I'm a couple of weeks into a new term at the theology school and the class is beginning to unfold. This term it is Art, Cinema and Theology--a simple premise--you take ten films about artists and consider how the artists is represented to the wider public through film-you explore the work of those ten artists and consider how they represent themselves, the world and others and you invite those two elements into conversation with a third meaning-making system, theology and see where you get.
I have sat with these films a number of times now, with all three components actually, and find myself continually moving in new directions as my understanding and interests morph and go in new, as well as familiar, directions. this term I am fascinated with the body, with physicality, and how it is dealt with in the three m/m systems. I've been reading a couple of interesting books by Umberto Eco--The History of Beauty and On Ugliness, and have added a new one--Nudities, by Giorgio Agamben.
Agamben's book is quite revelatory, some great quotes and insights. It is not directly a book about nudity, well, it is, but it has a higher philosophical aim than just dealing with nudity-he is scratching at the idea that if nudity is understtod as unconcealment, or the absence of all veils or coverings, that this is analogous to the stripping away of layers to get at the truth of something. But here is an interesting quote from the chapter entitled, Nudity,
"Nudity, in our culture, is inseparable from a theological significance." The eyes of Adam+Eve are opened and they become aware of their nakedness only after the entrance of sin--before that they were not naked, they were clothed with grace...He goes on to quote extensively from theologian Erik Peterson who has written on the Theology of Clothing. Peterson argues that this awareness of nudity could only occur if "man's being had changed...there must have been..a metaphysical transformation, affecting man's mode of being, rather than merely a moral change...Man was created without clothes--which means that he had a nature of his own, distinct from divine nature..."
In light of this Agamben claims that the problem of nudity is thus a problem of human nature in its relationship with grace--thats some heavy ideas, and I'm still processing the implications and my responses. I like the idea that the 'fall' is more than an issue of morality, which I have never bought, it's not enough, and it doesn't square with the gospel, because i don't believe that jesus came to be a moral policeman as some seem to present him.