Wednesday, September 12, 2007

“Economy of the icon”

Christian Art Goes Back to School by Daniel A. Siedell
I have begun to think seriously about the icon as a place to begin a Christian contribution to contemporary artistic discourse. Nicaea II, the seventh and last (so far) of the so-called ecumenical councils in 787 declared not merely that the veneration of icons was allowed, but they were mandated in order to preserve the hard fought Christological and Trinitarian battles of the previous four centuries. (If you have any doubt about how tenuous and hard fought and far from inevitable those battles were, read John Behr’s two-volume study, The Way to Nicaea (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.)
The thought generated during these four centuries, particularly those of the Eastern Church, and which culminates in the dogmatic affirmation of the robust “economy of the icon,” is fertile ground for reflection on contemporary art. I must also confess a certain weakness for the Russian Slavophile philosophers, Pavel Florensky (1882-1937), Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), and Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900), with their evocative (and at times controversial) reflections on Divine Wisdom, “God-manhood,” and “total unity,” which derive from pushing the implications of Nicene Christianity and have been most helpful in reconfiguring ways that contemporary art can be understood. (I am at the moment reading Florensky’s magisterial and mystical The Pillar and Ground of the Truth [1914].)
I am not interested in offering another “Christian perspective” on modern and contemporary art, or offering one that is strictly “confessional,” that is, a perspective that is “Lutheran,” or “Reformed,” or even “Evangelical.” The goal is not, in scholastic fashion, to add another brick or two to a confessional edifice. It is rather to contribute to understanding the development of modern and contemporary art, which I believe can benefit from the language of early Christian thought. This approach affirms as well as challenges aspects of “secular” approaches to modern and contemporary art. Moreover, it also simultaneously extends and critiques various “Christian perspectives” on modern and contemporary art that are operative in (Evangelical) Christian intellectual circles... Posted by geoff holsclaw Technorati Tags: , ,

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