ART AND THE QUESTION OF MEANING by Hans KÃœng

ART AND THE QUESTION OF MEANING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another chip, to paraphrase Max MÃœller, from KÃœng's bustling Swiss workshop. The quality of the product is (mostly in the good sense) predictable, so liberal Christians, if not artists and aestheticians, should find it useful. Though he cites, knowingly but hastily, a large number of leading figures and schools of modern art, KÃœng is really not interested in specifics. What he wants to do, as part of his ongoing irenic contestation with modernity, is affirm the legitimacy of the darkness and desperation of so much contemporary art (defending honest humanism against its conservative clerical enemies) while arguing that Christian hope is still a live option amid the nightmares reflected in art; thus, consciously or otherwise, artists may be the allies of religion. ""The very fact,"" he characteristically says, ""that a painter continues to paint, continues despite everything, can be the expression of an ultimately sustained basic trust."" The phrase may be Erik Erikson's, but KÃœng is thinking more in terms of Paul Tillich and Karl Rahner (cf. the latter's notion that the world is full of ""anonymous Christians""). And if you happen to agree with such thinkers, fine. On the other hand, KÃœng seems to stretch his pious secularity too far when he proposes that the artist who knows ""whither we are going"" and ""who we are"" (through religion, presumably) is ideally situated to reveal grand creative vistas to his fellows. No doubt, but where are such artists? KÃœng concludes with a dialogue between himself and a friendly agnostic critic, Horst KrÃœger, about Brecht's poem, ""Gegen die VerfÃœhrung."" Both men respect the poet's refusal to be seduced by the afterlife, but KÃœng insists on challenging it. Like the rest of this little exercise in apologetics, his argument here stands or falls on the reader's attitude toward the ""still hidden, incomprehensibly great mystery in us and around us.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: Crossroad-dist. by Seabury