Wednesday 2 February 2011

If, then

Alain de Botton ...

This helps us to answer what a church or a museum should, in terms of its art, be about from a Christian point of view. It should be a machine for putting before us pictures, photographs and statues that try to change us, that propagandise on behalf of ideas like kindness, love, faith and sacrifice. It should be a place to convert you.
Church window Religious art is about inspiring faith

It's this effort at conversion, at change, that interests me. I'm a complete atheist and the specific direction in which Christianity tries to change people doesn't grab me. Nevertheless, I'm very curious about the didactic approach that Christianity takes towards art. I love the way it builds museums and churches not to put pretty things in front of us, but to use pretty things to change us.

I try to imagine what would happen if modern secular museums took the example of churches more seriously. What if they too decided that art had a specific purpose - to make us good and wise and kind - and tried to use the art in their collections to prompt us to be so?

... makes people say - WTF?

I think I'm with the WTF.

1 comment:

staplegunn said...

I'm sad you feel like that.

In her piece, Higgins says "I am of the opinion that museums are first and foremost places of scholarship and learning."

I see galleries (art museums) being more like Zoos. They have captured all this live creativity in the field and placed it in cages just so people can 'observe and learn'. I think I touched on this before.

I would think most artists create their art from a place of soul (expression) to 'speak' to other people's souls, not just for future "scholarship and learning".

While De Botton's exhibition label ideas might be a little out there, the idea behind it has merit. How can galleries respect/enhance the 'spiritual' nature that the creative works were probably created/intended for?

Kind of like how Zoos now present animals in something closer to their natural environment - I'm sorry, a large room with white walls is not an artwork's natural environment (it's probably closer to a hospital or science lab environment?).

I understand the intention of 'bland' labels - a neutrality so it doesn't taint the viewer's experience, but the typical gallery viewing environment is so artificial and sterile that a bland label just seems to me to suck even more life out of the art.

I can't help feeling this all comes out of our Victorian-derived sensibilities - if you're going to show some emotion, please just do it in the privacy of your own mind, please don't show your emotion on the wall (just leave that to the artist, dear). ;-)