This bookexplores how four contemporary artists—Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Robert Gober, and Damien Hirst—pursue the question of death through their fraught appropriations of Christian imagery. Each artist is shown to not only pose provocative theological questions, but also to question the abilities of theological speech to adequately address current attitudes to death.
When set within a broader theological context around the thought of death, Bacon’s works invite fresh readings of the New Testament’s narration of the betrayal of Christ, and Beuys’ works can be appreciated for the ways they evoke Resurrection to envision possible futures for Germany in the aftermath of war. Gober’s immaculate sculptures and installations serve to create alternative religious environments, and these places are both evocative of his Roman Catholic upbringing and virtually haunted by the ghosts of his excommunication from that past. Lastly and perhaps most problematically, Hirst has built his brand as an artist from making jokes about death.
By opening fresh arenas of dialogue and meaning-making in our society and culture today, the rich humanity of these artworks promises both renewed depths of meaning regarding our exit from this world as well as how we might live well within it for the time that we have. As such, it will be a vital resource for all scholars in Theology, the Visual Arts, Material Religion and Religious Studies.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction: Theologies of Death in Contemporary Art
Chapter 2. Love and Death: Francis Bacon’s Crucifixions
Chapter 3. Life after Death: Joseph Beuys’ Re-enchantment of Art
Chapter 4. Fearing Death: Robert Gober’s False Blasphemy
Chapter 5. Laughing at Death: The Grim Comedy of Damien Hirst
Chapter 6. Conclusion: Living Death
About the Series
What have imagination and the arts to do with theology? For much of the modern era, the answer has been 'not much'. It is precisely this deficit that this series seeks to redress. For, whatever role they have or have not been granted in the theological disciplines, imagination and the arts are undeniably bound up with how we as human beings think, learn and communicate, engage with and respond to our physical and social environments and, in particular, our awareness and experience of that which transcends our own creatureliness. The arts are playing an increasingly significant role in the way people come to terms with the world; at the same time, artists of many disciplines are showing a willingness to engage with religious or theological themes. A spate of publications and courses in many educational institutions has already established this field as one of fast-growing concern. This series taps into a burgeoning intellectual concern on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. The peculiar inter-disciplinarity of theology, and the growing interest in imagination and the arts in many different fields of human concern, afford the opportunity for a series that has its roots sunk in varied and diverse intellectual soils, while focused around a coherent theological question: How are imagination and the arts involved in the shaping and reshaping of our humanity as part of the creative and redemptive purposes of God, and what roles do they perform in the theological enterprise? Many projects within the series have particular links to the work of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts in the University of St Andrews, and to the Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts at Duke University.
BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
- ART / General
- ART / Subjects & Themes / Religious
- PHILOSOPHY / Aesthetics
- RELIGION / General
- RELIGION / Christianity / Literature & the Arts
- RELIGION / Christian Theology / General
- RELIGION / Theology