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Art and Media in Theological Discourse

High-quality art casts doubt on the self-evidence of existence. This is nothing new; in fact, since the earliest proven existence of works of art, part of the creative process lies in producing something that points beyond the mere existence of the creating individual. Indeed, it radically questions the familiar and what is all too easily accepted.

Art, therefore, has the potential to irritate and disturb. Works and art projects that do not exploit this potential are simply decorative. Equally, those that serve exclusively to irritate and rely only on provocation negate a person’s need for beauty and harmony. However, those works that succeed can radically engage the viewer: “For here there is no place / that does not see you: / You must change your life!” (R. M. Rilke).

It makes no difference which art genres is used: painting or literature, music or multimedia presentation – the decisive factor is the challenge posed by the work; the viewer can’t simply ignore it and carry on as usual. Through this potentially forced, even painful interaction, a person can unlock a new dimension of existence, leading them to realise that they are neither alone nor at the centre of the universe. Art thus uncovers a remarkably communicative and enormously meaningful potential – it is one of the most valuable dialogue partners for theology.

Establishing and maintaining contact with appropriate institutions is also essential to prevent reflection from remaining entrenched in theory. The various museums in Graz, the Cultural Centre at the Minoriten Church, the Catholic University Community (KHG) in Graz – active in many pockets in the field of art and culture – the numerous networks with the diocesan and Austria-wide committees for sacred art and church music all link reflection with listening, contemplation and interaction.

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