Concerning the Spiritual

Issue 38 December 2017

An avenue to self-knowledge

Bill Viola is a seminal figure in the field of video creating installations, films, sound environments, flat panel video pieces and works for concerts, opera and sacred spaces for over four decades. Viola uses video to explore the phenomenon of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian Mysticism. Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way.

On Science and Theology

“Our view of the natural world has changed out of all recognition from, say, 500 years ago. And insofar as theology has things to say about the natural world through its doctrine of creation, theology has had to take that change on board. On the other hand, science can say almost nothing of substance about the core issues in theology, because they concern a reality that is literally out of this world, by definition beyond the reach of science.”

As a physicist working in a theological environment, Mark Harris is interested in the complex ways that science and religion relate to each other. He runs the Science and Religion programme at the University of Edinburgh.

Fleeting Light

“I am interested in time and temporality; our relationship to time and our perception of time. The vocabulary I often employ is fleeting light….Creating scenarios wherein the viewer is made aware of the present moment and transitory moments.”

Miya Ando is an American artist whose metal canvases and sculpture articulate themes of perception and ones relationship to time. The foundation of her practice is the transformation of surfaces. In this exclusive interview she discusses her ideas and work.

The Emerging Post-Materialist Paradigm: Toward the Next Great Scientific Revolution

“The materialist worldview, which has dominated science and academia over the last few centuries, has run its course. At last the tired old materialist paradigm has started to crumble, and a new paradigm has begun to emerge.”

Mario Beauregard, PhD., is a neuroscientist currently affiliated with the Department of Psychology, University of Arizona. He was the first neuroscientist to use neuroimaging to investigate the neural underpinnings of conscious and voluntary emotion regulation. Because of his research into the neuroscience of consciousness, he was selected (2000) by the World Media Net to be one of the “One Hundred Pioneers of the 21st Century.” In addition, his groundbreaking research on the neurobiology of spiritual experiences has received international media coverage, and a documentary film has been produced about his work (The Mystical Brain, 2007).

The possibilities of infinite combinations

“Reflecting my interest in relationships and the interplay between internal and external realities, each piece is an exploration of unity and totality. Exploring ideas of integration through the use of line, shape and form the pieces are playful yet precise, often becoming intuitive and expanding into unexpected forms. I would wish for the viewer to take from the work a heightened sense of awareness. Painting can be a form of meditation in that it brings one’s attention into the present where we can be in union with creation as a whole, fully enjoying our existence in this wonderful, mysterious creation.”

On Contemporary Art and Spirituality

“The dialogue between contemporary art and spirituality is broader and more complex than it was during modernism because contemporary art is more varied, and because spirituality as a discourse is more diverse including religious traditions that go beyond Judaeo-Christianity.”

Dr Rina Arya is a Reader at the University of Wolverhampton who is interested in the visual and material culture of religion. In this exclusive interview she discusses nature of the dialogue between art and spirituality, how they come together and what form they take.

On The Psychology of Spirituality

“To avoid killing its essence, rather than as a specimen to pin down and dissect, it is best to think of spirituality as related to experience – often subtle, but also usually powerful and emotionally charged experience. The spiritual dimension is therefore better considered as an adventure playground to explore, full of fun, challenge and excitement, of opportunities to test oneself, to learn and to grow.”

Larry Culliford was a hospital doctor and GP before becoming a psychiatrist. In 1998, he helped found the ‘spirituality and psychiatry’ special interest group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In this exclusive interview he discusses his experience and ideas into understanding the psychology of spirituality.

Consciousness in context

“My focus is consciousness.  First, consciousness from the body and mind, then as it relates to its inherent contexts, history, religion and culture.”

Lewis deSoto is an American artist of Cahuilla Native American ancestry. His multimedia installations combine sound, light, video, space, and sculpture elements and are site-specific or oriented toward making a complete environment. His conceptual artwork utilizes automobiles, inflatables, electronics, photography, wood and metal construction. In this exclusive interview he discusses his ideas and work.

Contemplations

“My art seeks to give form to those processes of thought which have yet to be fully articulated and to explore the enormous scope of the beautiful and delicately balanced neural choreographies designed to reflect what is occurring in our own minds as we think.

In the ‘Contemplation’ series of drawings the process of repetitive mark-making enables a heightening of concentration, acting like a visual mantra or kasina, focussing shifting thoughts and intending to settle the mind of the practitioner.

Building up in layers, the work plays with the transitory nature of light and perception. The viewer becomes a part of the process, whose eyes move across the work, creating an opportunity of awareness into the temporal nature of reality and, hopefully, stillness of the mind.”