Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

At the present moment, perhaps more than ever, images pervade social life. We perceive but also have the capacity to produce and see more and more images. We are confronted with such questions as: how do we believe in images, how do they acquire their importance as public objects, and how is their status produced? These are related to further questions around the power of images—not only their iconic or symbolic power, but also the power mechanisms around images, related to their display...

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Introduction: Situating Contemporary Art and Religion

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pp. 1-15

Walking into one of the exhibition rooms of Bozar (the Palais des Beaux-Arts/Centre for Fine Arts) in Brussels in the autumn of 2010, I was puzzled by a sculptural work that offered a strangely familiar, yet enigmatic, image. Helix DHAACO, 2008, by Wim Delvoye (1965–), is part of a series of sculptures consisting of black crucifixes joined to one another in a chain and twisted to form a double helix (Figure 1). The work was included in his solo exhibition Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, 2010–11, which also featured his laser-cut steel Gothic tower installed on the roof, a scale copy...

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1. Veronicas and Artists

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pp. 16-42

The repositioning of contemporary art with regard to the past—a past that was dominated by religious images—cannot be conceptualized solely as a movement of emancipation, as breaking with, and even breaking of, the older, religious image. The difference between religious and nonreligious images, besides being decided by their subject matter, is determined by the specific time period and context in which they are produced and circulated, and it is characterized by specific rules of image production and image...

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2. Breaking the Religious Image: Reinventing Religion in Art

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pp. 43-65

Throughout the twentieth century, artists often took religion as a subject matter in its own terms, to interpret religious motifs in works produced in and for a secular context. There are many possible accounts of the relationship between religion and art in the last century. The volume of material means that there will be as many versions of such an overview as there are authors, each of whom will have his or her own reasons to highlight different moments, national contexts, and artworks. The overview might focus...

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3. Between Critical Displacements and Spiritual Affirmations

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pp. 66-97

The first half of the twentieth century was characterized by a major shift in the mutual positioning of art and religion, both institutionally and aesthetically. When artists were commissioned to create works for church interiors, in many cases they completed them in a manner similar to the way they completed commissions from other public institutions. The personal religious beliefs of the artists in many cases were considered to be of little importance.1 On another level, however, religious iconography has had a continued presence within the work of numerous...

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4. Images between Religion and Art

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pp. 98-126

Contemporary artists deal with or refer to religious themes and motifs in a multiplicity of ways. Their works do not usually function in religious contexts and cannot be described as “religious art.” Instead, many contemporary works are about religion and its practices, concepts, ideas, and images in the sense that they thematize its continued cultural relevance. A number of group and solo exhibitions offer evidence that curators are becoming increasingly interested in the controversial issue of religion and its role in the contemporary art scene. Yet as Dan Fox observes in a special...

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5. The Video Veronicas of Bill Viola

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pp. 127-150

Religious themes and motifs are present throughout the different periods of the work of the American video artist Bill Viola and appear in a variety of ways.1 He has said that he does not practice any particular form of religion, but is very interested in religious art and spiritual experiences related to various religious traditions, and mysticism in its different versions: Islamic, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist.2 Usually his installations invite viewers into immersive environments of sound and image, charged with emotion, and centered on such threshold moments of human existence...

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6. Images That Do Not Rest: The Installations of Lawrence Malstaf

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pp. 151-170

Belgian artist Lawrence Malstaf (1972–) creates installations that invite the viewer to enter interactive environments and to become actor and spectator at the same time.1 He has also created works that rework images from the past—portraits and sculptures, which are often literally set in motion. Malstaf studied industrial design and, during the early stages of his career, he worked with choreographers creating scenographies for their pieces.2 Several of his installations borrow religious motifs: Sandbible, 1999, is a book with pages cut to create a hollowed space filled with sand, laid open...

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7. Illusionism Cut: The Painting of Victoria Reynolds

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pp. 171-183

Victoria Reynolds (1962–) is an American painter working with the rich symbolism of flesh. She frames her paintings of raw flesh rendered in very precise detail in ornamental rococo- style frames, which she usually overpaints. Her works have a strong, almost visceral presence and many of them resonate with religious themes, the most evident of which is the Incarnation, the sacred and sacrificial meaning of flesh. She is an artist working with what Eleanor Heartney calls incarnational imagination, and arguably her work shows interests similar to those of Andres Serrano or...

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8. The Body Recast: The Sculpture of Berlinde de Bruyckere

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pp. 184-204

Recurring themes in the work of Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere (1964 –) are the fragility of the human body, its mortality and suffering, and such states as loneliness and intimacy.1 She is also known for her sculptures made out of the taxidermied bodies of horses, usually without heads and rendered into unnatural and deformed shapes. De Bruyckere is inspired and infl uenced by a variety of visual sources, from images circulated in contemporary mass media to religious art. On several occasions she has shown her sculptures together with a painting that has inspired...

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Conclusion

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pp. 205-208

Religion is still present in the life of contemporary Western societies in a variety of ways: as a mindset for some, an authority that shapes ways of living and the everyday, as a political factor, and also, given that it was an integral part of the past, as an object of critical reflection and study. Our secular condition itself is to an extent the outcome of the transformation of religious institutions and their structural role in public life. In this sense, there is a continuity that cannot be disrupted, and the return of religion as a topic within contemporary art is a part of this story. Numerous exhibitions...

Notes

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pp. 209-250

Bibliography

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pp. 251-260

Index

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pp. 261-268