Image of the week: 28 March-3 April, 2021
"... I remain an utter disbeliever in almost all that you consider the most sacred truths... But whether there be a God and whatever be His nature; whether we have an immortal soul or not, or whatever may be our state after death, I can have no fear of having to suffer for the study of nature and the search for truth, or believe that those will be better off in a future state who have lived in the belief of doctrines inculcated from childhood, and which are to them rather a matter of blind faith than intelligent conviction.”
― Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 -- 1913), Letters and Reminiscences 1, Letter to his brother, 1861. Wallace was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist and illustrator. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection; his paper on the subject was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin's writings in 1858 [Source: Wikipedia].
This image, one from a new gallery called Blind Faith, grew out of an attempt to deal creatively with a model who wished to remain anonymous. When you can't see your subject's face in a photograph, the work becomes an interrogation of all sorts of questions about voyeurism and objectification. Her face -- her identity and her agency -- has become a void, and, therefore, an image of her risks becoming an objectification, and in the nude, pornographic.
One way to elevate the image beyond the pornographic paradigm is to subvert the nude trope. But how? The model placed her faith in this photographer to maintain her privacy, but, wisely, she politely compelled it with a contract. Her faith was not blind, but, instead, enforceable. It struck me that in matters of faith, particularly in matters political, unlike the wise model, many of us have placed our judgement on hold and allowed leaders with questionable moral compasses to turn many of us into a mob. Such leaders exploited our worst instincts. And so the theme of blind faith occurred to me.
This new series can certainly be seen to raise questions about the treatment of vulnerable people by rotten elements in the church, and the viewer may choose to read it that way, but to me it is about the mortals who claim a divine right to lead. What happens when powerful people demand -- and receive -- absolute obedience, while they permit themselves to grab whatever and however much they want? This set became an allegory for our times, a challenge to the nonsense promulgated by those in power, who should -- and do -- know better.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
-- John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902).
What happens when we blind ourselves to the sins of our leaders? What are the consequences when blind obedience trumps reason? It's easy to mock faith these days, particularly after the shocking scandals around worldwide. In these works, it's important to acknowledge that the combination nudity and religious iconography are doubly shocking. But, they are intended to be read metaphorically. Real faith is pure and responsible leadership is just. But those who elect themselves as its spokespeople need to be more careful. We will hold those in power to account.
It is a time to confront blind faith, lest we allow madmen to lead the blind.
'Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.
Do as I bid thee. Or rather, do thy pleasure.
Above the rest, be gone.
-- King Lear, by William Shakespeare, Act 4, Scene 1.
See the Blind Faith gallery here.