There is so much good happening in the world of theology and the arts. At the end of each week, we'd like to share with you a few of the great things we've discovered this past week from around the internet.
Before he was everyone's favorite state-hopping, banjo-playing, science-fiction song writing, orchestral indie rocker, Sufjan Stevens was just another guy trying to get his music played on the radio. This past week, All Songs Considered's Robin HIlton reflected on the first time Sufjan's songs graced the NPR radio waves.
In the summer of 2003, I got a lengthy letter from a guy asking if we would please play his music on a show we used to do called Open Mic. It was a showcase for great unknowns. (Don't bother looking for it, it doesn't exist anymore.) The guy's name was Sufjan Stevens and he'd just put out a record called Michigan. It had arrived unceremoniously with all the other albums we'd get from unknown or unsigned artists, and I threw it in a stack to listen to on my commute.
Speaking of science-fiction, Ben Bova penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post Books Blog this past week about the essential nature of "hard" science-fiction and what the fiction genre offers the world.
I often tell people that I write historical novels that haven't happened yet. But they will, just give 'em time. Several of my earlier novels have already become history. We have flown to the Moon and built space stations in orbit. We have invented virtual reality technology, digital books, stem cell therapies. Perhaps we have accomplished sex in zero gravity, although no one has yet admitted it.
A few weeks ago, we pointed you to Alissa Wilkinson's article for Christianity Today about Last Days in the Desert, a soon-to-be-released film about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. The film premiered at Sundance last week, and more outlets are featuring stories about the film now. Matthew Jacobs, writing for The Huffington Post, interviewed Last Days in the Desert star Ewan McGregor about the challenges inherent in incarnating Christ for the silver screen.
I read, of course, some of the passages of the Bible. I read some books that have been written about Jesus, but I didn’t choose them very well. I read books that were mainly trying to take the religiousness or take the Bible out of the Jesus story and focus on who he really was, and I found them to be not of any use to me because I was playing Jesus whose father is God.
Curator Magazine ran a long review of Urban Theater: New York in the 1980s, a new exhibit at the Fort Worth, Texas, Modern museum. In the piece, reviewer Julie Hamilton explores the various artists involved in the movement and the relative effectiveness of both their work and the museum's exhibition.
Considering the idea of the theater as central to the exhibition’s thesis, we might consider its featured performance a dazzling spectacle. Artists sought to contribute pieces in the most frequented, industrial, sterile, and average city-going spaces... Thus, Urban Theatre concerns both the civic space in and where works were created and also its actors, the particularized bodies which occupied and acted on the specified stage.
If you find Contemporary Art of the kind featured in the aforementioned exhibit a little difficult to comprehend and doubt its usefulness in contemporary spirituality much less in corporate worship, the 2015 CIVA Biennial Conference might be just the place for you. The conference is called Between Two Worlds: Contemporary Art and the Church, and it will be help in Grand Rapids, MI, June 11-14, 2015. David Taylor wrote about the parts of the conference he's most anticipating on his blog, Diary of an Arts Pastor, this past week as well.
Not only are these kinds of artist mostly unknown to church leaders, they and their work cause them to regard the world of contemporary art with quizzical indifference, frustration, and even disdain. On the other, many artists lack any meaningful experience with the contemporary church and are mostly ignorant of her mission. Not infrequently, these artists regard religion as irrelevant to their art practice, are disinclined to trust the church and its leaders, and have experienced personal rejection from these communities. Clearly, misunderstanding and mistrust abound.
We discovered this fascinating improvisation between an Irish fiddler, Eoghan Neff and Benedictine monk Br. Cyperian Love from Glenstal Abbey this past week. The YouTube video above feautres one of their pieces, and the entire album can only be purchased directly from the Abbey. Enjoy the music.
It seems ballerinas and ballerinos are taking over Instagram. Katherine Brooks, writing for the Huffington Post Good News blog, shared many of her favorite Instagram accounts operated by ballerinas and ballet companies. Many of them have more followers than other athletes most would consider much more famous.
We've compiled a list of our favorite ballet and dance-related Instagram accounts, from principals and soloists across the country to the companies that document their every performance and rehearsal with the touch of an iPhone. For those not lucky enough to live down the subway line from Lincoln Center, it's pretty astounding the degree of backstage access you can get from perusing your favorite dancers' accounts.
Finally, our friend Makoto Fujimura wrote a lucid article for the Patheos Public Square on Religion and Art entitled "The Responsibility of the Artist." In it, he outlines the particular good artists could offer to the world.
Today, the "extrinsic" reality of culture has been hijacked by extreme factions; thus, the option seems limited to either that of the anarchist anything-goes freedom of an artist, or the totalitarian everything-must be-controlled-by-the-state-or-religion faction. So one lives in a tension between the anarchist ideal of drawing the most offensive cartoon possible or the religious fundamentalist opposition. There is no mediated effort to create a nuanced path toward a conversation that affirms humanity. I call this mediated approach "Culture Care," as opposed to a typical "Culture Wars" entrapment.