CIVA Biennial: Matter and Spirit

This week is CIVA‘s (Christians in Visual Arts) Biennial Conference at Biola University in La Mirada, California, June 16-19. The Grove Center for the Arts & Media, the non-profit ministry I serve, is hosting the Soul Space hospitality area. (Click here for a $50 Friends of The Grove discount.) Please join us for free drinks, snacks, creative projects and a chance to meet other artists from across the United States.

This year’s theme, Matter and Spirit, explores how matter and materiality shape our understanding of both art and faith. Through general sessions, top-notch presenters and workshops, CIVA will present how digital information and the hard and soft technologies that support it are transforming contemporary life. I’m particularly interested in the CIVA conference because…

CIVA has developed a thought-provoking arc built around the major acts of the biblical narrative.  The keynote sessions explore three major themes:

Why Matter Matters: Technology and the Created Order
The Problem of Matter: Technology and the History of Art-Making
The Future of Matter: Technology, Art-Making, and Hope

To dig more deeply into these themes, two plenary panels and six conference tracks will consider the character of material reality, its relationship to the spiritual, and the particular implications within a variety of disciplines and social structures including the artist’s studio practice, education, moving images, personal spiritual formation, and worship.

To focus our time together, all of our presenters have been asked to consider the following questions:

  1. How should contemporary Christians understand material and spiritual reality? Is the material at odds with the spiritual? Is genuine spirituality non-material? To what extent have Gnostic understandings of spiritual life prevented Christians who work in the visual arts from properly understanding the universe that they inhabit and the material that they handle?
  2. In a sense, the availability of powerful digital technologies has made it possible for everyone to become a designer, photographer, or filmmaker. How has broad accessibility to these kinds of tools changed the artist’s understanding of his or her vocation?
  3. In what sense is digital media material? How does the dissemination of digital information and its vivid display alter our perception of time and space? Moreover, moving images and their ability to “suspend disbelief” possess remarkable narrative power. How do these spectacular additions to visual culture affect our perceptions of reality?
  4. If matter truly does matter, how shall we understand the relationship of art to craft, the technical to the conceptual, and, ultimately, our own embodiment?
  5. How does the art of learning exist for artists and designers in a digital age? How does learning in the digital age increase or diminish our sense of aesthetic connection? Awash in new information, how do we manage the challenge and process of moving from the unknown to the known?
  6. More than a few artists describe the creative process and their interaction with materials as ritual. Some go further to liken the experience of making and viewing to liturgy or even prayer. In what sense, if any, may creative processes and material work be likened to a spiritual discipline?

For every artist and creative interested in the integration of art-making and walking with the Creator of Matter and Spirit, these are very important questions. I’d love your thoughts and feedback.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Paul Nielsen

    FWIW I’m there in spirit: Some recent sculptures in the conference show. Wish I could be there in body too.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your note. To clarify, do you have some sculptures in the show? If so, I’ll look for your work! Blessings to you!

      • Paul Nielsen

        Yes, sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Paul…do you have pictures of your sculptures that were in the show? Please send the link…lots of great artwork in the show! Best to you!

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