In a society where ‘influencers’ rise and fall in the blink of 50,000 Instagram likes, who or what do we worship? The word comes from Old English weorthscipe - the acknowledgement of worth. Hannah Kidd draws upon this fundamental notion that an act of worship is, at its most basic, the act of recognising value; her exhibition Worship considers the role of worship in everyday life.
In modern parlance, the mention of worship immediately brings to mind religious practice and/or slavish adoration. Kidd is not averse to employing overt symbols of veneration in this body of work, although this might be accompanied by a pointed subversion of the symbols themselves. The artist’s doughnut cross captures the elevation of the banal - a pointed commentary on a world where capturing something for others to worship on social media is more valuable than personal contemplation and reflection.
Personal reflection has not disappeared, of course, and Kidd explores our memorialisation of egalitarian figures as well as ways we “worship” in our everyday. Accompanied by a number of ice-creams in sconce-like stands, Mr Whippy (2019) is “all Mr Whippies...mostly friendly, sometimes surly...virtually always an elderly gentleman” (1). Familiar to a good percentage of those who grew up in New Zealand, this everyman ice-cream vendor is central to a suite of rituals not unlike religious rites of worship.
It starts with the bells, more often than not a tinkling, distorted Greensleeves, after which the congregation of children makes its way to the van-shrine. Once they approach the counter-altar, each supplicant asks for and receives communion in the form of a single cone with sprinkles (and a flake if parents were feeling generous). This experience was neither transcendent nor meditative, it did not promise life everlasting or explore fundamental truths about the world. Over time however, this childhood ritual was embedded in memory through repetition and reflection. We deem these memories worthy because of the nostalgic desire they evoke - it is our own past we are worshipping.