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A. Rosen
Encounters: The Art of Interfaith Dialogue

approx. 250 p., 120 colour ill., 220 x 280 mm, 2018
ISBN: 978-2-503-58032-6
Languages: English
The publication is in production.The publication is in production. (09/2018)
Retail price: approx. EUR 100,00 excl. tax
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The 21st century is a new era for interfaith dialogue.  Readers are invited to witness the meetings of faith leaders from across the globe through the eyes of acclaimed artist Nicola Green, accompanied by challenging reflections from leading scholars.

The 21st century is a new era for interfaith dialogue.  Leaders of many of the world’s faiths have begun, often for the first time, to sit down together and consider the possibilities for cooperation and dialogue between the practitioners of their religions.  While in the past such encounters might have been stiff affairs contrived to generate a politically expedient photo-op, what is remarkable today is the depth of relationships being formed across historically deep divides.

Acclaimed artist Nicola Green has had a front row seat to many of these encounters, spending years accompanying former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in meetings with religious leaders across the world.  In her wide-ranging project Only through Others, Green presents photographs and paintings inspired by Dr. Williams’ intimate conversations with figures including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Dalai Lama, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, and former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.  Green’s works—resulting from unprecedented access yielding thousands of photographs, drawings, and pages of notes—provide a dynamic lens for the authors in this book to analyze what makes for productive and lasting interfaith dialogue.  By paying attention to neglected factors in such encounters, from the set up of physical spaces to bodily gestures and even the clothing of participants, this book provides a truly embodied perspective on interfaith dialogue.  It refuses to see theology in a vacuum, placing faith fully within the context of visual, material, and sensory culture.
Dr. Aaron Rosen is Professor of Religious Thought at Rocky Mountain College and Visiting Professor of Theology at King’s College London.  He is the author of Imagining Jewish Art (2009) and Art and Religion in the 21st Century (2015).  He is the editor of Religion and Art in the Heart of Modern Manhattan (2015) and co-editor of Visualising a Sacred City: London, Art and Religion (2016).
Table of Contents

Rowan Williams
As the subject of many photographs in this series, the former Archbishop of Canterbury will offer personal reflections on the process behind the meetings documented by Green, and his hopes for interfaith and ecumenical dialogue in the future.

Nicola Green
The artist will discuss the process behind her photographic project, from concept to implementation and exhibition (e.g. obtaining access to meetings, building the trust of participants, researching religious traditions, collating and editing photographs, etc.).  She will reflect upon the project’s similarity and difference to previous projects, and what she hopes to achieve by sharing these images.

Ben Quash & Aaron Rosen
The authors will provide theological and historical context for project.  The issues they will cover include: theological reasons why Christians should engage in intra- and inter-faith dialogue; how such dialogue in Britain is different than in other national contexts; the Church of England’s place in ecumenism; and factors distinguishing interfaith dialogue in the 21st century (e.g. responses to terrorism, multi-culturalism, secularism, alliance politics, etc.)

Chapter 1:  Prayerful Encounters

David Ford

Many of Green’s photos show leaders engaged in prayer and worship.  Behind these inspiring images exist complicated issues.  What should world leaders of faiths truly hope for and pray for when they come to interfaith meetings?  What can they hope to take away from such encounters?  How should such interfaith services be structured, and by whom? 

Chapter 2:  Holy Faces: Reflection and Projection

Chloë Reddaway

This chapter will situate Green’s work in relation to Christian traditions of depicting holy people and those holding sacred office. These include portraits of senior clerics and members of religious orders, images of saints and, ultimately, the image of Christ Himself.  It will consider the compositional format known as the sacra conversazione and discuss how such atemporal meetings of saints from varied periods and places might speak to contemporary encounters of faith leaders.  In addition to this contextualisation of Green’s portraits the chapter will reflect particularly on her notable use of ‘blank’ faces.  This technique challenges standard ideas of portraiture and invites reflections on the significance of blank faces in Christian art, as related to the tradition of Veronica images and its associations with blank canvasses, ideas of impress and the tabula rasa, mirrors, and reflections of divinity.  It also prompts consideration of a Christian artistic practice of painting the face of Christ as especially serene – a kind of idealised neutrality – which invites the viewer to project a mental image of Christ onto his viewing of the painting and offers an opportunity for a form of visual eisegesis.

Chapter 3:  Getting into the Mind of the Other

Gabrielle Rifkind

Understanding others is not always a natural state of mind.  Empathy is more like a muscle that needs training. Our natural propensity is not to want to get into the mind of the other and understand the difference between us.  More often, we want to convince them to see the world through our eyes.  In conditions of protracted conflict or entrenched disagreement, this becomes exacerbated.  When people have done terrible things to each other, they seldom have compassion and understanding for their perceived enemy.  Reconciliation and forgiveness are desirable, but for many can seem all but unachievable.  When empathy fails, managing radical disagreement may be a more realistic option.  At its best, religion can elevate the human spirit to a state of forgiveness,  but this requires imagination and the capacity to engage with the experience of the other.  The real challenge is how to extend people’s imaginations. The artistic endeavor may be helpful here as the activity requires stretching the imagination and seeing the world through a different lens.

Chapter 4:  Staging Encounters

Lieke Wijnia

This chapter explores the crucial importance during interfaith encounters of the physical environment in which meetings takes place. This exploration employs recent methodological insights from the study of material religion. Material settings communicate values, norms, and attitudes, and can sometimes shape the prospects for interfaith dialogue as much as theology. I will focus on details captured by Nicola Green’s photos, which reveal subtle but important cultural and religious cues.  This will lead to an analysis of how objects, structures, and locations encourage, or even require, ritual behavior. In the case of the performance of religious rituals, the question then becomes whether the balance between participation and spectatorship changes when multiple faiths are represented.  Finally, I will assess to what extent Green’s photos not only document but themselves frame and create dialogue.  This raises questions about presentation and re-presentation – ideas that lie at the heart of both art and interfaith dialogue.

Chapter 5: Fashioning Encounters: How Sacred Clothing Leads to Conversations

Peterson Feital

This essay will focus upon Nicola Green's photographs of former Archbishop Rowan Williams.  I will propose that sacred fashion (religious clothing) is a medium to initiate productive intra-faith and inter-faith conversation among religious leaders, and within society more broadly.  I consciously take issue with the Church of England's recent preliminary approval, and tacit encouragement, for clergy to 'dress down'.  While such a policy might seem, at first blush, to open conversations, I will argue that it in fact risks ditching a language that still connects and engages with many people today, both inside and outside the Church.  Church vestments have at times been construed as frivolous, superficial, or alienating, but they can initiate important discussions about devotion, modesty, and holiness.  I will challenge the notion that sacred fashion is simply a dispensable symbol, and suggest instead strong theological reasons why we should embrace it.

Chapter 6:  Engendering Encounters

Maryanne Saunders

We do not see Nicola Green in Only through Others.  She is behind the camera as she documents interfaith meetings; witnessing, shaping, framing, but never visible.  Not only is Green absent, other women are only occasionally present in the gatherings she photographs.  This chapter will explore the binaries of visibility/invisibility and outsiders/insiders in reference to Green’s work.  It will question what effect, if any, her physical presence as a woman has on these encounters and the photographs that she produces.  Is Green working within a biblical trope of woman as witness, observer and supporter?  Or, alternatively, does her role as photographer challenge this assumption by establishing her not only as an active participant but the deliverer of the images we see?

Chapter 7:  Beyond the Handshake

Yousef Meri (TBC)

Green’s uplifting images show leaders from many faiths—often for the first time—engaging one another in discussion, prayer, and meditation.  But what happens after these landmark engagements?  How do leaders bring the results of these interactions into the communities they represent?  What can they, and we, do to ensure these meetings do not simply become photo-ops, and translate into tangible changes in relations within and between different groups.

Epilogue:  Voices

Leaders featured in photographs (e.g. Pope Benedict, Chief Rabbi Sacks, His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

Each author will share personal reflections related to meetings (e.g. memorable details from the encounter, surprising outcomes).

Interest Classification:
Religion (including History of Religion) & Theology
Fine Arts & Performing Arts
Art History (general)

This publication is also distributed by: ISD
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