Thursday, April 19, 2007

Spirituality in Contemporary Art

Since the fall of Modernism the art communities in more public places such as New York have on principle shunned spiritualism, mysticism, and aesthetics. It is an understandable backlash from the idealistic tenets of a hopeful culture that ultimately lead to destruction and genocide through the world wars and communist regimes in the U.S.S.R and China in the 20th century, but this cynicism has become more than a rational and healthy criticism. It has become an intellectual elitist dogma, whereby anyone caught having theological discussion, or spiritual belief is castigated from "intellectual" society. It is the practice of these individuals to refuse rational discussion on this topic. Yet I would argue that ideals, just as cynicism, are important parts of thought. Both can be dangerous and foolhardy, but both are necessary for human happiness. Absolute refusal to address important human issues on either side result in blindness, socially if not altruistically.
We are in a time where religious fundamentalism challenges the security of our common lives. It is not only far off places that are effected by fanaticism, but our own country, our own people. Ignoring religious discussion only blinds us to the complexities of the issue. There must be a place in art culture for some spiritualism. It has been a responsibility of the thinking artist to hold a mirror to society; to inspire debate and discussion; to give voice to issues that none can or wish to discuss. It has been so since the dawn of civilization in the caves of forgotten nomadic tribes.
It is hard in our pluralistic society to hold to one's ideals. We encounter more ethnic and spiritual diversity in everyday life than ever before. Globalization has greatly affected our views on the world. That is why it is more important to have a dialogue on these issues. That is why we must understand the perspectives of others. But we cannot understand others without understanding ourselves.
Through post-modernism we have lost the great dialogue on morality, and spirituality that was so prevalent in all other times in all other cultures. In this way perhaps America is, as many fundamentalists call us- a country of infidels (unfaithful). Yet we are not so, simply because they call us so. It is not because we are unfaithful to Allah, but because we are unfaithful to ourselves and our obligation to humanity.
I’m not arguing against a secular state or for the integration of church and state, I’m arguing for dialogue. It seems the only dialogue on this subject is the ridiculous argument about replacing Evolution, the Big-Bang theory, and Plate Tectonics with creationism, which is an argument of the extremes. There are moderate positions on this subject which do not preclude either God or Science, (for example check out the book The Science of God). If there were a rational dialogue occurring, this kind of fundamentalist negation wouldn’t be able to affect policy. This is the process upon which our country was founded, and it should not be silenced by condescending tones or recriminating statements that theological thought does not belong within an intellectual dialogue. Neither Science, nor secular philosophy are the sole expression of human dignity.

by Richard T Scott
Joelle-Scott Gallery

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