Art as sacrament

Barnard, Marcel (2019)

CITATION: Barnard, M. 2019. Art as sacrament. Stellenbosch Theological Journal, 5(2):13-28, doi:10.17570/stj.Supp. 2019.v5n2.a01.

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Inspired by Johan Cilliers’ roots in the silence and emptiness of the Karoo, Marcel Barnard explores in this article to what extent Christian Boltanski’s modern art exposition AFTER/NA in the Oude Kerk (Amsterdam) can be viewed as “sacramental art”. To do this, Barnard makes use of Louis-Marie Chauvet’s sacramental theology, in which the power of language to call beings – including human symbols – “into presence” has a central place. It is shown that Boltanski’s interventions in the Oude Kerk call the unseen, the absence, into presence – by remembering the thousands of dead buried beneath the floor, by making wilting life visible and by raising the question of what absence means. By doing this, Boltanski makes the visitor aware of the scandalous, ambivalent and vulnerable character of the sacrament. Barnard concludes that Boltanski’s installations may be called sacramental works of art.

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