Breaking Out Of Our Skulls

Dan Siedell unpacks his long fascination with modern art and connects it to his faith:

Modern art contradicts our desires. And I think that is a very good thing, given our fallen human tendency to make ourselves and our beliefs about ourselves and the world the center of The_Screamthe cosmos, to make ourselves the subjects of our existential sentences, to be, as David Foster Wallace said, “lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms.” And we want our visual imagery to feed our Old Adam’s desire to shape the world around our own beliefs and our own desires. To make art fit into our worldview.

But modern art lives in discontinuities. It contradicts our belief that artistic value is found in technical virtuosity, that its “meaning” should declare itself immediately, that looking is easy, and art is about making us feel good. It’s a stick shoved into the relentlessly spinning spokes of our incessantly spinning desire for emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic efficiency. In other words, modern art undermines our desire to make art serve our theologies of glory.

And it has taught me some things about my faith. Christianity is not a life system, helping me make sense of the world, making it transparent and explainable. In fact, it makes the world impenetrable, mysterious, and frustrating to me, creating discontinuities and sharp edges that confuse and anger me.

You can listen to one of his lectures on modern art, from which the above passage was taken, here.

(Image: “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, via Wikimedia Commons)