Inclusive – Task_02 – Faith

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Some thoughts written down…mixing-up the readings and related responses…no editing on purpose as I want to keep them as thoughts…some visual inputs…hope it flows!

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I grew up in Italy and I was brought-up as a Catholic when I was a child; art and religion were somehow always the main method and connection, even in education, to teach various catholic/christian values and histories. Major artists in Italian history actually painted, sculpted, drew only the religious scripts and human dynamic coming consequently from it. Many artists at different point of history only worked and made a living as artists because the Church commissioned them to create art that was focusing on spirituality…and power we should add. Power that was balanced for human social constructed needs; power that was given by the strength of the religious architecture, by the dimension of the paintings, by the richness of the colours on the glass-windows, by the complexity of the construction of the mosaics.

And so artistic skills in combination with religion were a way of underlining the beauty of infinite and unknown spirituality as well as framing the human condition of belief and role in society. I even remember the convent and the nuns (who I loved a lot) in my primary school time, and how the space was shaped with paintings and sculpture and floor-mosaics in the context of education too. I don’t commonly connect religion within my own artistic practice and/or academic research, but religion was strongly present at the very beginning of my education path. Christian values are present in my way of being still today, and I have family members, friends and colleagues with a variety of religious beliefs and religions/scripts to follow; open conversation and respect if key.

I also have at least three UAL students this year that are looking at religion in relation to design; in the past there were a few other students looking at religion and race, as well as visual spirituality and social construction. My way of teaching and tutoring in these cases is open as it usually is in other projects; every project needs to be taken seriously and analysed in depth. It is interesting to come to term as well with ethnographic and auto-ethnographic practices and how those can also affect the students’ experiences during their processes. In the UK I find that even more exciting as you have a multi-facet cultural society and so the different angles and perspectives can be better contextualised, maybe focusing on case studies if needed, data gathering, self reflections and visual ethnography. From what I have observed from those projects, it was a flow of questioning faith in relation to art&design and vice-versa….

…and then, connecting again to Modood and Calhoun stimulus paper, this questioning and framing and contextualising comes as well into complex thinking about how identity is formed and shaped by cultural frameworks. In a public scenario, how much space we give to discussion and exchange around the topic, how institutions approach and/or how far they believe in diversity, and how the dynamic of treatment of differences is included in daily practices and not only in a written guideline…

…a written guideline that is then reflected by a political belief of some kind, that might change from political party to political party; of course that can have different degree from country to country, but usually a right conservative perspective and a left liberal political perspective is clearly very opposite and can affect national guidelines on equality, tolerance, respect for difference, help others.

And so, here, I just want to link to that cross-connection about written truths (that is also present in BBC lecture on Creed) and how those truths are used religiously and politically to determine and to shape an ad-hoc social constructed truth. And so those scripts (not only as religious texts but also political programmes) are then interpreted in a variety of ways for power dynamics and can be used to turn people against others (see also the use of social media in relation to that) for various topics of immigration, religious minorities, new sub-cultures forming.


Then it becomes clear (at least to me) that the practice of religious values can cross-over obstacles and change (in time and in people and in ideas) that a “following” of a static textual truth cannot give. The complexity of human identity puts us in this reality of struggles…and those struggles can be faced by communication and discussion and respect and openness. And so, as I see these as key elements and ingredients for a better society, I see those as key ingredients of my teaching and learning too.


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2 Replies to “Inclusive – Task_02 – Faith”

  1. “Major artists in Italian history actually painted, sculpted, drew only the religious scripts and human dynamic coming consequently from it” – If we consider Kwame Anthony Appiah thoughts on the changing nature of religion, that over time some traditional practices, for example, slavery, becomes a thing of the past (though its not quite behind us). Should modern art institutions instill Christian principles of religion and/or art?

    1. As there is an ongoing conversation on the role of religion and in what identity, then yes, there should definitely be a contemporary art rethinking of religions in their visual depictions, concepts, aesthetics. That might also engage a rethinking of spaces and of public inclusion in religions and religious values. The more we keep the conversation flowing, the better!

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