Art and religion

11 February, 2012

Art that changes meaning keeps on to fascinate me and I saw a good example of it the other day.

I was at the British Museum the other day with a couple of Swedish friends that had never been there before. It seems like a rule, that one has to visit the British Museum and look at all the old things the British Empire has stolen from all over the world. Sorry but that is what it is. Stolen goods and all the rest of it. an instruction manual in empire building.

As we were wondering around the Egyptian/Greek/Babylon/Roman/Old Shit department I noticed a man on his knees in front of a Egyptian statue. I couldn’t really see what he was doing initially as there was people blocking my field of vision. For a second I thought the man was bowing in respect for this ancient piece of art and presumably religious artifact (as most of the art from early civilisations was about either religion or showing of ones masculinity, see Babylonian art and you’ll get what I mean with masculinity show off. Look at those beards people!). What I thought was faith/respect/awe was however a hunt for the perfect angle. The man was on his knee with his massive Nikon camera and wanted to get a cool closeup of this 3000 year old piece of stone to show for friends back home.

What if the ancient Egyptians could see us now? I am not downgrading the man’s want of taking a good picture, we all want nice snaps from our holidays or maybe I am as this hunt for photos to capture and lock up in our photo albums is a bit absurd when one truly thinks about it. What is interesting is my assumption of awe. I don’t know why I thought he’d be kneeling down in an act of faith in the middle of a room filled with tourists. I have however become more aware, unsurprised and unsuspicious of religion in public spaces since moving to London. It is not hidden away so much as it is in Sweden. This was not a christian, muslim, hindu, jewish or any other of the “alive” religious artifacts one can expect a larger group of people to feel awe for. This was something that belongs to a culture that been dead for thousands of years. It is a culture we don’t even know or comprehend fully. Now we see it as a beautiful object to photograph and to look upon with admiration. Not as an object that contains any real religious power.

What will happen with the art created in our time in the future? What will happen when they take a look at a Damien Hirst, Lucian Freud or Lena Cronqvist in a thousand years from now? Will they survive or will the rest of our culture be the Olympic Stadium being constructed in East London now?

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