Catholicism and the Avant Garde

Location: Fischer Hall, London

“[The avant-garde] radically questions the very principle of art in bourgeois society according to which the individual is considered the creator of the work of art”. Peter Bürger
For many commentators, the oppositional nature of the avant-garde inevitably leads to conflict with religion; the forward-looking artistic groups that populate its landscape create their own intense, semi-religious communities structured around the celebration of creativity. In such a way, modern artistic movements are utilised by, or interpreted through, theories of secularisation. 
Yet there are numerous instances in English and French decadence, the interwar French Catholic intellectual scene and artistic communities centred on Eric Gill at Ditchling and Capel-y-ffin – alongside the work of figures such as Pasolini, Gaudí and Marechal – where this opposition to “bourgeois society” has become manifest as intense Catholic renewal. Recognition of this phenomenon demands a far-reaching revision to the narratives currently told about twentieth-century artistic and, indeed, a re-consideration of the way in which Catholicism has come to position itself in relation to society. 
The conference will initiate this revisionary process by foregrounding the stimulus Catholic thought has provided for artistic experimentation, across the globe, from the 1890s onwards.

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