the city is born.”[7]

Ernest Becker on the Causa-Sui Project: Individual ”Self-creators” who Inhabit the City

If Cain is the original builder of the City, then Cain adequately embodies many of the dynamics involved for as Frederich Buechner once said “In popular usage, a myth has come to mean a story that is not true. Historically speaking, that may well be so. Humanly speaking, a myth is a story that is always true.”[8]

Becker’s use of the “causa-sui project” is largely within his analysis of Freud, but it applies far beyond it. Put simply, “causa-sui” (literally, “cause of itself”) is about each person’s “immortality”or “meaning” project. And it is the City which both helps create, house and fuel these dreams (or “life-lies”) within each and every culture.

We can righty ask questions about subcultures within the City like Wall Street and phenomena like “Too Big to Fail.” Is that not actually a question about perception and not economics; about “agreed and shared madness” as Becker would say[9] and not at all about accounting, responsibility or justice?

A good Beckerian summary of the dilemma is this:

“civilized” society is a hopeful belief and protest that science, money and goods make man count for more than any other animal. In this sense everything that man does is religious and heroic, and yet in danger of being fictitious and fallible.[10]

Anders Nygren on Agape and Eros


Figure 1: Agape & Eros contrasted. 

Theologian Anders Nygren, in his seminal work, Agape and Eros, compares and contrasts these two types of “love” (for both Greek words translate “love” into English. See Figure 1.) One of the core difference between the two is that Eros-love” recognizes value in the person or thing loved and then seeks to possess it;” whereas Agape-love fixes its gaze on that which has no inherent value and “creates value in the person or thing loved.” [12]Cities are known for love – but loves of two types, the prevailing love being “Eros” or passion. This is matched within the City with a great and pervasive existential hunger which Eros seeks to feed. Agape is the “other love” – which is always present as well. I would suggest that, in San Francisco, it is found most readily in hospitals, soup kitchens and at places like Glide Memorial Church.[11]    

In the painting, the City rises up like Babel seeking to “make a name” for itself – in this case, ironically in evoking the name of the humble monk of nature: St. Francis whose famous prayer is the antithesis of the City and its acquisitive love/lust for power and a redefining of that “name.” Speaking of Nimrod, Ellul notes that all the cities “he constructed were marked with the stamp — power.”[13] These two common characteristics are always present: “making a name,” and power.

In the midst of this, the viewer of The Embedded, may (or may not) discern a crucifixion taking place throughout the City itself – a sunken cross deeply embedded in it – for St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans (the seat of City power at the time):

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. [14] (italics mine)

Like the art at its center (and the City itself is often made art). the City rises up driven – at least in some regard – also by the fear of death.  We will return to this later.

Huizinga on Homo Faber and Homo Ludens:

How the City works and Plays

It is an irony that San Francisco has a prominent SOMA district (for the Greek word “Soma”=body is in the painting along with “Pneuma” (spirit), and “Nous” (mind)) that includes features like AT&T Park, SFMOMA , South Beach and the Moscone Center. Thus, it is this area that plays host to World Series games, some of the world’s greatest art, the invitation to play at a beach or walk the Piers and attend conventions and events like gaming conferences and food exhibitions. It is also this area — South of Market — that is best known for being open to beginners who want to learn about BDSM (Bondage/Detainment and Sado/Masochism). This is all set forth under the innocent notion of “play” by media as demonstrated in the short film-report: Vice: San Francisco. [15] On the other side of Market to the North is the Tenderloin, known for its world-famous strip clubs, brothels and adult entertainment stores.

Without a shred of moralization it should simply be noted that a severe objectification and even commoditization of persons is often a essential part of this playful scene. Agape is a foreigner here and the actual meaning of the words speak a certain unfreedom (“bondage,” “detainment,” sadism,” “masochism”) no matter how much there is nervous giggling about “toys.”

Johan Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens (“Man at Play”) is significant in that he does not leave humanity locked in Ellul’s earlier summary that ended solely in Homo Faber (“Working Man,”  or “Man the Maker.”) As Huizinga says:

“In play there is something “at play” which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning to the action. All play means something. If we call the active principle that makes up the essence of play, “instinct” , we explain nothing; if we call it “mind” or “will” we say too much . However we may regard it, the very fact that play has a meaning implies a non­ materialistic quality in the nature of the thing itself.”[16]

San Francisco, perhaps more than any City in America (nicknamed “Babylon by the Bay” has sought to free itself from any constraints and “self-create.”) It is no accident that both the “Summer of Love” in 1967 [17] and the sexual revolution at the heart of that movement and Gay Pride found a natural place of safety (after a time)  in “the City” (another nickname).[18]

Art and the City: The Last Revolt Amidst the Towers

The City itself houses the greatest works of art, as it is the locus of regional wealth and power; and is itself often a work of art itself in various areas (shown by its varieties of “tourism” alone). San Francisco, for example, has vast repositories of art at various locations. Save perhaps one day a month, it is fairly expensive to gain admission and view these works (SFMOMA is $25 a visit). The new wing at the SFMOMA is itself an architectural wonder and a careful and deliberate large-scale piece of art itself. [19]

But if we have noted the connection between Eros (acquisitive love) and the City – and this certainly extends to the art associated within it which is representational of both its periodic self-creation and its endowed power and wealth – then we should not miss Andre Malraux’s equally appropriate and stunning reflection that “All art is a revolt against man’s fate.”[20] This simply hails us back to Becker’s work for the individual via causa-sui and Ellul’s notions concerning the City as a collective God –replacement. It is all an “immortality project.” Or as Becker says:

The real world is simply too terrible to admit; it tells man that he is a small, trembling animal who will decay and die. Illusion changes all this, makes man seem important, vital to the universe, immortal in some way. Who transmits this illusion, if not the parents by imparting the macro-lie of the cultural causa sui?[21]


Figure 2 ANTIMASS by Cornelia Parker,  The deYoung Museum. San Francisco C 2005

Of course I am over-simplifying in order to make the larger point. Within that point Becker will distinguish between the the Artist and the Neurotic (via Otto Rank) saying basically that the difference between the two is “essentially talent,”  — the artist being able to take all that floods in and refashion and process/respond in some way via their art. In this regard the artist does act as a catharsis agent for society (and the City) as a whole.

   I think of ANTI-MASS by Cornelia Parker at the de Young Museum , where she took the “charred remains of a Southern Baptist church, burned down by a racist,” to construct her installation.[22] This type of art is in a category all its own, seemingly drawing the audience far past the artist’s ego into far larger social and ethical considerations.

Art like this is “subversive” in the literal sense that it provides a “sub-text” or “sub-version” of reality alongside or against the dominant metanarrative.

God Comes to the City that would Replace Him.

Ellul’s historical interpretation of the City covers the various attempts at autonomy in the Old Testament and Jerusalem’s symbolism as the City of God , but also a city which seems constantly in the grip of idolatry. The future “New Jerusalem” promises true transcendence.

Andrew Goddard, writing for the International Jacques Ellul Society says:

…one of the best guides to Ellul’s theology as a whole, showing how God’s purposes of communion in creation are rejected by us in the Fall (which Ellul called the Rupture) leading to the building of cities as a counter-creation (Cain, Babel) but how in redemption God embraces and adopts this human work of rebellion and ultimately makes it – in the New Jerusalem – the heart of his gift in the new creation.[23]

The Painting: The Embedded


Figure  3: “Dark City” (1999) oil on canvas by Wayne Thiebaud 72″ x 55″

The influence of Wayne Thiebaud and his famous cityscapes is noticeable, although there is not the exaggerated elongation that makes his paintings so visually exciting. In addition, Thiebaud’s coloration (from his whole catalog — including his infamous desserts) bear down on this artist. The slight ornamentation is a clear influence from another San Joaquin Valley painter,  J. Rod Swenson, who was my teacher in the 90s (who now lives and paints in China).


Figure  4: “A Little Night Music” Acrylic on canvas 36″ x 42″ J. Rod Swenson 1998.

I also suffer from macular degeneration – and like some painter friends who have the same – we all tend to paint more “brightly and boldly”  as a natural consequence.

Philosophically, there is a clear juxtaposition between the sheer amount of pavement and skyscrapers with the lack of nature which has been covered up. The human eye’s hunger for mountains or the motion of the ocean is replaced artificially by the great outstretching height of the Towers that house the scattered languages which are now unified most solely by the electronic transfer of money to “make a name.” We are met with a dizzing array of diversions in the City which actual nature will not afford. More directly:

 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.[24]

The exception, in the painting,  is the relocation of Golden Gate Park from behind the St. Mary’s Cathedral , the Fillmore District/and the Haight, and alongside the Inner Sunset changed into a miniaturized version up on the rooftops near the St. Francis (fitting) off Union Square;  replete with the historic windmill at the far end of the park for the chivalrous imaginative few needing to joust with giant perceived beasts in Quixotic fashion.

The Park, the Cathedral of Mary and the pulsating Pacific in the distance are the only clues left that much that the City pretends to be might all be an elaborate ruse.  

Oh, and in The Embedded, some will see a crucifixion which takes in the City as a whole – in love.

A counter-view of reality was cleanly presented by C.S. Lewis in his sermon The Weight of Glory:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.[25]

 This is the true dilemma of the City in our time, as it is filling with multi-colored tent cities along many of its main arteries. It envisions itself as “progressive” and advanced, yet it cannot take care of its own people who are immortal, and it feeds that which is passing away.[26]

Artists in Response to the City: Jeremijenko

In her brief but breathtaking TED talk (online)[27]  Natalie Jeremijenko  demonstrates various projects within Urban settings where “Mutualism” is promoted noting that 95% of the world’s biomass is based on this “Mutualism” (where organisms thrive in connection with other organisms verses our assumed predator and prey models which are the exception statistically, not the norm).

Her first example is the “Moth Cinema.” A summary from Jeremijenko’s TEDx Talks lecture: Her team at xDedign has created a moth-friendly intensified pollinator habitat  where the images of the moths are cast up on a large silver screen as they gather at night. This attracts both a moth and human audience each evening. They provide a “nocturnal soundtrack” for human visitors and this is also played simultaneous in the ultrasonic spectrum so the moths can enjoy them as well. The moths co-exist with bats. By playing the music in the ultrasonic, this temporarily blinds the bats giving the moths safe cover for the evening. The moths, who have short lives, are able to lay a larger number of eggs safely producing more catapillars and improving the overall strength of the ecosystem. [28]

I call Jeremijenko a “visionary/subversive” in the most positive and healthy light as she does not seem to belabor or decry the “evils” of the Postmodern world or urbanization, but rather just comes up with a plethora of creative, useful and artistic solutions. She states that the 21st Century’s “Space Race” is “reimagining and redesigning our relationship to natural systems.”[29] And in re-introducing the concept of mutualism which already predominantly exists on the planet as a reality regardless of interpretive grids.

Artists in Response to the City: Johanson  

Patricia Johanson is a wonderful example of someone who deals with “what is” when t comes to the City and urbanization. Working in collaboration with local schools, ecology groups and interested government officials, she was able to take a modest tunnel project and expand it not only into a pervasive piece of landscape art, but also a functional tool for flood control and water purification adding a huge boon for the public good.

It is in light of this that I view Johanson as a “Visonary/Restorer,” who, like Jeremijenko, is not really included in the City’s agenda at all – but is, in fact, trying to either redeem it, or at the very ;east, to improve the lives f its inhabitants through creative and artistic means.

In both vases, it should be noted that what Nygren called for in “agape” (“creating value where none exists”) and Huizinga’s Homo Ludens (“humanity at play”) are central.

Johanson, and outsider and well established artist, seemed to take quickly to the vision of of the locals who wrre richly steeped in Mormon lore. Two symbols:  the Sego Lilly and the Snake from a story recounted by Mormon settler Erastus Snow embodied the area [30] . This rich history was infused into the design of the project including miniature versions of the larger historical topographical features like the oil  springs where oil-rich shale provided lubricants that the early Mormons would use to lubricate their wagon wheels and guns; the end of the waterway that has a repository for flood waters in the form of giant lily’s ( the Sego Lily which had  a particularly large digestible bulb which warded off possible starvation through initial harsh winters) and the snaking trail of the waters, reminiscent of Erastus Snow’s encounter with the rattlesnake — who warned him off with a rattle, and instead of trying to kill it, he simply thanked it for the warning and left. [31]

Johansen, initially stalled from doing anything beyond a swift tunnel under I-80, was able to later construct a much more elaborate dam, rainwater purification system, historical art renderings through the tunnel and a complete artistic  narrative journey via nature right through a part of the city of Salt Lake itself due to a flood that demonstrated the need for a more drastic design, solutions and construction of the entire area. [32]

The other major piece of the art project is a planned Sego Lily sculpture, where tidbits of early Utah history will be etched into its three 30-foot-high petals at the East end of the tunnel. The creation would act as a flood basin for Parleys Creek at Sugar House Park. When completed, it would be the only public art in the nation that acts as part of a flood-control system, said Mary Kay Lazarus, who represents Johanson. [33]


“It’s a win for history and a win for beauty,” she said. “It’s also a win that solves a city problem, and we have a win for education because kids can come and see this.”[34]


Given the breadth of this paper, but its immediate constraints, I have been careful to draw my conclusions along the way in most cases. The exception would be a candid and direct application of what is uncovered chiefly by Ellul (and then augmented by considering  Nygren, Becker, Huizinda, and Malraux) as regards artists and visionaries like Parker, Johanson and Jeremijenko who do not seem to really “fit” either the power motif of the City, or of cause-sui or seem interested at all in God-replacement.

In fact, there is a restorative “come to your senses” aspect to in both Jeremijenko and Johanson’s work that is made practical, life-affirming and pro-nature in contrast with the City’s tendency to “pave-over ” and all but silence nature. Jeremijenko, asks in her TED Talkx presentation, about using our acquired knowledge of ecosystems and technology to build systems to improve the soil, air, the environment and overall health of human life on the planet, then simply asks, “why wouldn’t we?”

There are, unfortunately, real answers why human beings stand in the way of such clear and clean logic. For better or worse, these do often fit within some narratives which many understand to be “biblical,” not the least of which is Ellul’s 20th Century interpretation of both the City and Technology (more accurately “technique”) [35] Call it “the Fall” or “The Rupture” humanity’s continual turning from using its adequate resources and technology to provide and sustain all life in favor of dominance, war, violence, and pollution — with the City most often as the thriving locus of such activity — and the biblical narrative seems less and less mythical.

My own view is “incarnational” in the most literal sense — that God became flesh, gestated in a womb for nine months and then spilled out a birth canal into our riot.

It was (is) just that serious and required that level of direct engagement. In an age of “technique” and efficiency driving the planet to ruin we need Jeremijenko’s reminder that 95% of the biomass was created and lives in Mutualism in a wildly relational and colorfully fecund (Ellul would add) Christo-centric universe.

The Embedded
is a depiction of both the various aspects of the lostness of the City and its constructs and fictions as well as how deeply the love of God and Christ death engages that lostness with the promise of a transformative non-fiction narrative named “New Jerusalem,” that includes a wedding feast with the New Heavens and a New Earth of Revelation 21. [37]‘The ecological disaster that awaits us is not,’ he argues ‘is not only belief in the technological system, but it follows…from the fact that man no longer believes in the Creator God, who is the God of Jesus Christ’…It is the absence of a Christo-centric collectivity assumed theological belief in creation which Ellul sees as being at the heart of the heart of the present ecological malaise.”[36]

In my earlier remarks on art within the City I denoted the relationship between power, wealth, art and advancement. But this does not always involve the artists themselves, who often come off as true “anti-heroes” in a way that aligns with Malraux’s views of art as possibly “anti-destiny.” Recently attending Bruce Conner’s “It’s All True” exhibit at SFMOMA I was faced with a true iconoclast from the late 50s. One wondered if his ironic films (taken from cuttings from the floor of Duck Soup and other films) and collage/installations were not a bit of what Walker Percy spoke of when he said we get a little giddy when we “speak the unspeakable.”

You cannot really rush a painting – or I cannot — especially when new variations are coming mid-stream. I can tell you that various new figures will show up. The Homeless casting shadows high on the building walls in one place to the North (like the prototype in 1989 shown at the very beginning of this paper, or other elements in the 2009 version 20 years later). I sense other figures…shadowy ones in various corners. A few people may appear in windows…I am not sure.

The current paining, The Embedded, really began in 1989, with a stopover in 2009.  Also, somewhere along the way I abandoned making this a strict oil painting and began to open up to other media. At first this was simply permanent markers and acrylic paints, but I am expanding this now (or will be, to the addition of fabrics (100% cotton pre-washed tee shirt swatches) with iron-on images) to be fabric-glued onto the surface. This allows for more and different “texts” within the painting.

As I initially informed the instructor of the class, I am an “Explorer” who is constantly pushing that exploration as well as documenting my finding. I can foresee (in this painting) along one roadside a line of fabric tents not only like the ones in San Francisco, but also like the Tent City I lived in and ran under the Nimitz freeway near the Webster Tube in West Oakland during my first semester in 2015. The City has a full cast of characters that help keep its fictions alive, or to quote the sing-song line from Chariots of Fire, at one point we hear a quartet of men sing:

 “If everybody’s some-bod- ee

              Then no one’s any-bod-ee!”

Additional paintings in the series may have more of this mixed media – including an ironic use of Ellul calls “technique” to “play” with photographic images I have taken manipulated by computers then printed onto transfers to cloth in large, planned pieces. A “Christocentric Prayer Flag” is already in the mix as well which will be steeped in the tradition of the five elements, but call them back into context to their vibrant Christocentric nexus, even as it does humanity as self-reflective agents created with the Imago Dei, the gift of language (of “naming” and thus symbolization) and the freedom to choose what to do with these gifts.

The City in flight from God and in a desperate attempt to replace the One who cannot be replaced; the never-ending drama played out upon the stage of the City — the actors and actresses falling one by one into the inevitable pit (“for naked we enter and naked we leave”[38]) — the City continues to refurbish and re-invent itself (we just broke new ground on a basketball arena of rhe “San Francisco Warriors”).  I believe Ellul, Becker, Nygren, Huizinga and Malraux help us unpack the meaning of the City, many of its motivational forces, and much of its core modus operendi. Far from kaing the City the “enemy of God” (even if it wishes to be) Jesus laments over the lost Jerusalem and then sets his gaze on establishing the New Jerusalem having conquered the true enemies: alienation and death.

Annotated Bibliography

Becker, Ernest  The Denial of Death, New York: Free Press, 1974.

Becker, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1975, presents a vision that is too wide to summarize here.  I introduce this book for one point only, the entire argument of his work follows from the causi sui project as a response to death. Becker expects the reader to know what it is, but it is not clear that it is each individual’s task at “self-creating” a fictitious “Self” – a “life-lie” using the cultural hero-systems which are available to construct meaning and purpose to deny the reality of death and meaninglessness. This has direct bearing on what drives the City itself, for it is a collective conglomerate of cultural hero-systems highly divorced from nature and more heavily invested symbolically.

Ellul, Jacques  The Meaning of the City. Trans. Dennis Pardee. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970. Carlisle, England: Paternoster, 1997.

Ellul starts with the rebellion in the Garden but his real concern is with the first City builder: Cain. From there Ellul will make his detailed case that the City is humanity’s replacement for God.

Huizinga, Johan  Homo Ludens, London: Routledge and Kegan, 1949.

Huizinga is best known for this work which posited that ”play” is a primary aspect of human development and culture. That we are not only “homo faber” (“working humanity,” or “humans: the makers,”)  but also embody this whole element of “play” (ludens). I would be remise to not have that somewhere in both the painting and in this paper — for it is surely true developmentally and also played out in the City itself — in both dark ways and in ways most innocent.

Jeremijenko, Natalie  “Radical Design For Environmental Health” TEDx Talks as found at on January 8, 2017.

“Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist, engineer, inventor and academic. She’s never subscribed to the idea that art and science don’t mix. Her many extraordinary experiments have a serious intent – to improve the health of the planet. She believes that the great challenge of the 21st century is to reimagine and redesign our relationship to natural systems…[h]er experimental design — hence xDesign — explores the opportunities new technologies present for social change. It centers on structures of participation in the production of knowledge, information, and the political and social possibilities—and limitations—of information and emerging technologies. Much of it involves biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering, and almost all of it is carried out through public experiments.” (Summary by TEDx Talks).

Johanson , Patricia Patricia Johanson as found at   on January 18, 2017

During the last six decades, Ms. Johanson has brought an multi-disciplinary understanding to bear on her work  which includes art, ecology, landscaping and design. Starting off working under Georgia O’Keeffe and Joseph Cornell on a large number of gardens of House & Garden, she then moved on to “site plans for Mitchell/Giurgola buildings at Yale University, Columbus, Indiana, and Con Edison’s Indian Point Generating Facility,” according to the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The last decades she has been taking on major artistic/restorative projects like the one discussed in this paper in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah..

Malraux, André Voices of Silence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

I chose this book over the one I briefly quoted in the paper because this 661 page masterpiece is really Malraux’s opus magnum on art. It contains his idea of art books as a “museum without walls” and all of his other main contributions in full detail — including the absurdity of culture and how art can be “anti-destiny” — an act of freedom in the face of a kind of determinism and death (humanity’s fate.)

Nygren, Anders Agape and Eros, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953.

Anders Nygren, Bishop of Lund and a Swedish Lutheran theologian, was best known for this work, Agape and Eros. Originally in two volumes, it is broken into two parts with part one explicating the contrasting ideas between these two Greek words for “love.” Part Two traces various attempt to synthesize these competing “motifs” from the time that Agape rose from simply being a casual and rather weak synonym prior to the cross of Christ, through the clashes in the Middle Ages and finally through the Renaissance and the Reformation. Dr. David Gill (president of IJES (International Jacques Ellul Society) noted n a private conversation how Nygren’s application of Eros and Agape mirrors Augustine’s depiction of the “City of Man and the City of God.” (as discussed January 18, 2017 at Crepevine, Oakland, ca).


Tyson, Paul and Tan, Matthew John Paul (2012) “Ecological Disaster & Jacques Ellul’s Theological Vision,” Solidarity: The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 3. Available at: on January 7, 2017.

A deeply complex journal article, it is used here to give some simple guidance in defining Ellul’s use of the word “technology” when he really means “technique” – the drive for efficiency which became the overriding concern against all other considerations, and thus, enslaving and leading to “ecological disaster.”  Ellul’s deeply Christian vision is also explored — one which is outside the usual superficial attempts, partly due ot the dialectical nature of Ellul’s biblical and sociological approaches.

[1] Ellul, Jacques The Meaning of the City (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970) p. 16

[2] We have only to note that the major cities which set the agenda for California do so now for the world’s 6th largest economy as California, according to Fortune,  just past France in that category. as found on January 10, 2017. 

[3] Ellul, Ibid., 20-21.

[4] Note: I have written about this and even done art pieces (notably a large sculpture) depicting just these tensions, but it is well beyond the immediate scope and limitations of this paper to go farther.

[5] Ellul, Ibid., P. 3.

[6] Ibid., p.6

[7] Ibid., p. 7.

[8] Buechner, Frederick Wishful Thinking (New York: Random House, 1993)  p. 54

[9] Becker, Ernest The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1973) p.27

[10] Ibid., p. 5

[11] Glide Memorial website home a found on January 14, 2017.

[12] Nygren, Anders Agape and Eros (Philadelphia: Wstminster, 1953) p.210

[13] Ellul, Ibid., p. 13

[14] Romans 5:10-11 (NASB).

[15]  Sciortino, Karley  Streets by Vice: San Francisco, Documentary published April 13, 2016. Special note: 16:55- End. As viewed on January 8, 2017.

[16] Huizinga, Johan Homo Ludens: Study of the Play Element in Culture  (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1949)

[17] Wikipedia, “Summer of Love,” as found at on January 14, 2017.

[18] I personally enjoy the fruits that the Bay Area and its freedoms and inclusivity afford. My observations are of a more sociological, theological, and existential nature.  It should also be noted that the quotations themselves always referring to “Man” are time/culture bound and refer to “humanity.” I have no attempted to tamper with them, but the reader should understand their universal meaning.

[19] Chun, Rene “The Secrets of the New SFMOMA,” WIRED magazine (May, 2016)  as found at on January 14, 2017.

[20] Malraux, Andre as cited from on January 15, 2017. It should be noted that Malraux’s usage should not be viewed as necessarily negative, and he saw art as “anti-destiny,” a sort of choosing of absurdity and freedom of expression over a passive determinism. See “Art as Anti-Destiny: Foundations of Andre Malraux’s Theory of Art” ( by Derek Allan as found on January 15, 2017.

[21] Becker, Ibid., p. 133

[22]   Parker,  Cornelia ANTIMASS (De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California.) “The materials used are the charred remains of a Southern Baptist church, burned down by a racist.” – placard next to exhibit.

[23] Goddard, Andrew “Ellul and Theological Writings” (IJES: International Jacques Ellul Society, as found at on January 14, 2017. )

[24] Psalm 96:11-12 (NASB)

[25] Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper Collins, 2001) p.15.

[26] Note: This is not angry judgment. This is observation is line with many I simply do not have the space to cover: Pascal, Kierkegaard, William Law, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Walker Percy – to name a few who easily come to mind.) I am not of the mind that the City-Builders have any idea of their motivations or the outcomes. Nor do I discount any or all aspects of nobility, goodness or true benefit in any category. Surely the creativity of the City is a reflection of the Imago Dei being expressed.  As with many things, it is not simple.

[27]  Jeremijenko, Natalie  “Radical Design For Environmental Health” TEDx Talks as found at on January 8, 2017.

[28] Ibid., 3:12-5:20.

[29] Jeremijenko, Ibid., at 1:05.

[30] Johanson, Patricia, “The Draw at Sugar House” as found at on January 7, 2017.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Smart, Christopher “Elaborate canyon wall art dresses up tunnel from Sugar House Park, provides flood barrier” The Salt Lake City Tribune (online: last updated July 7, 2015) as found at  on January 9, 2017.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Tyson, Paul and Tan, Matthew John Paul (2012) “Ecological Disaster & Jacques Ellul’s Theological Vision,” Solidarity: The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 3. Available at:  on January 10, 2017. P. 2.

[36] Ibid., p. 7

[37] Revelation 21:1 (NASB).

[38] Job 1:21 (NASB)