Thursday, February 8, 2007

Modern versus Medieval Aesthetics

Our understanding of Medieval art is colored by our own modern expectations of art, and because we have lost the ability to understand and conceive of truly ecclesiastical art--art rendered and executed solely for the glory of God, within a covenantal community, for the edification of the church.

There exists a difference between medieval aesthetics and modern aesthetics. Modern aesthetics concerns itself with being:

Original: everything must be new in order to be valued and recognized
Clever: gains attention by gimmicks, manipulations, and “hooks”
Random: without a specific pattern, plan or connection
Innovative: fresh; always new—new form, new content, new shock
Acclaim: celebrity; workers who create for their own glory; the recognition of the artist is more important than the work
Independent: individual, artists work for individual gain
Spirituality: mysticism; higher planes; otherworldliness
Ethereal: insubstantial, frail, transient

The medieval, biblical view of aesthetics was interested those things of:

Order: tradition, following models
Craftsmanship: attention to detail; skill and learning; mastery of technique
Rooted: firm foundation in biblical truth and culture; rooted in faith and community
Inventive: creative; seeking new ways to express old and eternal truths
Anonymous: workers who created for God’s glory; the aim of the work is more important than who created it
Interdependence: communal; artists worked in community for the edification of the greater community
Spirit: worked within the framework of a Christian culture seeking to convey biblical and theological truth
Eternal: eternal truth more important than realism; stories out of time; timeless truth

These truths of medieval aesthetics stand in firm contradiction to our understanding and participation in the arts and beauty. We even see these modern concepts as the basis for much of worship. We will never be truly effective or able to engage culture until we are rooted in a biblical objective aesthetic that challenges the emptiness of modernity with God’s truth, beauty, and goodness.

1 comment:

Compleat Librarian said...

How do you think the modern mindset affects scholarship as opposed to the mediaeval mindset?