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May 14, 2012

7

Towards an Integrated Christian Imagination

by quaesitor
David Hockney working outside

It was a joy to be able to spend a couple of hours with members of the CU at London’s University of the Arts on Thursday evening, giving a talk on this subject. Sarah Dargue has already done a really good job at summarising the key points over at the Interface Arts page (if you’re an arts student, definitely worth keeping an eye on that blog). But here is my talk outline, so that you can get some of the key quotes and references, plus my slides.I had a lot of fun working on it. And deliberately tried to include people from all kinds of different fields of creativity. So I drew from:

  • Visual arts: Hockney on Picasso & Monet, Rouault & Toulouse-Lautrec; Stalinist propaganda
  • Poetry: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Joyce Kilmer
  • Music: Miriam Jones, T-Bone Burnett, Brian Eno & Shostakovich
  • Fiction: Flannery O’Connor, Tolkein
  • TV: Mad Men
  • Art Critics: Calvin Seerveld, Steve Turner
  • Theology: Paul (Rom 12:1-2 & Phil 4:8-9) plus a bit of Luther!

The main thrust in seeking to encourage integrated imagination as essential to the Christian artist’s discipleship, it struck me as necessary to inspire what we might call a prophetic vision. Which I think means at least three (but probably many more) things as follows:

  • TRUTH: Exposing the False, Reflecting the Real
  • BEAUTY: Exposing the Idolatrous, Reflecting the Wondrous
  • HOPE: Exposing the Baseless, Reflecting the Future
So here are the talk and slides:
7 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 15 2012

    Thanks Mark, I really enjoyed and appreciated reading this!

    A lot of what you’ve said seems to apply more naturally, or easily to more strictly ‘creative’ expressive arts, where as I would say that my discipline is more ‘re-creative’ and interpretive – do you have any thoughts on that, and how some of these ideas might apply within that somewhat different, and perhaps more restrictive framework?

    Reply
  2. May 16 2012

    Hi Andy
    thanks for your comments – and you’re absolutely right. I was acutely conscious as i was writing that this doesn’t address those who are performers or re-creators. I would love to do some thinking about that in due course (so any suggestions you have would be very welcome).
    My hunch is that it would revolve around issues of faithfulness to authorial intent, the possible tensions between personal integrity and artistic veracity, the importance of empathy and understanding others’ human experience, as well as all the other issues of technical proficiency and honing skills etc.
    What do you think? Is there anything good to read on this?
    Mark

    Reply
    • May 19 2012

      Thanks for this Mark.. I’ve been mulling over it the last few days.

      It’s interesting that you bring up authorial intent, as there seems to be two views on that. On the one hand there’s the authentic praxis advocates, particularly in early music, and then there’s the “regie” theater where the director’s Konzept is king, and often involves deconstruction and a search for (addition of) parallel ideas. There’s merit in both approaches, IMO.

      In my job, at least, there is not always room for freedom of programming – perhaps in song recitals, but generally speaking, I get cast in what my boss wants me to do, and even most freelancers would be pragmatically restricted to taking the work that comes, at least in the beginning.

      I suppose that theatrical performers generally are playing characters, and that would certainly come into the realm of human experience & empathy. It’s easy to see how one might play Vaughan William’s ‘Pilgrim’ or even Britten’s ‘Billy Budd’ (the Christ-type is pretty explicit for him), but how does one think about, for example, the small part of Marullo in Rigoletto? (which is what I was thinking about during the overture the other evening, only to be completely humbled when my gun fell out of its holster as I ran onstage).

      Another aspect might be how stories “work” – scripture is full of stories, and indeed, an overarching meta-narrative. How does storytelling fit in with how God works within creation?

      I’ve only just started to really delve into this whole area of thinking, apart from reading Francis Schaeffer’s ‘Art & the Bible’ when I was an undergraduate (which forced a huge paradigm shift for me) – am slowly plugging through Jeremy Begbie’s ‘Resounding Truth’.

      Reply
      • May 25 2012

        Thanks so much for your comment, Andrew. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I think you have some very interesting perspectives on this and so would love to hear from you more on this.

        But one thought occurs to me that could be fruitful to develop – and that is the notion of the performer being a servant, whether of the original creator or the director. If one is in a company (e.g. opera or theatre house, an orchestra, or quartet etc), is there not also the sense that one is serving one’s fellow performers as you all work together for a whole? This includes the unspoken codes of not upstaging others, of working as hard as colleagues for the shared vision (however minor a part), but still bringing one’s best creativity to the table. How does that sound to you? Servant-heartedness is not a virtue most commonly associated with performing artists, but actually isn’t it essential to even the greatest, at their best? And that of course has all kinds of redemptive resonances…

        I think the stories side of Scripture is crucial. I’ve really enjoyed Brian Godawa’s Word Pictures, reviewed here:
        https://markmeynell.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/brian-godawas-word-pictures-another-plea-to-read-well/
        He’s writes screenplays so knows a thing or two about stories. I’ve not read, but mean to, Richard Pratt’s He Told Stories, which does something similar.
        How this then affects preaching is picked up in Jeffrey Arthurs, Preaching with Variety.

      • May 30 2012

        Thanks Mark, helpful thoughts.

        the notion of the performer being a servant… Servant-heartedness is not a virtue most commonly associated with performing artists, but actually isn’t it essential to even the greatest, at their best? And that of course has all kinds of redemptive resonances…

        Indeed!
        In that sense then.. while we may not frame the discussion, so to speak, we are certainly integral to developing it and exploring the issues. We are part of a bigger whole, as you say. It’s a collaborative approach. I think that means we have a responsibility to dig into what the writer / composer has given us, to explore the possibilities of the material – how does it comment on us, on society etc.

        Speaking of the story aspect of Scripture, did you read this by Alistair Roberts on Scripture as Performance? What do you think?

  3. Jun 1 2012

    great talk, Mark. I downloaded the pdf and I think the concentric circles are a very helpful way to evaluate work. O’Connor is a master at the Values type of world and describing a frightening yet real scenario. The Misfit, for example. Maybe there’s something about demonstrating the need for justice? Many of Christ’s parables do this, I think, like the Vineyard Owner in Matthew 21.

    Reply

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