Avantgarde Art and Radical Material Theology
Theological thought has long been focused on the meaning to be found in our existence, but it has tended to neglect what it might offer to those seeking how to prolong and improve our physical existence in this world. In conversation with twentieth-century materialist art and thought, this book presents a radical theology that engages directly with the political and ecological issues of our time.
The book introduces a new thinker to the theological sphere, Russian avantgarde artist Liubov Popova (1889–1924). She was a woman acknowledged for her artistic and intellectual talent and yet is never discussed in relation to the twentieth-century thinkers with whom her ideas have obvious connections. Popova’s art and thought are discussed together with thinkers like Walter Benjamin, Donna Haraway, Gilles Deleuze and Paul Tillich, along with ecotheological and theopolitical perspectives. Inspired by the activist creativity of avantgarde art, the book’s final chapter, playfully yet with deadly seriousness, presents a manifesto for radical theology today.
This is a work of theological activism that demonstrates the benefit of allowing new voices into the conversations around art, spirituality and our planet. As such, it will be of keen interest to academics in Theology, Religion and the Arts and the Philosophy of Religion.
Table of Contents
Jeffrey W. Robbins
Introduction: Radical material theology and the Earth
Chapter 1. The backdrop: Theology of art from Tillich to Popova
Chapter 2. Released from Eden
Chapter 3. The things you own
Chapter 4. The Celestial machine
Chapter 5. Last thing(ie)s: Eschatology out of joint
Conclusion: Second theology: a manifesto
Petra Carlsson Redell is an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Stockholm School of Theology, Sweden. She has published multiple times on religion, philosophy and art in journals such as Studia Theologica and The Oxford Journal of Literature & Theology, and in books including Mysticism as Revolt (2014) and Foucault, Art, and Radical Theology (2018).
"Petra Carlsson Redell is unique among radical theologians. Instead of talking about creativity and imagination, she does theology that is actually creative and imaginative. Moreover, her theological discourse addresses the visual arts, also extremely rare among radical theologians. But Carlsson Redell goes even further, her work not only addresses the visual arts, but is formed by and through her engagement Russian Constructivism—one of the more radical aesthetic and political practices of the early twentieth-century avantgarde—and the paintings and writings of Liubov Popova (1889–1924) in particular. Carlsson Redell does theology, performs and improvises a theology that resembles Popova’s paintings and writings, shapes of powerful color that form a loosely yet taught assemblage composed of elements—an actual, material “thing” that works in the world—that contributes to its complexity and mystery, and in the process, perhaps even changes it."
—Daniel A. Siedell, Ph.D. art historian, educator, and curator, New York City
"Petra Carlsson Redell's new book is an illustration of what can happen when new voices and fresh perspectives are introduced into established traditions of thought. By inserting Liubov Popova, one of the most important women artists of the Russian avant-garde, into the tradition of radical theology, Carlsson Redell reframes theological ideas in ways which allow her to engage directly with current political and ecological issues. Popova helps the author rethink the spiritual dimension of matter and to address the environmental crisis, a problem which, as far as it hinges on human existence, is ultimately theological in nature. The book is both an original contribution to the field of theology through the arts and to a radical theology, which confronts boldly problems of modernity."
—Clemena Antonova, author of Visual Thought in Russian Religious Philosophy (Routledge, 2020), and Research Director of the Eurasia in Global Dialogue Programme, Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna