Theology and contemporary art
This introduction establishes the context relevant for a rich dialogue between theology and art with specific reference to the artists Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Robert Gober, and Damien Hirst. Initially, the chapter outlines the particular dialogue between theology and visual art taken up here and introduces the relevance of the thought of death as a topic of mutual interest between theology and art. In this way, Marc Crépon’s assessment of the lineage of Martin Heidegger’s thought proves illuminating for how the thought of death functions today, but also a vital theological qualification is introduced by way of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s critique of Heidegger. The introduction also serves to clarify the starting points for how theology might benefit from affective encounters with contemporary art – namely, how subjects are selected, how to read the layered meanings of contemporary art, what hermeneutical framework best allows for meaningful dialogue, and what discursive forms theology might employ in responding to artworks. Such considerations set the stage for the close readings of contemporary art undertaken in this volume and the provocative theological insights they yield about the thought of death in Christian hope.