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Thursday, 4 January 2007

Through a Glass Lightly

Yesterday's Times2 carried an article on The New York-based artists, The OpenEnded Group and their digital reconstruction of York Minster's Great East Window. The window is undergoing restoration, courtesy of a National Lottery grant, and is current;y under wraps, not to mention scaffolding. For a few weeks, though, the public will be able to see it in its computerised reinterpretation. One phrase in the article caught my eye particularly, a quote from a member of the group: "None of us is religious, but we ended up making a religious work of art."
I wondered briefly if it would be possible to make a work of art that was not religious. I guess it might, but that would all depend on your understanding of the word. To me "religious" implies that something is going on that is not wholly physical - though that need not be taken to imply that something is going on that is not physical. Usually, it means that somehow the physical has acquired a non-physical dimension. (Hey, isn't the universe's supposed fourth dimension, time, non-physical? Or doesn't that count?) So, if the human mind can posit such a creation, it should be able to posit other non-physical dimensions, should it not?
For me, visual art without that extra dimension is decoration; poetry or prose without it has something akin to decoration: rhyme rhythm, assonance, storytelling, or whatever, but I find myself looking for that extra dimension, that value-added dimension, and being disappointed when I do not find it. It is the inexplicable that eventually makes sense of life and brings sense to life. In life it is always there, lurking beneath the surface. Art exposes it. It is the ghost in the machine, the numinous in the secular. Have a look at my last blog, The Day was Green: Wallace Steven in "The Man with the Blue Guitar" argues that poetry should take the place of out-dated religion - "empty heaven and its hymns". And how will it do that without the presence of something not wholly physical?
Or do you see it differently?

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