Art for the Audience of One

CWThe Dancer Yesterday I wrote about the artlessness of evangelistic driven film, observing that such projects are justified not by their art, rooted in God as creator, but by their intent to promote God as Savior. I pointed out that defenders of the film's artlessness would plead immunity : " The church will argue that this film should succeed because it openly proclaims "the gospel." By this they mean it explicitly includes scenes encouraging "receiving Jesus as Savior."

Predictably I received a response that attempted just such a defense, arguing that 1) I hadn't seen the film (though a respected friend had and reported on it's inadequacies artistically); 2) And reminded me that "Over 280 decisions for Christ resulted after the movie was shown at two Christian film festivals in Boston and Syracuse."

Lou Carlozo rightly pointed out that God's own creativity is not message driven: "Contrast that with the notion that the art must have a message to validate its worth. That in essence is the ultimate form of human hubris, because it amounts to telling God that He had no clue what He was doing when He made the waterfalls, or created the world. Must the beauty of nature have a "message"? A sign hung around it that says, "If you love this, then thank God and ask Him to be your savior"? Or does it touch our souls in a way that makes us thirst, hunger and pant to be close to the force that made all this incredible beauty? "Christian" artists who put the message before the art are not only putting the cart before the horse: They are engaging in prideful, blind behavior. Whether they realize it, they think they know how to advance God's cause better than God does. They are violating the roadmap through, if you will, unintelligent designs."

Evangelism requires a fallen world as its audience and aim, whereas art can be offered to God as the audience of one. Because God does not need to be evangelized art need not be encumbered by evangelistic intent. Evangelism-driven people seem unable to grasp, to paraphrase Rookmaaker, "Art needs no evangelistic justification."

Read the following poem and see in it the artist at work without a human audience, but displaying elegance for the unseen audience. This purity of art glorifies God. No need to embroider John 3:16 on the artist's gown, no need to end the dance with verbiage thanking "my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Just the glorious sense of a dancer created in God's image glorifying God through creatively dancing well.

The Dancer

David Tucker

Class is over,
the teacher and the pianist gone,
but one dancer
in a pale blue
leotard stays
to practice alone without music,
turning grand jetes
through the haze of late afternoon.
Her eyes are focused
on the balancing point
no one else sees
as she spins in this quiet
made of mirrors and light--
a blue rose on a nail--
then stops and lifts
her arms in an oval pause
and leans out
a little more, a little more,
there, in slow motion
upon the air.

6 Responses to “Art for the Audience of One”

  1. J. Mark Bertrand wrote a wonderful post on the message of God's creation on The Master's Artist, here.

  2. Paul Kiler says:

    Greetings
    For your background info on me, I am a Pastor to Artists, and a Missionary with Artists in Christian Testimony, Franklin, TN.

    The following is an abbreviated form of a chapter of an upcoming book of mine on Art and the Bible.

    Many people try to shove Art through the Great Commission. That being in essences, Go, Preach, and Make Disciples.

    Art doesn't fit at all in "Go".
    Art can and does work on some levels in "Make Disciples", as can be seen in Icons used for prayer and devotion, or used in terms of personal or corporate inspiration, resulting in the building up of relationship with God, through Art.

    But making Art "Preach"…? Art doesn't do Preach very well, if at all. The raison d'etre for Art in our concern would be that of making one think. The Holy Spirit does the drawing of the soul, not the art. Art doesn't make anyone make a decision, but it may and does help one come to a conclusion, after reflection or seduction by the Holy Spirit.

    Art fits best, outside the context of the Great Commission, in the role of the predecessor, the role of John the Baptist.

    As John the Baptist was to Christ,
    Art is to the Great Commission.

    That is the role to think of Art in, when framing it's use in the role of helping people know the saving Grace knowledge of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Preach? No.

    Make someone think? Right in there champ!

    Sincerely,
    Paul Kiler
    Art as Servant Ministries
    1 Corinthians 3:5

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  4. Some Guy on the Internet says:

    To Mr. Kiler I say: "Art" (especially with that capital A) is a lofty term all too often applied to things with no purpose or content. Stories/parables are not that at all, and so perhaps you shouldn't be lumping any storytelling medium in with the Picasso and Pollack junk that decorates modern museum walls, even if some of the same creative crafts are involved in their production.

    Sure, you may have to reinterpret your understanding of the word "go" to include communication at a distance, but I honestly don't understand why you take it as such a significant word, anyway. Paul's letters were "preaching" in exactly that way, across time and distance without traveling in person, within the technology available to him. Do you think our modern multimedia technology cannot do what words scribbled on parchment have done, if not even more effectively?

  5. Some Guy on the Internet says:

    I disagree with you man Lou, because we are referring here to Christianity. The new Testament is littered with example after example of the use of parable; meta-examples of the role of the Christ story itself in promoting the message(s) and ideas of the religion. The same God of Abraham found it necessary repeatedly to intercede personally in the lives of His people in the history recorded before, so in no way is it "human hubris" to understand storytelling as a teaching device. Unless Lou means to disregard the Christian holy writ in favor of some kind of intuited spiritualism (which is an entirely different argument).

    Now, that said, producing substandard media has no excuse. It stinks probably because these developers think that God is going to grant them a magical pass that exempts them from the simple work and study that divides amateurs from professionals anywhere outside their feel-good church group. What Christian tenet gave them that idea? None, I am sure.

  6. Some guy on the Internet says:

    "Because God does not need to be evangelized art need not be encumbered by evangelistic intent. Evangelism-driven people seem unable to grasp…"

    Blah blah blah… medieval horsey poo! All that "Art" you're metaphorically piling up on the temple altar is just as easily filed under "graven images" forbidden by on the Big rules of old Judaism and Christianity. None of this 'audience of one' malarkey is biblical. Of course, if you're pushing spiritualism there's really no arguing with you — spiritualists cede authority to nothing but their own reflection, after all.

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