8.15 am: I quickly remastered the sound file that I’d be presenting at the Art & Religion symposium today. The upper frequencies needed to be sharper for internet delivery. This mode of delivery is a first for me; I was thinking on my feet. Emails were dispatched in the background throughout the morning and afternoon. There are too few opportunities these days to undertake one thing, and one thing alone. I re-read my text in conjunction with the PowerPoint presentation, with the aim of trimming one minute off the content. Although I suspect that, what with all the technical glitches that could occur throughout the proceedings, the day may fall behind its timetable. ‘Disable the sound notifications on your PC, John!’.
10.15 am: Zoom gate was opened.
I enjoy hearing up-and-coming young scholars and practitioners; I learn a great deal from how others engage with audio-visual technology. The medium is a transparent veil between the speaker and audience. This ‘instrumentation’ can get in the way; but with imagination, the means can be overcome and redirected to creative and interpretive ends.
2.00 pm: ‘Kick-off’ (5 minutes late). My pitch, as seen by an audient:
At the very least, I’m not longer a Zoom virgin. I’ve a handle on it now. It’s not as smart as Teams, though. If you’ve any hope of delivering a presentation professionally, an investment in proper ‘kit’ is essential. Next on my shopping list: a higher-resolution camera that can better compensate for bright-light sources.
Inevitably, some papers came closer to my own domain that others. In response to one presentation that drew attention to criticisms levelled at her and other Christian students for making theologically-laden art work, I commented:
I know a Jewish former Royal College of Art student who received the same criticism, as did you, for engaging spiritual themes (and the landscape genre, too). It struck me as a very parochial outlook on art, as well as betraying an appalling ignorance of one of the most significant roots of art in the past. Art could be about anything but religion.
The afternoon’s presentations had, to my mind, far more coherence and challenge than those delivered in the morning.
Other artist’s/scholar’s tensions between art, faith, and secularism have never been my experience. I don’t call myself a Christian artist. I’m a Christian and an artist. The subject matter that I’ve dealt with since 1999 has been exclusively biblical texts and culture. But, I suspect, my approach to it would be the same even if I’d had no faith. (Although, I don’t know what my motivation would’ve been.) There’s no ambition to understand my faith through art, and little insight has been gained from the application of my faith to art. However, art and faith aren’t either separate or separable; because they’re united within me — in a mysterious way that I accept, rather than wish to also understand (if that was even possible). For me, that’s sufficient. Art is the common ground between religion and secularism. And with that I’m content too.
7.30 pm: Back to proper work. It had been a rich day of sitting at the feet of other’s. However, the mundanities remained. I wanted to clear some in order to have a day to myself in the studio tomorrow. (In the background: Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium.)