Text in Red is my own opinion or paraphrased form interviews, online, books and other materials
Text in Black - extracts from various sources
This blog is continuing from my journal. Here I will post most relevant audio/visual and mainly photographic material which influences and feeds me with new ideas towards the final major project. The main reason for switching to online blog is its capability to upload important video/audio material which I could not do in my sketch book!
For now my main focus is to create a narrative within my work which would seamlessly tie all photographs together in a strong and coherent way. I had many thoughts about the relationship between war and religion but this concept is to broad therefore I want to narrow it down to a specific narrative.
Here are few ideas of how I could make this work much stronger.
Representation of modern obsession with money and religion.
Capitalism - people are after the money and resources such oil, natural gas etc.
Holy wars - can holy war be innocent if it is created in order to fight for the religion by killing other people?
I was never really concerned to create a strong narrative in my work, since my main goal is to create a representation of an idea/concept and let the viewer interpret in its own way. For the first months in this project I was pre-visaulising my characters and how would they fit within the context of war and religion. It seems I am progressing although it needs now a strong narrative in order to tie them all together and make more interesting.
Recently I came across Juha Arvid Helminen's work. His work seems to be very dark and moody. It is very inspiring and thoughtful. His work is very surreal and dramatic representing our dark side.
Photographer Juha Arvid Helminen (born 1977) is a passionate virtuoso in portraiture photography. Inspired by new acquaintances and personalities, Juha's immediacy and ambition are the secret to his powerful portraits. He has the rare ability to extract the very best out of anyone that stands in front of his lens. Juha is a photographer with a strong affinity towards bold settings and rich environments – indeed, the viewer is easily taken aback by the vivid textures and meticulous details that Juha incorporates skillfully within his imagery.
Below photographs from series "Invisible Empire"
|I really like the tension in his work. Similar to Crewdson, he poses his subjects in a specific place and pose in order to create this dramatic and flowing moment in a photograph.|
The series is all about the misuse of power in religion and politics.
This is a very interesting article from BBC about holy war, I feel it is very close to what I am initially trying to recreate in my final project.
Involving God as part of a war campaign does not make a war a holy war - for a war to be a holy war, religion has to be the driving force.
Modern people often regard the idea of a holy war as a contradiction. Killing thousands of people and causing wholesale destruction seems to be as far from holiness as one can get.
But religion and war have gone hand in hand for a long time. Armies go into battle believing that God is with them, often after prayers and sacrifices to keep God on their side. In tribal cultures (including Biblical ones) when a people lose a war they often have to change to the worship of the winner's gods.
However involving God as part of the campaign does not make a war a holy war - for a war to be a holy war, religion has to be the driving force.
Holy wars usually have three elements:
- the achievement of a religious goal
- authorised by a religious leader
- a spiritual reward for those who take part
Many of the wars fought in the name of religion do conform to the just war conditions, but not all of them.
Francis Bacon said there were five causes for holy war: (he wrote in a Christian context, but the categories would be usable by any faith)
- to spread the faith
- to retrieve countries that were once Christian, even though there are no Christians left there
- to rescue Christians in countries that were once Christian from 'the servitude of the infidels'
- recover and purify consecrated places that are presently being 'polluted and profaned'
- avenge blasphemous acts, or cruelties and killings of Christians (even if these took place long ago)
Only the first of these causes is completely outside the scope of the conventional idea of a just cause. Some of the other causes, because of the length of time that can pass since the offending act took place are probably not just causes either.
The legitimate authority for a holy war is not the government of a state (except in a theocracy) but the Church, or the relevant organisation or person who heads the religious institution concerned.
In ancient times the authority was often God - in the Bible there are several occasions where God gave direct instructions to peoples to wage war. This would not be the case today.
The third condition of a holy war is a spiritual reward for those who take part. The doctrine of the just war does not refer to any personal rewards for the participants - and such rewards would be against such a generally austere doctrine.
The first holy war was probably in October 312 CE when the Roman emperor Constantine saw a vision of the cross in the sky with this inscription "in hoc signo vinces" (in this sign you will win).
Constantine trusted the vision and had the cross inscribed on his soldiers' armor. Even though his forces were outnumbered, he won the battle against an army that was using pagan enchantment. (Historians regard this as a turning point in Christianity's fortune.)
The great series of western holy wars were the Crusades, which lasted from 1095 until 1291 CE. The aim was to capture the sacred places in the Holy Land from the Muslims who lived there, so it was intended as a war to right wrongs done against Christianity.
The first Crusade was started by Pope Urban II in 1095. He raged at the capture of the holy places and the treatment given to Christians, and ordered a war to restore Christianity. He said that the war would have the support of God:
Let this be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of God! It is the will of God!
..Whoever shall determine upon this holy pilgrimage and shall make his vow to God to that effect and shall offer himself to Him as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, shall wear the sign of the cross of the Lord on his forehead or on his breast.
The pope also absolved all who took part in the crusade of all their sins.
The first Crusade captured Jerusalem after bitter fighting, and the residents of the city were brutalised and slaughtered by the Christian invaders. The invaders' conduct breached the principles of modern just war ethics, and the massacres still colour Islamic politics today.
This article really opened my perspective of this concept. I am not trying to create a provocative piece of work, it has to be subtle and opened for interpretation. I also want these photographs to contradict each other. For instance A soldier with Crucifix, or a monk which military symbols. It all goes back to the concept of this relationship between religion and war, and how can these rather opposite things coexist and work together.
Photographs below are from my major project development. They are representing this rather moody and dark contrast between good and evil, war and religion. And most importantly their relationship. It can also be interpreted in a much more abstract way.
|I started to play with context of relationship between War and religion in a very abstract and constructed way. I want these photographs to represent this tension and relationship between these two, rather different things in a surreal and constructed form.|
|Early development, for illustration purposes only.|
|At this stage I am trying to incorporate religious and military symbols such cross, helmet, dog tags, monk's robe and many more. each of these elements symbolise a specific thing or process which links either to religion or war.|
David Miles is a photographer who is recreating his photographs based on the concept and stories of 12 Crusades in Bible. It has a very strong and interesting narrative, making this work very meaningful. This is something I am trying to achieve in my work.
About his work
The Word ‘apocalypse’ comes from the Greek word ‘apokalupsis’, which means an ‘uncovering’ or ‘revelation’. Therefore, the Book of Revelation (so named), contains a series of individual visions which were Divinely given to show Jesus’ servants ‘what must soon take place’.There is some debate regarding the precise date during the First century (CE) for the Apostle John’s receiving of the apocalyptic visions. However, there is little doubt that it was towards the end of the century, by which time he was an old man and, on account of his faith, had been exiled to the island of Patmos. Many of his Christian compatriots had already suffered martyrdom.
Whether the reader of the Book of Revelation has, or has not, a specific understanding of this enigmatic book is, to some extent, of little importance. What is compelling is that all believers who, through subsequent generations, have encountered the book, have discovered that that which John ‘saw’ has a resonance with the times in which they themselves live.
Although many such readers will have been experiencing varying tribulations within their own lifetime, the words of Jesus via the Apostle reassure them that although times may be hard - even frightening - they should keep faith. The final two revelations given to the Apostle present the tried and the fearful with every reason to understand that, whatever their present suffering, the future is glorious.
For some years, David Miles has collaborated with an award-winning Documentary Producer and a Composer in the creation of an hour-long production, ‘Approaching Apocalypse’, based on the text of Revelation and David’s images.
For further information about this major Project, go to: www.approachingapocalypse.com
Digitally Created Figurative Interpretations
of the Word Images
Presented in the Book of Revelation
Revelation chapter 1: 9 to chapter 2: 1 - 'One Like a Son of Man'
|Revelation chapter 6: 1 to 8 - 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'|
|Revelation chapter 13: 11 to 18 - 'The Beast Out of the Earth'|
|Revelation chapter 19: 11 to 16 - 'The Rider on the White Horse'|
I am very fascinated by the accompanying text to each photograph (can be viewed on his website), which sets his work in a very coherent and strong developing narrative. His photography montages becomes his own interpretation of 12 Crusades, surreal and yet very precise.
Here is link to his work
Below an interesting article from:
ChristianityChristianity, during its 2,000 year history, has taken up all three positions on war: Pacifism, Just War and Crusade or Holy War. Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (The New Testament: Matthew 5 - 7) are very clearly non-violent: for example, ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God’ (Matthew 5:9) and ‘love your enemies’ (Matthew 5:44).
Pacifism was the teaching and practice of the Christian Church until the Roman Emperor Constantine (274-337) made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Pacifism then largely gave way to the development of the 'Just War' doctrine. Politics and religion were able to endorse each other in going to war.
In the Middle Ages the Crusades were fought mainly to recover the Holy Land (the area between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan) from Muslim rule. Today most Christians would be ashamed of the terrible cruelty and injustice to which the Crusades gave rise. Most Christians would also be ashamed of the later persecution of heretics (people who did not accept the official teachings of the Christian church) and non-Christians (such as Jews).
The majority of present-day Christians support the idea that war is regrettable but unavoidable and should be fought according to 'Just War' rules. Pacifism is a minority position held by some Christians in the larger denominations (Roman Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, etc.). The Quakers, Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites together make up the historical 'peace churches', with a long tradition of pacifist belief and action.
The question remains: which position on war is the most faithful to the teaching of Jesus, who advised his followers to ‘turn the other cheek’ and who, when arrested, forbade a disciple to use a sword?
The Humanist ViewIn recent times religion has played a decreasing role in many societies, particularly in the West. Many people have consciously rejected the notion of a spiritual and sacred religion or god. This does not necessarily mean the rejection of ethical principles. Some people have developed a philosophy of ‘humanism’. This is based on humanitarian ideals, such as individual responsibility for one’s actions, respect for others, co-operating for the common good, and sharing resources.
Some humanists would accept the ‘Golden Rule’, a term first used by Confucius: 'Do as you would be done by', or 'Treat others as you would wish them to treat you’. Some see the natural or logical conclusion of such a principle to be the rejection of all war and violence. Others, who have reservations about pacifism, argue for 'Just War' rules similar to those based on religious law.
God and War: What the Bible Says About the Just War Principle
Most people would probably agree that war is evil. It's a destroyer of life, families, and in many cases the innocent. War does not just cause physical torment, but much emotional torment, as well.
Root cause of war
Before we go further into this I believe we need to understand the origin of war, the root of the problem. War, according to the Bible, is not caused by God but is rather the result of sin in the world (Genesis 4:5-8, Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21-23, Romans 3:10-18).So it seems that since sin is still in the world, open war is probably inevitable and is upon us whether we like it or not. Not all evil can be avoided. Yet the unbeliever probably won’t acknowledge this, (that being sin in the world).
Our attitude toward war
So what should be our attitude toward war? If war is the result of sin, then the obvious thing to do is stop sin (the root of the problem), which will stop war. But how is this possible in a fallen world? For the Christian, war is ultimately a spiritual battle and not carnal as reflected in 2 Corinthians:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
In a similar vein is the description in Ephesians 6:11-17 of the spiritual armor to be put on by the Christian warrior in the service of God. Ultimately, the Christian is to try to be at peace with all other people (Romans 12:18).
This paragraph seems to be very interesting for me as I am trying to identify those things that link war with religion and makes war to be acceptable in the eyes of god.
"How could God be called 'good' if He forbade His people to protect their wives from ravishment and strangulation by drunken marauders, or to resist invaders who have come to pick up their children and dash out their brains against the wall? No policy would give freer rein to wickedness and crime than a complete surrender of the right of self-defense on the part of the law-abiding members of society. No more effective way of promoting the cause of Satan and the powers of hell could be devised than depriving law-abiding citizens of all right of self-defense. It is hard to imagine how any deity could be thought 'good' who would ordain such a policy of supine surrender to evil as that advocated by pacifism. All possibility of an ordered society would be removed on the abolition of any sort of police force. No nation could retain its liberty or preserve the lives of its citizens if it were prevented from maintaining any sort of army for its defense. It is therefore incumbent on a 'good God' to include the right of self-defense as the prerogative of His people. He would not be good at all if He were to turn the world over to the horrors of unbridled cruelty perpetrated by violent and bloody criminals or the unchecked aggression of invading armies.Contrary to popular belief, carnal war it seems is frowned upon by the believer and by God. But this raises a question. We know that war is the result of sin and that it is essentially wrong or evil, but what should be our response when a nation like Germany (in WWII) rapes, pillages, and plunders another nation for profit or genocide? I think that Gleason L. Archer (in the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties) expresses the argument well:
Not only is a proper and responsible policy of self-defense taught by Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, but there were occasions when God even commissioned His people to carry out judgment on corrupt and degenerate heathen nations and the complete extermination of cities like Jericho (cf. the article on "Was Joshua justified in exterminating the population of Jericho?" in connection with Joshua 6:21). The rules of war laid down in Deuteronomy 20 represented a control of justice, fairness, and kindness in the use of the sword, and, as such, they truly did reflect the goodness of God.
Special hardship conditions were defined as a ground for excusing individual soldiers from military duty until those conditions were cleared up (Deuteronomy 20:5-7). Even those who had no such excuse but were simply afraid and reluctant to fight were likewise allowed to go home (Deuteronomy 20:8). Unlike the heathen armies, who might attack a city without giving it an opportunity to surrender on terms (cf. 1 Samuel 11:2-3, 30:1-2), the armies of Israel were required to grant a city an opportunity to surrender without bloodshed and enter into vassalage to the Hebrews before proceeding to a full-scale siege and destruction. Even then, the women and children were to be spared from death and were to be cared for by their captors (Deuteronomy 20:14). Only in the case of the degenerate and depraved inhabitants of the Promised Land of Canaan itself was there to be total destruction; a failure to carry this out would certainly result in the undermining of the moral and spiritual standards of Israelite society, according to Deuteronomy 20:16-18. (This corrupting influence was later apparent in the period of the judges (Judges 2:2-3, 11-15)"1
I think Archer makes some very good points. When we look at war in the Bible, such as the verses in Deuteronomy, they are actually defensive in nature and not offensive. These areas of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites were morally corrupt and would have destroyed the Israelis, if left alive. God did not set the Israelis to conquer other nations this way. If you will notice, He didn't say now after that go into Asia, Europe, and Africa and take those ones out too. There has always been a buffer zone around the country of Israel because this land was promised to them by God. In order to keep the borders clean from attack and moral corruption they had to defend themselves. Hence, the creation of a buffer zone. It should be noted that the Israelis were to make peace before they went into battle, as well (Deuteronomy 20:10).
Lord of war
I believe God is against war, even though he allows war under certain circumstances. We have police officers today who carry guns don't we? Should we say that anyone who wishes to protect the innocent by law shouldn't be allowed to carry weapons? Is it evil for them to use guns against lawbreakers? In some circumstances people get killed by these guns. From this reasoning, that is God's defensive nature, it does appear that God could also be considered a Lord of War:
- The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. (Exodus 15:3)
- For there fell down many slain, because the war was of God. And they dwelt in their steads until the captivity. (1 Chronicles 5:22)
- There is… a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:8)
With all this, we also know some day in the future that God will not allow any more wars. Notice in Isaiah that God "will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." The result of this is that people "shall not learn war any more" (in other words, war is learned by people, not that God wants it).
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:3-4)
Christians should not desire war, but neither are Christians to oppose the government God has placed in authority over them (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:17). The most important thing we can be doing in a time of war is to be praying for godly wisdom for our leaders, praying for the safety of our military, praying for quick resolution to conflicts, and praying for a minimum of casualties among civilians on both sides (Philippians 4:6-7).
This anti war example was fused into Jesus Christ who did not defend himself when questioned by his persecutors (in a court of law), instead he faced them head on, with no weapons, and was turned into a bloody mess.
Although Christians are not to oppose the government and its authority, it doesn't mean that we have to agree with them every time. For example, regarding the Iraq war, Christians ask, "Was this war justified?" In some ways yes, others no, but I'm not willing to say that God had a hand in this decision... We just don't know.
On a final note, it’s interesting to find that unlike other nations and their codes, you won’t find how to make weapons of war in the Bible, you might find a recipe on how to make bread, but not a weapon.
There are many artists who represent religion through their art, however I am more interested in surreal representation with a sense of fiction rather than a truthful and accurate construction.
|Piss Christ 1987|
Photograph that has attracted controversy for more than two decades attracts protests outside New York exhibition.
Here is a short description of this piece by Serrano himself...
"At the time I made Piss Christ, I wasn't trying to get anything across," Serrano told the Guardian. "In hindsight, I'd say Piss Christ is a reflection of my work, not only as an artist, but as a Christian."
The photograph is of a small plastic crucifix submerged in what appears to be a yellow liquid. The artist has described the substance as being his own urine in a glass. The photograph was one of a series of photographs that Serrano had made that involved classical statuettes submerged in various fluids—milk, blood, and urine. The full title of the work is Immersion (Piss Christ). The photograph is a 60x40 inch Cibachrome print. It is glossy and its colors are deeply saturated. The presentation is that of a golden, rosy medium including a constellation of tiny bubbles. Without Serrano specifying the substance to be urine and without the title referring to urine by another name, the viewer would not necessarily be able to differentiate between the stated medium of urine and a medium of similar appearance, such as amber or polyurethane.
The most famous and notorious of Serrano's work plays on the relationship between beautiful imagery and vulgar materials, his subject matter often drawing from the potentially controversial and, perhaps, the willfully provocative. Critical reception has been mixed over the years. In a 1989 New York Times review, critic Michael Brenson responded to Serrano's series of Cibachrome photographs of iconic objects submerged in bodily fluids: "You cannot consider the content of Mr. Serrano's work without considering his attitude toward photography. It is the photograph that breaks through convention, that makes the search possible and that enables the artist to sort out what he likes and does not like in religion and art. It is the photograph that becomes the vessel of transformation and revelation. The photograph then becomes an icon that, for Mr. Serrano, replaces the false icons in his work. The photograph is clean and purified, the reliquary or shrine in which he clearly believes that the word about the body can be stored and spread.
Personally I feel very disturbed by his art, and it is something I want to avoid in my own work. it seems that his work is very provocative and strange indeed. He represents religion and human body from a very different perspective which is good, but at the same time these representations are very provoking and disturbing. My main concern is not to create a provocative body of work, but develop it as a constructed, fictional and on some level surreal.
No matter what project I do, I have always looked at many artists who's work is surreal and unreal at some level. That is what makes me wonder in photography, the freedom of creating my own story and representation of how I see these issues.
Recently I came across this phenomenal artist who creates a beautiful, dreamy and little bit unreal portraits of people in different environments.
Ruud van Empel
Dutch artist's digital collages of black children in tropical surroundings are eerily beautiful and decidedly unreal.
Dutch photographer Ruud van Empel's work initially stands out out because of his models, the majority of whom are black children. Since the artist grew up in a small and rather homogeneously white southern Dutch town, it seems unlikely that this simply occurred by chance. But it wasn't just the race factor in his that got us interested in asking Van Empel some questions about his models. There was something odd about the entire style, demeanor and surroundings.
|World #25 2007|
|World #1 2005|
|World #32 2008|
|World #17 2006|
|Venus #3 2006|
|Untitled #1 2004|
|Ruud van Empel, World #7, 2005. ©Ruud van Empel 2005; Courtesy Stux Gallery, New York.|
|In this photograph I love the tension between a mother and her daughter. They almost seem to be in conflict, yet mother is perhaps only worried, teaching or protecting her. That moment, this relationship is what makes me be intrigued with her work.|
|I love the tension between characters and their relationship from a completely different perspective. It has this beautiful surreal feel to it. Her work directly links between Gregory Crewdson and also Edward Hopper. It makes me stop and look again.|
|For me this example is a direct reresentation of a modern family where children become much more independent and harder to control. And yet again this is clearly captured in this photograph.|