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Modern Reformation Conversations--Paul On The Road To MoMA (Part 1)

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It’s a pretty big anachronism, but it’s an interesting question—if Paul went to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, what would he think?  How would he interact with Kerstin Brätsch’s Matchpoint?  What would he have to say about Cheyney Thompson’s Chronochrome Set 10?  How would Christians today interpret Alfredo Jaar’s Lament of the Images or Rachel Harrison’s Alexander the Great?

Americans tend to be somewhat befuddled when it comes to art—we understand it as an outlet for creativity (Pinterest!) and readily assent to its therapeutic value, but certain art critics would question our ability to understand and dialogue with modern art on its own terms.  Countries like France and Italy as well as Egypt and Turkey guard their art as priceless national and social treasures; Americans look at the works of Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock and are either confused or appalled that soup cans and paint drops are considered monuments of human creativity.

There’s a reason for this difference (which, for brevity’s sake, I won’t go into here), and it’s a good reason—the question that we want to discuss is, ‘What are Christians to do with modern art?’  Is it OK if it’s not obscene?  What’s obscene?  Is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus pornographic—if so, is all nudity verboten?  What about violence?  Francisco Goya’s The Third of May is stark and violent, but so are Quentin Tarantino films—is OK to look at the former, but not the latter?

We sat down with Dan Siedell, visiting professor of Christ and Culture at Knox Theological Seminary and author of God In The Gallery (Baker Academic, 2008) to discuss Edvard Munch, Thomas Kinkade, and the importance of listening.  Enjoy!

P.S. If you want to read more of Dan's work on popular Christian art, you should click this.

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  • Dan Siedell does an excellent job in describing art from a Christian perspective. That with art, we have a choice to express the ideal or the real, the world we want or the world that is, to express or enjoy for amuse or for reflection. What we have to be warned of in each of the latter cases is the distastefulness or confusion that comes with the real, the world as it is and art for reflection. But a bigger warning should be given for each of the former cases because they prevent or remove us of what it means to be human.

    An additional challenge for us Christians is the result of our tendency to favor literalness over abstraction. Whereas our muscles for appreciating literalness are overdeveloped, our muscles for appreciating abstraction are underdeveloped and this prevents us from understanding art that is meant for reflection rather than amusement.

    A few years ago in the Ukraine's Got Talent contest, there were are number of performers who performed some artistic talent for amusement. But the winner was Kseniya Simonova who used sand animation to tell a story of couple during WW II. The link to her performance is here. She was encouraged by the organizers of the event not to perform this piece but she did anyway. And what she did was make people feel some of what it was like in WWII for the Ukraine. In other words, she performed real art. BTW, she easily won the contest. In the av link of my blog, I have the a link to her tribute for the victims of Chernobyl. It is called eternal tears.

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  • [...] to the ScreamDan Seidell Paul on the Road to MOMAWHI Blog The Reformation & The ArtsGene Veith WHI Discussion Group QuestionsComing [...]

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