NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

St. Artist. A Narrow Path and the Artist’s Pressures amongst the Art and the Religious Communities, 2019

800 x 200 cm

Minced coal, paper carpet, slackline

Traveling performance “St. Artist. A Narrow Path and the Artist’s Pressures amongst the Art and the Religious Communities” – a continuous walking/balancing event in the different cultural sites of Kaunas city (next to Vienožinskis art faculty, Putvinskis stairs, M. Žilinskas gallery, in the musical theatre yard and bar ‘Kultūra’) as a part of Gallery Weekend Kaunas 2019.

The idea derived from reflecting the 19 century’s german pietist poster “The broad and Narrow way” which moralizes the choice between the worldly pleasures and virtuous living and where all the public and cultural places are depicted on the broad way to the fire of hell. Though the picture widely spread all over Europe and it’s reproduction still hangs in the homes of the Christian families, it was strongly criticized by theologians as it’s message is far from the main news of Jesus. “For in the midst of life – with all its victories and defeats – things are different. The narrow road does not branch off; rather, it goes along with the broad road, it leads through the middle of it. Now just imagine this in the picture: the narrow road in the middle of the broad one. That is where the path of the Christian leads… <…> In the New Testament, this word is called “metanoia” and is usually translated as repentance or turning round. Turn round: in what direction? Always onto the narrow road, of course.“ (Theologian Andrea Xandry) A short text for the broader context of the work: Once at the zenith of love, in the 21st century the relationship between religion and art has become quite complicated. Not only the religious artist but everyone who has more of a radical opinion or a worldview finds themselves in this tension.

Often, the artist is expected to be neutral, at least in public, the artist should keep one’s beliefs to oneself. The artist is also “supposed to be” tolerant and avoid being opposed to the opinion of others – that’s what living in a democratic society requires. However, tolerance in biological terms is also defined as the ability to endure abnormally high levels of toxins and drugs. It may help to survive, but the fact of being toxic remains. Society is becoming less and less selective and its values become more and more amebic, substantive. An artist who practices religious faith and assigns oneself to a religious community finds himself in between two fields, on the one hand rests the ecclesiastical institution, often rejecting what doesn’t fit into certain religious frames; on another hand – the art world, averse to the bias of one truth. It’s rarely talked about the tensions experienced by an artist who is in such a situation. Here meets the fear of “ruining one’s image” (arising from the notion that participation in the art world can undermine spiritual growth) and the inability to meet the standards set by the religious community. This existence “in between” to fully committing to neither of those communities is supported by the contradiction of unjust beliefs; and the idea that somehow devotion to faith and devotion to art must be consistent and complementary legitimizes such an intermediate state.

Video documentation

Photo documentation 


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