Weekly Round-Up, May 22, 2015

May 22, 2015

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.

Kim Kardashian recently released an art book—keep reading—komposed entirely of selfies she has taken over the past eight years akkompanied by short sentences describing the kontext of the photographs. Megan Garber, writing for The Atlantic, konsiders the impakt of Ms. Kardashian and what her kind of fame means for the kontemporary world.

The selfies compiled in her book may be harbingers of arrogance, or of insecurity, or of some combination of the two; what they also are, however, is evidence of an insistent materialism, of the conviction that one’s "look" is not a fleeting thing, but rather a thing that can be made into media. (Bedroom selfies: "Right before bed but you know your makeup looks good so you have to take a pic.") This is industrial production, applied to one’s appearance. Kim is inventing, in her way, a new strain of capitalism. Its currency is the selfie.

Moving on to more traditional, less Kardashian forms of Contemporary Art, Taylor Worley, writing jointly for The Curator and Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA), explores the particular hospitality of Felix Gonzales-Torres' various "curtain installations."

Why curtains? Why make emptiness perceptible with these forms? A few answers could be given. We could probe Gonzalez-Torres’ reliance on the strictures of minimalism or the appropriation tactics of the readymade, but perhaps the emotional resonances of the work are more central. Curtains are emblems of domesticity; they invoke a sense of home, a place of rest, like a bedroom or its surrogate in a hotel or a hospital. These curtains merely suggest such associations without dictating anything, but if they are there, then what should we feel? Should we feel an acknowledgement of loneliness? Do we find here some room for grieving–for feeling our losses and mourning them? This, it seems, is the very invitation he offers.

If the idea of contemporary art makes you uneasy, consider attending CIVA's Biennial Conference at Calvin College June 11-14. If the cost scares you, they have a special discount for pastors and other church and minstry leaders. If you don't see the need for such a conference, our own David Taylor explains the need on his blog.

It is an understatement to say that the church and the contemporary art world find themselves in an uneasy relationship. On one hand, the leaders of local congregations, seminaries, and other Christian networks often do not know what to make of works by artists like Banksy and Chris Ofili, or Marina Abramovich and Barbara Kruger. Not only are such 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.

If you're looking to Netflix your weekend and you like a good superhero yarn, you might consider the Netflix Original series Daredevil. The blind justice-deliverer has always been an explicitly Catholic character, and the new series keeps that constant. Jason Byassee, writing for The Christian Century, recently looked at the particular aspects of Catholicism Daredevil susses out.

The show uses Catholicism to strengthen the picture of Daredevil as an ordinary guy. At one point Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie) asks Dare­devil how he’s holding up. “Like a good Catholic boy,” he says. “That bad, eh?” Father cracks. Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), his nurse and collaborator, marvels at the amount of punishment Daredevil can take without complaint. “That’s the Catholicism,” he smirks. Claire’s only memory from Sun­day school is that the martyrs, saints, and saviors “all end up bloody and alone.” And there’s running conversation with Father Lantom about the origin and nature of the devil.

In the above video from The Criterion Collection, someone asks famed Russion filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky what he'd like to tell young people. Below is a translation of his full response:

I don’t know… I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to be spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.

Seven first-year MFA students at the University of Southern California quit jointly this past week. They wrote an open letter explaining why. New Yorker reporter Roger White reports on the story that brings to light many of the challenges facing arts students in today's world.

“We quickly came to understand that the M.F.A. program we believed we would be attending was being pulled out from under our feet,” they wrote; prolonged negotiations with the administration had left them feeling “betrayed, exhausted, disrespected, and cheated.”

Rather than end on that discouraging note, we'd like to leave you with something beautiful. Above is an embedded song from yMusic, a six person classical ensemble that mixes orchestral and pop styles to make a remarkable sound. The above track, "Proven Badlands," is free to download off yMusic's Bandcamp page. There you'll also find their latest album, Balance Problems. Enjoy.

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