Becoming and Art
Even before Augustine enumerated his vision of the two cities that a Christian inhabits in City of God, Christians have wrestled with rightly ordering the
relationship between one’s desires and duties to worldly activities and those to God. Such a tension is a primary theme for Kierkegaard; it is always within a specific cultural context that a self exists and artfully becomes. Thus, H. Richard Niebuhr places Kierkegaard within the dualistic category of “Christ and Culture in Paradox” in Christ and Culture, arguing that “Christian life has for him the double aspect of an intense inward relation to the eternal, and a wholly nonspectacular external relation to other men and to things.”4 And because the becoming self is the foundational concept behind his view of worldly productions, rather than a systematic approach, Kierkegaard’s authorship unleashes an ambiguous critique of the value of art. Instead of artistic norms, his concern is to explore the potential impact that the self-art relation has on subjective becoming. As a result, the tactical task of his aesthetic critique, particularly towards poetry, visual art, and music, is to provoke each reader to properly relate to artistic experiences, ever a part of the context that structures one’s becoming. Art is a relative good, merely tangential to the highest art of coproducing oneself as a subject.