Makoto Fujimura on art, evil and hope

‘… I find that the theological answer for suffering is not really an answer at all. Rather, the Bible is about looking at evil square in the face and calling it “evil.” All of my work inevitably comes to the questions of wrestling with the question of evil and hope. Of the different ways to address the problem, I think the most effective approach is through the arts, because the question itself is not, fundamentally, a rational question. You need the world of imagination – the language of art – in order to be convincing in wrestling with it. Lamentations is a path to understanding this issue. We in the West don’t know how to lament … I see my art as part of the river of God, made up of God’s tears, which I have in common with a broken world. Rather than offering an idealized landscape for people to look to as an escape from reality, I paint in the ashes. Out of the ashes. From the ashes. And I’m not offering false hope, nor am I offering a nihilistic spiral of despair. Rather, I’m interpreting a longing that is deeply hopefully [sic] and real’. – Wresting With Evil and Hope‘.

I’ve long revered In a (so-far) four-part interview (i, ii, iii, iv) in which he reflects on the significant impact of Nick Wolterstorff’s wonderful work – Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic observes how Wolterstorff’s work is concerned with issues of justice, and with the world’s brokenness. He suggests that art is a fitting medium for mediating conversation about these things. Insofar as art might serve in this capacity, it is, he says, ‘a means for rehumanizing the world’.

In response to the question of what might be the artists’ responsibility towards this end of repairing and rehumanising human culture and the world, and whether Wolterstorff places any such responsibility on artists themselves, he says ‘Yes, and no. Nick is one of the few people who talks about an artist’s responsibility as not the opposite of freedom, but rather that an artist’s freedom is connected to his responsibility in society. To Nick, they’re not disjointed’. he world is drawn to that work which seeks to transform culture’, and to speak of our need to ‘love offensively’.

While it’s certainly not always the case thatto seek those things which transform culture, I thank God for those moments (even in me) when such a reality is realised; for this too is a sign that the kingdom of God is among us, the kingdom which indeed confronts us with an offensive love.

One comment

  1. I appreciate your overall view — and your appreciation of Fujimura. The only words that stuck in my craw were “rehumanizing the world.”

    We need something bigger. Not so anthropocentric. Yes, “rehumanize” human culture. But thank God so much else in the world isn’t human. We don’t need to keep putting our fingerstains on everything.


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