chapter  5
18 Pages


Sometimes it is good to be confronted with a confusion of tongues, for it can force one to seriously try to disentangle and understand what the (categories of ) persons involved in such a babel are trying to get across. That, at least, is what I felt about the project on art and religion by Elkins and Morgan after having read and pondered the series of extremely variegated contributions by a wide range of scholars. However, my first impression was not positive, for I was-I have to admit-rather irritated by certain pieces included in this volume. I found especially difficult the way in which the participants of the Art Seminar frequently talked over each other, did not listen to their colleagues, were sometimes very vague and imprecise with regard to the sources and issues to which they referred, and, last but not least, launched bold and often unfounded statements. One such example, for instance, was the ex cathedra statement by Thierry de Duve that the best religious art nowadays is made by non-religious artists. However, my uncomfortable feelings about such remarks and ideas were gradually replaced by a strong desire to look for a system in the apparent chaos, so as to try to make sense of it. I think that this change in attitude had everything to do with the fact that I-as an anthropologist by training-am very much interested in such phenomena as religion, enchantment and disenchantment, aesthetics (or more precisely aisthesis), and art, especially in what is called the

Western world. One of the things, for instance, that interests me very much right now is the question of how anthropologists can profit from cooperating at least with certain artists in their quest to find more adequate ways, means, and methods to come to grips with their highly complex field of study, i.e., societies and cultures or-in my own jargon-the intricate interconnections between landscapes, manscapes, mindscapes, and sensescapes all over the world. In general, it is the differences or discontinuities between anthropologists and artists and their work that are emphasized, rather than the continuities or similarities.