Translating the Invisible Wind – Part Seven

by Geoff Hall on June 6, 2010

In Part Two we read the quote from Tarkovsky:
“The artist has no right to an idea to which [they are] not socially committed, or the realisation of which could involve a dichotomy between [their] professional activity and the rest of [their] life.”  (Andrei Tarkovsky, “Sculpting in Time” 1986, p188.)

This is the first step to leaving the institution behind and understanding something of a Christian view of the artist-at-work in society.  If we understand that whilst prayer for the pious is ‘the work’, please note that Adam and Eve weren’t limiting God’s call to work in Eden as praying about creation, or pro-creation for that matter.  They were very earthily concerned with those things.  Adam greets Eve with a poem, not a prayer or list of ‘women’s work’ which could now be done, not even a prayer list for ‘spiritual warfare’.  They learnt about cultivation as much as procreation, about imaginative responses to all sorts of stimuli: physical, visual, spiritual, aesthetic, social, worshipful and playful.
This is hands-on playful, imaginative, animated, tactile stuff.  Imagine the playfulness of cross-pollination, the aromas of Eden, the climate that allowed them to walk around naked!  They understood God’s call to them as responsive and responsible, as well as resonant with the potential all around them.  It was an environment where the ‘artist’ could flourish, uncluttered by ‘man-made’ systems for righteous living and art-making.  Then comes disaster, for as soon as man’s design replaces Godly worship, there is jealousy and murder, ending in expulsion from Paradise.

In this world East of Eden, what should our creative response be, what should our focus be?  What should claim our attention?

Rookmaaker informs us of three responses of the Christian who is an artist.

Rookmaaker – Modern Art & the Death of a Culture p157-159 ‘The Complete Works of Hans Rookmaaker’.  Edited by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker.  Publish by Piquant Editions, 2003.

•    Three modes that Christian Art should concern itself with:
•    Freedom – from oppression in the guise of extremism or conservatism.  Not just ‘freedom from’, but a ‘freedom to’.  A positive faith for change.
•    Humanity – restraining dehumanising forces such as male domination, pornography, mechanisation i.e. humanity as machine, etc
•    Prophetically – protest & revelation: being critical of the times whilst offering a new vision for the future.

Here is the hub of Rookmaaker’s thoughts beyond the bullet point:

“Our calling is also to be critical of our times. Christians are called to speak prophetically. To hunger and thirst for righteousness means that we shall never just defend the established order of the day. It might be the easiest way; taking new paths, or paths that may be different from the traditional ones, means taking risks and giving energy, time, and involvement. But even if defending the establishment is often easy, it cheapens us and leads away from our calling to fight for what is right, for justice, love, beauty, truth. Christians should never be conservative simply for the sake of conformity, of conserving the established order for its own sake. We must be critical.” (p158.)

This is not prescriptive, but a starting point for assessing our work as artists.  Remember, Tarkovsky tells us there can be no dichotomy between our work and our faith.  There is not a private sphere for faith and a public sphere for work and play.

Therefore, we need to understand who we are, what can ensnare us and what the ‘norms’ are for human life; creating, procreating, Creation’s consummation i.e. the end game.

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