Vision, Voice, and Vocation

Vision, Voice, and Vocation_ Arts and Theology in a Climate for Change

We are very excited to announce that Art/s and Theology Australia will hold its first conference on 16–19 July next year.

This four-day event will provide a unique conversation space for artists, performers, creatives, academics, and activists, to consider the vital role of the imagination in today’s complex climates – social, cultural, environmental, political, racial, religious, spiritual, intellectual, etc.

It will also invite conversation around further questions: What kinds of change? What are the grounds and manner of hope, transformation, and resilience? What might the arts and theology have to contribute to such discourse and action, if anything? How do we attend to the margins of this discussion, and speak and act more holistically as communities of change?

More details here.

Please:

  1. save the date
  2. help spread the word
  3. get in touch if you would like to offer an academic paper or creative presentation

Review: ‘Vessels: Theology and the Arts Symposium’

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Why do we as humans crave acceptance and the space to be seen and heard? That was the initial driving force behind wanting to bring together like-minded individuals who share an interest in the interdisciplinary field of theology and the arts. It was out of sheer frustration and loneliness that I decided to do something about finding my theological/artistic tribe. So earlier this year, on the weekend of 12–14 July, the Anglican Parish of Woy Woy hosted ‘Vessels: Theology and the Arts Symposium’.

The goal of this symposium was to draw together theologians, practicing artists, clerics, philosophers, and poets to explore the relationships, intersections, and challenges that exist when the arts and theology come together. The three-day forum offered participants a multimodal and experiential platform to encounter the interdisciplinary interactions between the creative arts and theological theory. Over the three-day event, seventy participants listened to and interacted with five extraordinary keynote speakers, and a further seventeen short paper presentations. Additionally, those involved had the opportunity to participate in three creative workshops, listen to poetry performances, an interactive prayer space, and engage with the artworks displayed in the exhibition.

The organisation of a symposium, however, is an interesting adventure. I would first like to thank all the keynote speakers – Glenn Loughrey, Dorothy Lee, John McDowell, Rod Pattenden, and Chris Bedding – who, thanks to their wonderful contribution, and their commitment to continuing the conversation in the interdisciplinary space, enabled many others to experience a wide range of creative theological intersections. From Chris Bedding’s Pirate Faith to John McDowell’s analysis of theology and the art of popular cinema. From the confronting truths of Glenn Loughrey’s investigation of the impact of neo-colonialism and nostalgia on the perception of Aboriginal art and spirituality to the poetry of Dorothy Lee and her exploration of the transfiguration in the Gospel and poetry. To, finally, a reflection on what’s next by Rod Pattenden with his exploration of the tensions that exist between art and theology. These contributions gave us much food for thought and conversation.

Throughout the process of developing the program for the ‘Vessels’ symposium, liturgy and music was an important consideration. As I believe it is in our communal expression of praise and worship through liturgy where we are immersed at the intersection between human creativity and the grace of God. As such it was imperative to reflect on and create a liturgical space where the participants felt that the worship was not separate from the proceedings, but a natural part of the experience. The driving force behind the liturgical landscape of the event was the consummate teacher, composer, and musical liturgist Michael Mangan. Michael worked with the St Luke’s community, made informed musical choices and contributed significantly to the liturgical style of the event. His passion for liturgical music and liturgy is palpable, and one cannot but be impressed with his skills at bringing a community into the worship space.

It takes courage to walk into a theological space that is for many, outside their comfort zone. I have been asked on a number of occasions: Are you wanting to be an artist or a theologian, because surely you cannot be both? I believe, that for me, I cannot be one without the other. It is who I am, and who I am becoming. In light of this observation looking at the creative arts theologically is not just an academic pursuit, but it is in fact deeply practical in consequence and orientation. My thanks go to all participants who proposed and presented short papers, workshops, interactive prayer spaces, artworks, and poetry performances. It is heartening to hear so many people adding their voices and creative skill to this growing area of inquiry. The diversity of the creative input at this symposium was astonishing, and it highlighted the wonderful contributions of people in the fields of ecclesiastical ornamentation, poetry, philosophy, and many other disciplines.

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I would like to make special mention of Rebekah Pryor, without whom this event would not have been as well organised. Rebekah is responsible for the professional curation of the exhibition, artist statements, exhibition catalogue, and co-convener. Working with Rebekah on this project was incredibly beneficial, as creative collaboration is key to having the opportunity to challenge oneself and take on board exciting perspectives and ideas.

It is my hope that from this event further conferences, communities, grants, prizes, and conversations are initialised. I now believe I have found my tribe, and I look forward to the next event.

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ALEXANDRA BANKS IS A PHD CANDIDATE IN THE FACULTY OF THEOLOGY AT ST FRANCIS’ THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE, CHARLES STURT UNIVERSITY.

‘Jesus in Australian Art’

This richly-illustrated lecture will explore the ways in which the figure of Jesus Christ has appeared in the history of Australian Art. Some of these images will appear familiar and confirm the roles of Jesus as teacher and healer. Some of the images can be found in Churches while others appear in the private studios of artists who have been drawn to the figure of Christ as a source of inspiration. Other images will be surprising as they arise in unexpected place with artists outside the Christian faith who nevertheless bring insights about the search for spirituality in Australia. Some of these images arrive with a sense of shock as they break open expectations about who Jesus is in the complexity of our contemporary culture. This fascinating overview will explore how the image of Jesus has found a home within Australian culture while also turning to challenge its comfortable illusions.

Rev Dr Rod Pattenden is an art historian and theologian interested in the power of images. He considers that looking at art helps us see more clearly the culture we inhabit and what shapes our faith, hopes, and desires in this complex postmodern era. Rod has written and lectured widely on art and spirituality in Australia and for many years was the Chair of the Blake Prize for Religious Art. He is currently minister of the Adamstown Uniting Church where he leads a vibrant arts and community development ministry.

WHEN: Thursday 12 September 2019 at 7:30pm

LOCATION: St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, Cnr Darlington and Hillsden Roads, Darlington, WA 6070

TICKETS: Here

Conversations and Explorations with Friends by the Sea: Worship in the 21st Century

ConExp-Beach.jpgThe Centre for Music, Liturgy and the Arts (a Ministry Centre of the South Australian Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia) is running a conversational event over three days offering the opportunity to talk, explore, and think deeply and widely about why and how we worship in our churches and communities now and into the future.

When: 8–10 October

Where: St Andrew’s by the Sea, Jetty Road, Glenelg, South Australia

Presenters:

  • Libby Byrne is a visual artist, art therapist, and theologian. She will offer participants the chance to have a go at art making.
  • Malcolm Gordon is a songwriter and minister in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. He will offer guidance to those wanting to engage in song writing.
  • Mark Pierson is a minister in the Baptist family of Churches in New Zealand. He will lead sessions in curating worship and events that integrate the arts and faith.
  • Charissa Suli is one of the National Consultants in the UCA’s National Assembly’s Resourcing Unit. She will offer space to think about and create worship that encourages and honours diversity.

Key presenters will not only start conversations but also offer the opportunity to work with them in creative spaces.

For more information and bookings, visit here.

Vessels: Theology and the Arts Symposium

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As noted in an earlier post, St Luke’s Woy Woy (147–149 Blackwall Rd, Woy Woy) will host a three-day symposium (12–14 July) gathering theologians, artists, clerics, and philosophers to explore the relationships between the arts and theology.

There will be an art exhibition, poetry, creative workshops, short papers and music. The last fifty years has seen some astonishingly inventive solutions to creatively engage with theology, ecclesiology, liturgy, and the public sphere of spirituality and faith.

This three-day symposium seeks to explore the shifts in method, style, and theory found in the liminal space created when the creative arts, scripture, theology, faith and community coalesce.

The aim of this symposium is to draw people from within the Australian context to reflect, discuss and analyse the integral place of the arts in Christian expression.

Further details and registration here.

Public Lecture: Jesus in Australian Art

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This lecture explored the ways in which the figure of Jesus has appeared in the history of Australian art.

Rev Dr Rod Pattenden is an art historian and theologian interested in the power of images. He considers that looking at art helps us see more clearly the culture we inhabit and what shapes our faith, hopes, and desires in this complex postmodern era. Rod has written and lectured widely on art and spirituality in Australia and for many years was the Chair of the Blake Prize for Religious Art. He is currently minister of the Adamstown Uniting Church where he leads a vibrant arts and community development ministry.