August 6, 2012

belief + doubt = sanity | how art informs faith

Beginning on August 20, 2012, visitors to the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC can experience the transformative installation by influential and renowned artist (and November 2010 cover artist) Barbara Kruger. ???Belief+Doubt??? covers the lower-level lobby entry to the museum bookstore, about 6,700 square feet of surface???including walls, floor and escalator sides???covered in text-printed vinyl, surrounding viewers with lettering up to 12 feet high in a high-contrast color scheme that has become Kruger's custom of red, white and black.

According to Kruger, she is "interested in introducing doubt" into our thinking regarding power and money. This obviously ties into religious faith as well. From the faith perspective, belief and doubt has been a subject that many Christian philosophers, such as Pete Rollins for example, have tinkered with. From my perspective, for the Christian the equation is not so much belief + doubt = sanity but belief + doubt = faith. Particularly within a postmodern milieu where absolutes are nil it is broadly accepted that faith is irrelevant because all doubt. On the contrary, doubt???or 'unbelief' as it says in Mark 9 proves faith. Because if we have absolute certainty, which isn't feasible with God anyways, there is not room for trust, faith.

Nonetheless, this is meant to drive at (in part) towards the meaning of art within the realm of faith. I'm a big fan of Troy Bronsink's term "church as art" and wish I had come up with it because within the church ought to be the space where we embrace the mystery of God and imagine how the world ought to be.

Within the church, the arts are important due in great part to the artist as much as the art he or she creates. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better. " Elsewhere, Howard Zinn has written that the artist is able to ???transcend the immediate??? in order to tell us what the world ought to be like. Even Fuller???s Dr. Wilbert Shenk has lectured that the arts matter because of what the artist is able to intuit about the future. In this way, artists function in many ways like the prophets of old, using creative forms to remind us of what the world ought to be, what is to come and that there is much of life that is beyond our embrace???mystery.

If this is generally the case with the arts, one of the most critical aspects of the Christian???s involvement in the arts is contributing to the dialog of interpretation of art???s meaning. Art is always open to interpretation and interpretation is always shaped by worldviews. The Christian comes to such a dialog with a worldview shaped by Scripture. The Christian???s involvement allows Scripture to contribute to the shaping of meaning within a culture or subculture.

For example, I am a fan of punk rock which is commonly labeled anti-religious. As I've written about before, I frequently find punk???s scathing critique of organized religion to be fair. Humbly engaging in the dialog of interpreting what the art states about what is allows us opportunity to engage in the dialog of interpreting what art says about what is possible.

What about you? Do you think art appropriately introduces mystery into our expression of faith?

No comments :

Post a Comment