Monday, July 25, 2011
Lecture One Notes: Art - From Ritual to Voyeurism
I will post some parallel comments later, but here are my notes taken during the lecture. This was a fascinating 90 minute presentation on art in history, especially art as service to God and art as antagonist to the Faith - as well as the possible future path Christians can take to recover art in and for the Church. OK, one personal side comment: inconography is inevitable - even the absence of artistic expression in the Church - bare naked space - is a statement of doctrine and an invitation to and encounter with mystery. The iconoclast is an iconographer as well.
Dr Andre Andreopolis
The Place of Art: from Ritual to Voyeurism
I. Theories of Art:
Communication (deriving meaning whether with words, sign, music, but generally non-discursive)
Definition of Space
Identification of Persons (not just uniform or vestment, but all clothing defining moment and person - saying who we are in the sight of others)
Art provides non-discursive narrative - the way of existence
II. Origins of Art
From an anthropological point of view we see art emerging as defining the foundation of human culture. Why the cave paintings? Not utilitarian! Not a how to manual for hunting. They furnish an ‘as if’ pathway - the way of imagination. This marks a differentiation in reality - the visible and the ideal.
Scripture as written within a dramatic context - the drama/re-enactment involved in liturgy.
Rituals of the Egyptian tradition; life and death of the sun, etc.
Mysteries: originally, the presence of the ritual: thus the sacrament - ‘as if’ productions, something beyond what the senses communicate. Pointing to a more complete reality.
Tragedy in drama: how metaphysical identity is being communicated. Modern psychology was founded largely on one myth of tragedy: Oedipus.
Aristotle (Poetics): tragedy is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete, possesses magnitude...pity and fear and bringing about purification (catharsis): thus it is transformational. One does not merely ‘watch’ or ‘spectate’ but participates - enters into - what is being performed.
Imitation - world of ideas/world of senses; how does imitation of a thing compare to its archetype?
In Aristotle - coming to see more clearly the archetype.
Plato: in an ideal state we would not need art, except for the military.
Art in Biblical Tradition: comes after the fall. Thus does it take it further away from paradise? No an instrument of our recovery.
The ‘as if’ is a statement of reality
notes distance but also proclaims the union of history and eschatology.
Both remembrance (imitating an action) but anticipation (mystygogy): not just in imagination but in reality entering the future.
On Icons - what was the seventh ecumenical council saying about the question, “What are we looking at?”
The Biblical command against images - noted by the iconoclasts - that is the basis of the scandal
BUT the issue is really Platonic in its origins: how does the visible connect us - if at all- with God? This is how the fathers approached the issue.
How does the icon assist in regard to mystygogy?
Same person with defense of icons is the SAME person who codified musical notation - eight modes - John of Damascus; same generation, same issue.
Arius illustrates the use of music/hymnody to instruct.
At Renaissance the ‘as if’ shifts
Use of art apart from the ritual - not for purification but for stimulation, liberating art from the Church
This caused the emergence of ‘the artist’, a ‘prophet’ but of a non-religious person. This is the genesis of the secular. 16th century sees this in particular; the artist is seen as ‘creator’.
We know very, very few names of ‘artists’ before this time in the Church - whether iconographers, painters, or sculptors.
Ancient Church had a negative view of the artist - especially within the theater (not unlike its view of soldiers). But it had a positive view of ‘the artisan’, those who serve and hence sign the work ‘by the hand of...’
Art as recovery of human person (note to self: Alan Jacobs on Nazis reading Goethe; just because one enjoys Beethoven does not make one a better person; it could be nothing more than hedonism, but on a higher level).
Stimulation of New Desire - Note Marquis de Sade, on production of desire and then the satisfaction of that desire.
The French Revolutionaries and Romantic movement enthrones and seeks to embody this ideal.
Postmodernity as heir of this movement, but primarily re-establishing distance between viewer and work: “This is not a pipe.”
Influence of Da Da.
PM brings critique of questions to modern art. But supremely it is not about the meaning intended by the artist (those this is still ‘meaning’).
The pop art of the 60s: Andy Warhol as supreme artist/prophet; as a project of self-definition, yes pop art was prophetic and ‘real’
But Monet does not simply give us an alternative view; but the pop and modern artist suggesting/telling us to look more closely at who we are and commanding us to disbelieve what he rejects.
Art that denies connection between art and life
Is it possible to continue to engage with post-renaissance styles and in the service of the Gospel and the Church?
A Recovery of the Liturgical in art as that which is ‘time-resistant’ art.
Christian art is not the same as ‘socialist art’, promulgating an idea for the masses via speech, drama, music, picture, etc. In fact, in Christian history there is sometimes art work that leads to the idea and to its proper formulation as doctrine.
Rublev’s Trinity or Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion or a Kontakion, we are allowing the ‘artisan’ freedom’ to instruct and inform us. Art remains open as a place of discovery and a means of proclamation.