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techne

art and faith questions

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techne   

if you were to attend a conference or seminar about the relationship between faith and art, and you were given the opportunity to ask the speaker any questions related to that admittedly broad topic, what questions would you ask?

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jfutral   
if you were to attend a conference or seminar about the relationship between faith and art, and you were given the opportunity to ask the speaker any questions related to that admittedly broad topic, what questions would you ask?

Wow. That really is a blank slate kind of opportunity. But I would have to at least get an idea of what direction the speaker is coming from. So the questions would probably be to get this understanding, or if I am asking questions after hearing the person speak or they are someone I know, I would ask for clarifications or his thoughts on issues depending on what I know of him.

For instance, I would try to find out if he (for simplicities sake I went with "he") believes in a sacred secular split of the arts and then questions along those lines, what does sacred/acceptable art look like, what does non-sacred/unacceptable art look like.

What does he think makes for good or great art? Why? Can a Christian make "non-Christian" art? Can a non-Christian make Christian art?

But if the speaker is someone like Mako Fujimora I would ask what he thinks is the most pressing issue as artists and as believers as artists and how do we use our art to address these issues? I would also ask about the IAMNY project and if he feels the process has been worthwhile?

But then if it was someone like Glenn Kaiser, the questioning might be simlar, but I would try to find out his views from a pastoral perspective as well as an artist.

But if the speaker was nardis, I would probably find an entirely different line of questioning such as what the Enlightenment did to art and how is that reflected or responded to by the church and where do we think we are now as artists, have we re-thought enough to say that reason is empty without faith and thus all we do is spiritual in nature and how do we reflect this in our art or do we?

Just some thoughts,

Joe

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techne   

to clarify: i've participated in a number of conferences, workshops, retreats, etc. that address some of these topics and have a list of questions already -- i just thought i'd see if more could be added. past questions have included theological issues (the prohibition against images in the commmandments, the use of nudititty, the usefulness of art, the 'problem' of icons, calling...) to 'church' logistics (how do you start an "arts ministry", applications to "services", incorporating the arts into the life of the corporate body) to more practical questions (developing portfolios, applying for exhibitions, the role of critiques).

i just wanna know what kinds of questions you would ask if you could ask questions at such a conference/ workshop/ whatever...let's just say that the speaker is someone whose areas of interest encompass the arts in general (and the visual arts, poetry and dance specifically - a little bit o' film). which is to say that while music may be mentioned, it isn't a primary focus. there will be an attempt to strike a balance between these various languages so that none are privileged above any other.

the focus is one of developing a theology of and for the arts within the contexts of the church (sub)culture as well as culture at large. the audience could be anyone, though generally young adults and older - either fearful, curious or passionate about the [possible] role(s) and use(s) of the arts within the context of christian faith.

i hope that helps...

just trying to get more questions.

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jfutral   
the focus is one of developing a theology of and for the arts within the contexts of the church (sub)culture as well as culture at large. the audience could be anyone, though generally young adults and older - either fearful, curious or passionate about the [possible] role(s) and use(s) of the arts within the context of christian faith.

That's still kind of tough. I am mostly interested in their personal view of art and why they think that way, which usually shapes the other questions for me, such as the whole sacred/secular split, does art have value outside its use in services, is there such as thing as Christian art and do they view Christian art as the only acceptible art or art of value? (and thinking of your past questions) is art any more a calling than anything else someone might do? Is it _only_ a calling? etc.

But assuming they come from a similar view of art and faith as I do, some basic questions might be, what does the speaker think the bible says about art and art making? What is/should be the role of art? Does/can/should art play a role in epistemology? Do we put unneccesary burdens/expectations on art and artists, or at least maybe more so than the non-artist or profession? Why? Why does the church feel the need to create its own subculture?

Wow. I thought I'd be pouring with questions. I feel like I kind of forced the ones above out of me. But I guess I've come to terms with so much of this, I'd mostly be interested in the speaker's personal views and how they got there. I guess I kind of feel like my personal next question is how do we build a greater appreciation for and understanding of art in the church. More generally, sort of, what is the next step?

Joe

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techne   

when you say "the next step" do you mean: how does the church do art outside the church, or what is the church's role in regards to pastoring the arts outside of the church?

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jfutral   
when you say "the next step" do you mean: how does the church do art outside the church, or what is the church's role in regards to pastoring the arts outside of the church?

Hmm. Good question. My initial response is to get rid of the "outside the church" suffixes. How does the church do art? What is the role in pastoring the arts or artists?

I guess I think that way because I think the mistake has been made in thinking that Christianity is a cultural phenomenon. We have had to develop "alternatives" to the culture or "responses" to culture" and how that has taken shape is by developing our own (sub)culture. This has only perpetuated the secular/sacred divide or other ways of thinking of the church as outside of relevance. How do we move the church beyond this compartmentalized view of art?

We should affect culture by being a part of it. Right now I would say one of our biggest obstacle is moving much of the body beyond the sentimental or kitsch in art. Too much of the (western? evangelical?) church has somehow lost touch with creativity and replaced it with this plastic consumerism calling itself art. Some of this is because we decided we needed to be seperate, the culture from the church, then seeing the vacuum decided we needed seperate but equal, but we never really reached equal, in a lot of ways. And that a result of keeping art as a subservient activity instead of an active, vital part of who we are as creations.

I do think modernism has had a detrimental affect on art placing it in the irrational sphere. And the church has succumbed to much of the modern pre-suppositions. Many well meaning churches and leaders have bought into the notion of the faith/reason split of the enlightenment. How do we move the church beyond that? As a friend of mine once asked what does a post-materialist epistemology look like? The only coherent response I could give is, I don't know but if it doesn't involve art we will be behind before we even start.

Heck, I don't know. That's just some of my musings at this point. I guess that is part of my question of what is the next step?

Joe

Edited by jfutral

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techne   

yes. that is an important next step -- the church pastoring culture. i love that. i was at a conference called stirring culture, and one of the speakers spoke about the power of the arts to shape a city and the city's ethos (and dontcha love mcmanus?) and the thought occurred to me that he was really speaking about pastoring a city. which is very exciting. and we could use the arts as one of the myriad ways of doing precisely that.

i guess i was trying to address the fact that (in some streams anyway) the church's view and use of the arts is a somewhat insular and disengaged from the larger discussions of art, whether visual language, critical theory or content. i find that the church often thinks of the arts within the context of what art can do for the church, rather than how it can function within the larger societal matrix (and that may even be utilitarian in function, which is, i think, acceptable to a certain point.)

so yes (and i think this may be indicative of the church in other areas as well) we need to be impacting culture as a whole.

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jfutral   
i find that the church often thinks of the arts within the context of what art can do for the church, rather than how it can function within the larger societal matrix (and that may even be utilitarian in function, which is, i think, acceptable to a certain point.)

so yes (and i think this may be indicative of the church in other areas as well) we need to be impacting culture as a whole.

That was part or mostly what I meant when I said "art as a subservient activity instead of an active, vital part of who we are as creations." I think the important thing in keeping the church from becoming utilitarian with art (and I do think this is an important consideration) is to eschew this materialist view of art and art making. Art isn't something to "use" in worship, either. We express worship artistically/creatively because this is part of who we are as beings created in God's image.

So then when we participate in culture as artists it isn't utilitarian, it isn't a "method" of evangelism, or a method of any kind, and culture isn't our latest evangelistic project, it is a natural part or extension of being human and relating in this world.

Something like that,

Joe

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techne   

in essence, the value of the arts and artistic expression in and of themselves?

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jfutral   
in essence, the value of the arts and artistic expression in and of themselves?

Sort of, yes. But not viewed as a self existant entity. Art is the result of humans experiencing part of who and what we are. I'm not sure exactly how to word this. The thought is running around the edges of my brain, which is a very short trip. I'll have to give it some more thought.

Joe

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techne   

an art of living? an aesthetic? a poetics? an ethic? an ethos?

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jfutral   
an art of living? an aesthetic? a poetics? an ethic? an ethos?

Being art _as_ part of our being.

Not sure how to explain this other than through example. When "the church often thinks of the arts within the context of what art can do for the church", that is art viewed as utilitarian, whether they recognize it as such or not. That is art as a tool. When we try to change the art used in church to appeal to or attract certain kinds of people, that is utilitarian. So if we think that way in the church, then we seem to want to carry this thinking beyond the church.

This is when someone says "Hey I am/want to be an artist and use my art to reach other people" or get artists to do that, that is a materialist way of thinking about art. If we want to use our art or use artists as a tool to affect the culture, then we run the risk of the art or the artist being insincere. It's a bait and switch kind of mentality. It is more concerned with learning a new technique to reach people than actually living our lives as we were created to.

Well, that sucks as an attempt to explain, too. I think it boils down to art can _become_ a tool, but if we start out trying to use it _as_ a tool, the value is diminished. Maybe not as a work of art, but there is a certain falsehood about it when the work isn't created as art, but instead as a method or technique.

Art is not a tool. It is an expression of who we are as creations of the Creator. When we worship through song and speech (and that preacher is an artist even if he doesn't recognize it, some more dramatic than oratorial), or through the art of ritual, or the art of conversation, or through the art of whatever, we are participating/partaking/acknowledging/experiencing how we were created in God's image. It is part of who we are. We can't be singing to show off, to appeal, to attract. We create to worship because that is how we can relate as created beings with a creative God.

Hollywood can offer a bit of an example, too. There are those who create to win awards or for box office hits. Then there are those who create because they can't imagine doing anything else. Occassionally this can be the same creation, which gives people like me hope.

We don't want to have an affect on culture as our latest _strategy_ to reach the world/lost. We participate in culture because we are cultural beings. We work as artists (and I don't mean just paid artists) because we _are_ artists. And that is how we affect culture, by being who and what we were created for.

But this is why I think Christianity is not a cultural phenomenom. If it was it would be tied to a particular culture and not be of value to anyone else. I don't think that is what God planned. I could be wrong. If we try to tie Christianity to a culture, then if that culture changes, where does that leave Christianity? But if we, as Christians, affect culture because we are a part of it naturally or organically, not as a "mission field", then there is no need for Christianity to figure out how to change to culture to be relevant. We're already there being a part of it, participating and exchanging ideas and love.

At the same time we, as the church, need to elevate our expectations of art, especially the art we worship through. I do think buying into a consumeristic ideal of art runs the risk of offering God our second (or third, or fourth, etc.) bests. What's popular isn't always what's the best. Not that we take a snobbish or high art view of things, but we don't accept second rate in which ever form we appreciate.

Crap. I'm still floundering here. I thought after hashing some of this out with my wife I had a better grasp of how to express this. The concept is in my head, I just can't get it to "materialize". :-)

Joe

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Chashab   

Not sure I can answer the question: a little too broad.

I attended one of the myriad of arts workshops at Urbana last week (was working, so couldn't go to more), but was a little disappointed. I didn't ask any questions because I didn't feel like the speakers could give me adequate answers based on their presentation (which wasn't ALL bad) and backgrounds.

Further, I think the whole discussion is too big in my mind and experience for me to ever pin down ONE QUESTION without any sort of context.

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techne   

well - if my proposal is too broad, then you narrow it down -- what are the areas you would like to explore? what questions would you like answers for (i never said anyone had to only have one question)? i am curious about the range of questions that are out there - from theological to theoretical to practical. did you see post #3? that didn't help either? i guess i'm just wondering what questions are out there? in the situation you described, what were some of the questions that you didn't ask that you wish you could have? is "Visual Artists: Where do we fit in?” the question? in what context? what were you hoping to explore in that seminar?

this is as much an exploration to find the right questions as anything else...

ps. i really get a kick out of the fact that your website/blog is constantly changing...fun!

Edited by techne

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Chashab   
well - if my proposal is too broad, then you narrow it down -- what are the areas you would like to explore? what questions would you like answers for (i never said anyone had to only have one question)? i am curious about the range of questions that are out there - from theological to theoretical to practical. did you see post #3? that didn't help either? i guess i'm just wondering what questions are out there? in the situation you described, what were some of the questions that you didn't ask that you wish you could have? is "Visual Artists: Where do we fit in?

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Chashab   

OK . . . I still agree with jfutral though, in that some background on the speaker would influence what and how I ask. But here are some ideas:

"How, in your opinion, did the church go from being one of the foremost patrons of the arts to disinvolving itself in the arts and culture? Was there no voice from the pulpit beseeching the Church to remain integrally involved in this gift which is from God, the gift of imagination and creativity?"

"What is the best route for the Church to take in addressing its lack of influence in culture, particularly in the arts, so that Christians in the arts might be taken seriously by culture at large?"

"Do you think the idea of 'relevance' plays into how Christians and artists of faith approach their creative endeavors? Or, should it play into the approach at all?"

"What is your understanding of how the arts and artists will be a part of the New Earth, of 'Heaven?'"

For starters . . .

What do you mean about my blog "always chaning?" Just don't follow, and am very curious :)

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techne   

it just seems that evrytime there is a link to something you are associated with it's different - or maybe i'm just connecting to a new thing involving you each time...your link in post #13 took me somewhere different from the last few times i clicked on something in your posts (whether the missionary arts or blog or whatever)

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jfutral   

Speaking of questions and I know Betty Spackman's book _A profound weakness: Christians and Kitsch_ has come up a few times, IAM-NY has posted their Tribakery Discussion group questions on their website. It is under the heading talking about starting your own regional Tribakery group. They did about 15 weeks of discussions based on her book. I got to sit in on about three of them.

www.iamny.org

Her book brought up a ton of questions.

Joe

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Chashab   
Speaking of questions and I know Betty Spackman's book _A profound weakness: Christians and Kitsch_ has come up a few times, IAM-NY has posted their Tribakery Discussion group questions on their website. It is under the heading talking about starting your own regional Tribakery group. They did about 15 weeks of discussions based on her book. I got to sit in on about three of them.

www.iamny.org

Her book brought up a ton of questions.

Joe

Link to the regional discussion helps HERE. Something I've wanted to do for some time now, but the rest of life has been just too complicated (sadly). I've been hoping for years now that CIVA would try and get regional nodes going, but to my knowledge nothing like that exists yet in their goals or structure.

Really need to get Spackman's book . . .

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Chashab wrote:

: How, in your opinion, did the church go from being one of the foremost patrons of

: the arts to disinvolving itself in the arts and culture?

As a recent convert to Orthodoxy, I wonder if this question would make any sense in an Eastern context. Religious art in the East is not merely a product that one sponsors as a "patron"; it is a prayerful act of worship, a form of "writing" out the gospel.

Sorry, don't mean to de-rail the thread or anything. But the assumption that the Church ought to be a "patron" of art seems ... odd ... to me.

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techne   

i also find that interesting, namely, that christianity as a whole is not antagonistic towads visual art in the context of the corporate gathering. certainly the orthodox and liturgical branhces embrace the arts to a greater degree than most protestant churches. of course, the po-mo/ emergent/ whatever churches embrace the arts as well (but then again, there is a real embrace of the liturgical traditions there)...hmmm. so there is also a very clear and distinct difference, even in the western church, let alone between the eastern and western church, in how the arts are approached and incorporated.

but, in response to your comment, a quick question: don't orthodox churches "commission" icon painters and stained glass artists etc to create their acts of worship for their particular churches? just wondering. perhaps it isn't patronage in the usually understood way, but aren't there schools or discipling relationships within the context of the arts used as/ in/ for worship and prayer?

Edited by techne

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Chashab   
Sorry, don't mean to de-rail the thread or anything. But the assumption that the Church ought to be a "patron" of art seems ... odd ... to me.

Ah, I guess I wasn't using "patron" in such a literal sense, but more of an appreciative sense. jfutral asks a good question of how orthodox churches perceive iconographers etc. Me, I'm not very familiar with the practice or 'denomination,' so I can't really speak to the idea any more than this.

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techne wrote:

: but, in response to your comment, a quick question: don't orthodox churches

: "commission" icon painters and stained glass artists etc to create their acts

: of worship for their particular churches?

Sure, but the point of it is not "artistic expression", at least not of the free-form, SELF-expression variety; it's closer to getting a choir to lead us in worship, or something.

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techne   

yes, but traditionally, didn't patrons of the western church (and culture in general) commission works of a specific (religious) content even until the late 1800s? and, i would argue, even today when artists are commissioned (whether by churches or not) they are commissioned to produce works in keeping with their already established 'vocabulary' and content -- it's not simply a matter of willy-nilly self-expression. my guess is that whenever a work of art is commissioned, it is commissioned for a specific purpose.

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jfutral   
techne wrote:

: but, in response to your comment, a quick question: don't orthodox churches

: "commission" icon painters and stained glass artists etc to create their acts

: of worship for their particular churches?

Sure, but the point of it is not "artistic expression", at least not of the free-form, SELF-expression variety; it's closer to getting a choir to lead us in worship, or something.

Unless you are dictating the details of how the work should be created and look (in which case I'm not sure why you would commission the work from an artist as opposed to some generic factory) I don't know that this is totally avoidable, although I get your drift. So while I do get your drift, I do think this commissioning is an important part in supporting the arts and one of many ways I think the church can be a leader in the arts by showing the importance of the arts.

But this does bring up a question in my mind, not necessarily having to do with the Orthodox. But in my encounters with protestant evangelicals, it is more often the reformers that seem to have a more holistic or accepting (?) view of the arts, well maybe from a more theological position. Can there be a reason for this?

Joe

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