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Pleasing the gods, one miracle at a time

San Francisco artist Jonathon Keats hedges his bets with technological artworks intended to entertain all deities.

When it comes to paying tribute to deities--or invoking them for unsavory political purposes--mankind hasn't exactly been slacking. This makes life especially rewarding for San Francisco conceptual artist Jonathon Keats, whose work often focuses on conflicts between religious precepts and science. Operating under the cover of agnosticism, Keats devises projects that force-fit theology, nature, and technology into weird forms of cohabitation. He has attempted to create God in a petri dish and has created abstract art for extraterrestrials and pornography for houseplants. Keats knows the projects are nutty. But there's just enough rationality in them to get you talking about the points of friction between religion and science, and between art and technology.

A solar system here, a solar system there. Pretty soon you've got a whole galaxy. Jonathon Keats

His latest source of amusement is "Miracle Works," in which he licenses to mortals the rights to perform divine miracles such as the creation of solar systems (seven in all--good luck with that!). He also has developed a musical composition based on constellations of stars that is intended to be performed by the deities. The actual work resonates at about 30,000 octaves below human hearing range, but Keats has released a digital simulation of the piece, called "Sonata for Astral Organ," through GarageBand that mortals can hear.

Keats says this project is meant not only as a salve for deities who've lost some of their luster in the age of tech, but also as a diversion for skeptics. "I'm sympathetic to deities, who must compete to be noticed and are constantly at risk of being debunked," he says. "I'm also sympathetic, even more so, to the cynics amongst us who have lost their sense of wonder. Perhaps awe can be rediscovered through art."

"Miracle Works" opens with a public reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on November 14 at Modernism Gallery located at 685 Market Street in San Francisco.