Translating the Invisible Wind – Part Eight

by Geoff Hall on June 24, 2010

Artistic Responses in an Age of Propaganda

It is not enough to limit our artistic response to thoughts and feelings we have about God in the privacy of our studio.  It is not enough to reduce art to a utility of the establishment, or the institution.  Whether within or without of the Church, the vast majority of art is now institutionalised.  (Joking aside of mad artists being institutionalised.)  What is necessary, now more than ever is to resurrect the emaciated corpse of patronage.  Where artist and patrons meet face-to-face, share a common vision and curiosity for the development of the(ir) arts, not to serve the establishment, but to serve humanity.  And by serving humanity we will see that we follow in Christ’s footsteps.  Here’s Rookmaaker again,

“Again, humanity is not cheap. It is worth our lives, and it is for us to make something creatively of our lives, to realize the given possibilities, the human potential. And we shall stand for it so that others can enter into the same possibilities if they wish.” (ibid p158)

Such an existence, given over to creative developments for our lives, gives the possibility for others to follow.  Part of the stumbling-block for new artists, new talent, is that there are not many Christians out there who exemplify a christian spirituality in their work as filmmakers, writers, poets, artists etc. to learn from, to look at how they work, how they communicate beyond the safe walls of the institution.  I’m forever asked two questions in the mentoring of artists.

1.    How should my spirituality direct/inform my work as an artist?
2.    Who else is out there, that I may study and learn from?

This brings us back to Ellul’s opening thought; that we don’t know how to be effective, because we are ‘flooded by various propagandas’.  Whether that is of sexuality, spirituality, environment, economics, social cohesion, we are numbed into a spiritual torpor, a cultural impotence, unable to act Christianly.

Part of the answer is within this piece, offered to us by Rookmaaker.  Another part of it is human contact, because it is not just an intellectual pursuit (getting your head around it).  Not the dehumanised ‘network’, a technological metaphor added to human relationships, but through communion with one another; sharing hopes, fears, challenges and successes.  Most of the artists I know wish to work outside of the church institution.  Where are the examples for them to follow, the fleshed out, incarnational presence of artists at work in the sphere of their calling and impacting at a fundamental cultural level.  Where are the people we can learn from?  Where are the people working in film, who do not believe that redeeming the arts means making films about ‘Bible Stories’?  Redeeming the arts, redeeming film, means that our storytelling will be informed by our indwelling of the whole of the story of creation, fall and redemption, not just the religiously-loaded stories about angels, temples, Christmas and Easter.  It is never done in isolation, but by committing to a group of like-minded filmmakers and patrons.  We need to live this, flesh-it-out so that others can follow and lead their lives in creative fruitfulness.

God so loved the world, that he didn’t send a concept!

In Part NINE and beyond, we’ll be looking at a personal journey for finding friends and allies in filmmaking and the discovery of percept over concept, the prophetic imagination and the empowerment that comes from life on the margins, after the inevitable threats of excommunication!

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