St Barnabas Dalston
An evening of performance, film and discussion exploring the liquid content of the human body, and its theological significance. With Art and Christianity
Fluid Body – a collaboration between Art and Christianity, and Morphe Arts – will be an evening of performance, film and discussion exploring the liquid content of the human body, and its theological significance. There will be contributions by the artists Mimi Nicholson and Ilyas Kassam, followed by a talk by theologian Dr Karen O’Donnell. The evening will be chaired by Prof. Ben Quash, a trustee of both A+C and Morphe Arts.
The evening will explore the liquid matter of milk, sweat and blood in contemporary performance art and Christian theology. Through the fervent acts of breastfeeding and prayer we sense the fluid symbolism of life moving through to death: from a mother’s milk to the sweat, tears and blood of death, and all of the excretions in between.
In Luke’s account of the garden of Gethsemane Jesus’ desperate prayers in the moments before his death manifests in sweat, like drops of blood: an image of anguished life pouring out of the body. Ilyas Kassam’s process is autonomic, performative, and works through the natural movements of the body. He will share the work Your Body Is A Gift Forgiven (or Every Body Is a Trapped Prayer).
Mimi Nicholson will share documentation of her performance at Religion and Art Live (2023): a piece where she aligns herself with the painterly tradition of Maria Lactans. This image of breastfeeding and the sharing of milk from one body to another, provokes questions of motherhood, embodied life, and the dependence of Jesus on another for nourishment.
Born in 1986 in the UK, Ilyas Kassam is an Indian Ismaili Visual Artist and Poet. Drawing from Ismaili, Kufic, and Japanese calligraphic traditions, his works centres around the notion of infinity and the role language plays within the mystical experience. He was an exhibitor at the 2018 International Ismaili Islamic Arts Festival. His film ‘Ligare’ was screened in 2018 at TSS, Time Square, New York. In 2020 His exhibition ‘The Way’ was held at the institution of Port Art and Design Tsuyama, Japan, as part of a joint show with the infamous icon, Misuzu Kaneko. His painted works have gained recent acclaim due to his novel reimagining of ancient techniques. Ilyas is a self-taught artist whose education emerged out of an immersive 5-year period of meditation and self-discovery. In 2009 he visited the Kangra valley, India, where he spent months meditating in the cave of Baba Sant Ram. This experience gave birth to a prolific period of creative and philosophical inquiry. Ever since his work has been rooted in the esoteric, and has paid reverence to mystical traditions across the world. He has since studied under shamans, learning the language of plants at Schumacher College, and journeyed to the Guangxi mountains of China, to learn calligraphy with the Langshi Shifu. His process is autonomic, performative, and works through the natural movements of the body. With roots in Ismaili esoteric thought, he draws inspiration from expressionistic practices including the Bokujinkai and Gutai movements that emerged out of Japan in the 1950s. His practice seeks to create spaces and materials that embody a temple like theurgy, reflecting the inner architecture of his process; Where everything is unknown, emergent and runicaly spontaneous.
Mimi Nicholson graduated from Goldsmith’s BA Fine Art in 2020 and has since been reading for her MPhil in Modern Theology at Oxford. Her work uses limited domestic technology, materials and spaces in order to create performances of self-portraiture, usually in the form of photography or video. She has also worked in set design, installation, writing and painting, both collaboratively and independently. Through the use of persona – often as oblique subversions of well-known icons, characters or actions – Mimi’s work strives to interrogate the interplay of the unified self, before God, and the multiple selves of everyday existence. More recently, she has become concerned with the more explicitly theological implications of performance, especially in relation to the eucharistic body and the act of confession. Making, for Mimi, is a way of revelling in the wonderful breadth of expression available in the living body; with all its contexts, fleshiness, crude directness and nuance.
In 2017, Mimi co-founded Themselves, a multi-disciplinary network providing space for cultural-production and research, with other Goldsmith’s peers. She is currently Associate Editor of The Journal of the Oxford Graduate Theological Society. Mimi now lives with her husband and daughter in rural Buckinghamshire.
Dr Karen O’Donnell is Director of Studies and Lecturer in Worship & Human Community at Westcott House. O’Donnell’s research interests are interdisciplinary. A feminist theologian, she is interested in the places where bodies and theologies meet. This accounts for her interest in trauma theology where she is concerned with the impact bodily experiences of trauma have on theological imaginations. Similarly, she is interested in liturgy as the embodied outworking of theological ideas and in the ways in which theology and liturgy are entwined within the body. O’Donnell also has an interest in Mary the mother of Jesus and in particular in her embodied life as a woman and a mother.
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