next year’s trip ii

Unlike the hand forgeries which preceded lithography, photography, film and audio recording, [Walter] Benjamin argues that the nineteenth and twentieth centuries placed art in an era of mechanical reproduction, which necessarily changes our perception of art itself. In particular, Benjamin argues that the “aura” of an original, “the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced” is depreciated and lost in the reproduction. Further, the authentic work of art had its original value in ritual, and what mattered was the fact of its existence (visible to the spirits) not its display before man. In the age of reproduction, however, art is intended precisely for its own exhibition since the place of its birth, such as a temple or sacred site, is irrelevant when it can be copied and placed in any context; thus an alternative cult ‘the “theology of art” for the sake of art’ is born.

from here, exploring Walter Benjamin’s book ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’

i’ve been playing around with a few ideas about next year’s UK trip today. they’re still consolidating, but they’re based in the belief that we need to be finding new ways of offering encounters with stories that are bigger than our own – and that doing that is at least as important a conversation for the church to have as what new communities of faith might look like.

i’ve been thinking about who communicates the essence of faith best to people who are disinterested or disenchanted with Christianity; about who offers a moment of hope, peace, redemption, grace to the world, and who enters into the world’s agony, tragedy, ecstasy. it’s largely artists, musicians and poets. we know that, alt worship emerged from that reality. but often, even in alt worship, we’re simply using art as a way of explaining what we already know and what we think others should believe [the same theology in a different wrapping].

i’ve been reading a lot about the process of creativity recently, mostly interviews with artists and authors. so many of them talk about not knowing when they begin how something they create will end. the shape is uncovered in its making. the artwork’s creation is a revelation, and the artist is shaped by the artwork as much as the artwork is shaped by the artist. i know that my theology and shape has been changed dramatically since i started to write about it [someone told me once that i would believe anything if it made good poetry, and there’s more than a little truth in that]. i wonder if it’s one of the reasons why anything beyond straight descriptive art is so terrifying to many christians. – that, and that we lose control of meaning with art, where we had control of meaning with words [well, we thought we did – i’ve got a whole other post about that coming up!]…

none of this might make sense. it doesn’t quite to me yet. but i’m putting it up in case it resonates with someone – and whether you can push it a bit further for me… but back to the original point of the post: next year’s trip I want to be a kind of hothouse for a group of people who want to explore this in very practical ways – and preferably because it’s in their blood, not because they think it will be good for the church…


  1. Kel

    { { { r-e-s-o-n-a-t-e } } }

    i think you hit the nail on the head with the comment, “we lose control of meaning with art, where we had control of meaning with words”

    christians are trained to believe they have to be in control
    and that they have the right to control others
    by claiming to have the only truth

    when really, christians, of anyone
    should be the best practitioners of letting go [of control] and letting God work in mysterious ways

    now wouldn’t that be good for the church :p

  2. “mostly interviews with artists and authors. so many of them talk about not knowing when they begin how something they create will end. the shape is uncovered in its making. ” — sounds like my sermon writing process.

    and yep you are right, plenty of folk tell me my sermons ain’t straight Christian 🙂


  3. I’ve had conversations with people around artists and spirituality, and the disenfranchisement of artists by the church – probably precisely because of what you speculate on, the confrontation of the uncertainty of the artistic process. why do Christians have so little courage when it comes to surrendering to the creativity of the Spirit? how can ‘christians’ (or whatever we want to call ourselves – responding to another post of yours) let go of control as Kel suggests we should be able to do, and be present with artists (poets, musicians, painters, etc.) in partnerships of discovery of the creative and surprising Spirit stirring our souls???
    I’m going to write a play and invite artists to join me in what might only be a temporary intentional community involved in offering this story to the wider community, but to be in the artistic community, the ‘church’ – or not, perhaps just fellow explorers of Spirit through art? – either way, being with artists, for no other purpose than relationship and discovery of the Sacred (as opposed to converting everyone and bringing them into church…).
    sorry, that got a little rambly – thinking as I write …

Comments are closed.