Arts & Culture

Arts & Culture - Shibboleth, the new exhibition in the turbine hall at the tate modern. a crack runs the length of the hall  - by Jonny BakerShibboleth, the new exhibition in the turbine hall at the tate modern. a crack runs the length of the hall.
Photo by Jonny Baker
In the last decade the art world has boomed, some would even say exploded. It also has become more accessible to the general public and become a more integrated part of society. Does that matter? I think it does.

When the center of influence in culture moves from over here to over there I think it is important to know why, to understand why. If you are no longer the host of the party it is good to be a guest. And I would suggest maybe even better. You may have less control, but your position is more humble… you are an honored guest.
Do you see that I am drawing a natural parallel between the art world and the church?

For centuries the church was the patron of the arts and it hosted the parties and the unveilings, it directed the conversations. It told the painter what to paint and then people talked about it, interpreted it.

With the advent of the printing press there was a seperation between the art world and the church. The church became enamored with the word. The mystics, poets, artists still needed something more aesthetic. At this point there might have been less money and less support but they could explore more of their own questions and respond more to what was happening in the world.

We live today in an increasingly visual world where art plays a dominant role. While certain sectors of the cultural landscape are “dumbing down” their offerings, there remains a sizable viewing audience that seeks to challenge tired, conventional ways. This has only gone to create a greater divide between religious institutions and the art world.

The rift has today become so complete that some say contemporary art has become a kind of alternative religion for atheists. However, in the introduction to Speaking of Faith, Krista Tippett makes the point that “spiritual questions don’t go away, nor does a sense of wonder and mystery cease, in the absence of a belief in God”. Those spiritual questions demand answers. As the church has withdrawn from engaging people in spiritual questions, the Art world has become a primary platform for investigating spiritual inquiries. The artists, mystics, and poets of our day wrestle in the open public spaces with questions of eternity, faith, hope, and justice - trying to make sense of the world and bring meaning to their lives.

The art world could be considered “ a “symbolic economy” where people swap thoughts and where cultural worth is debated rather than determined by brute wealth.” It is about experimenting and about ideas. And while the church has become more committed to Truth, the art world I think engages much more in the arena of questions, challenges and feelings. Which in a day when emotional intelligence is being given more credence no wonder it is this world that is shaping our culture and our conversations.

“Eyes and ears to see beauty, to attend to poverty, to seek justice—these strong, recurrent biblical themes are often missing from our public discussions about ‘moral values’” but they are alive in the communities of artists and cultural creatives around the world.