A Word in God’s Ear
The Rhetoric of Religion
A festival for Advent, presented by ausland and Sophiensaele.
Religion is enjoying a comeback. Popes are pop-stars and Christmas, the great struggle between charity and consumerism, is unavoidable. What is the informed culture vulture to think? Is religion good for our culture? Is it a controlling ideology, a source of self-alienation, or even a manner of political identification? Is true belief a basic human need? Is the western church a cornerstone of our society, a freak show, or an institution on the verge of collapse?
‘A Word in God’s Ear’ brings together works that contain relics, vestiges of religious ancestry, which betray, celebrate, or disown their origins - or leave them in the dark. In contrast to religion, the chosen works are rooted in the present – and there’s no need to wait on the afterlife for paradise.
Art and religion have a lot in common. Not everyone believes in it, but some believe to a fanatical degree. Art, like religion, has its cathedrals and temples, its heretics and its theologians, its popes and prophets. Art is religious and religion is artistic. ‘A Word in God’s Ear’ is therefore both a critical and missionary festival.
‘A Word in God’s Ear’ grants Advent a new meaning and makes some suggestions:
Christmas can no longer mean self-satisfied contemplation; it has to become a symbol of critical art consumerism! Art, being a symbiosis of pious irrationality and critical theory, incorporates the best of Christianity and Enlightenment.
Basic Christian concepts like the Apocalypse, ecstasy, heresy, ritual and belief are still deeply ingrained in our modern culture. Apocalyptic computer games are best sellers, we observe the ritual of the Saturday night out, have quasi-religious experiences of togetherness and ecstasy at huge concerts and football championships, and as smokers we are openly denounced as social heretics. And the sustained belief in the existence of pensions in the face of negative economic forecasts and demographic fact is really a miracle!
‘A Word in God’s Ear’ asks: does humanity need religion? Is this need for religion really not curable?
‘A Word in God’s Ear’ asks: what is art without belief? Is the art market the marriage of religion and consumerism?
‘A Word in God’s Ear’ is sending text messages from the transitional space occupied by art and religion: a layering of the ritual Christmas dinner on top of the decorating of the tree; the investigation into the power of belief as a collective illusion, with stories of sinful nuns, silent and holy nights and the shameless presentations of religion as incorrupt; a restaging of the lost holiness of dance. It straddles the Profane and the Sacred, unites the Ecstatic and the Ascetic, and listens to the heretical cries from the choir. It observes the extension of violence as humans tame animals, the spread of new religious practices, the fabrication of religious emotions through vending machines as a modern form of spirituality.
Can’t believe all this? This Advent, make a pilgrimage to ‘A Word in God’s Ear’ and experience religion in the age of its artistic reproducibility!