Blood, death and desert: engaging with radical theology through art practice, history, and theory

PhD thesis

Johnson, C. 2023. Blood, death and desert: engaging with radical theology through art practice, history, and theory. PhD thesis Middlesex University Arts and Creative Industries
TypePhD thesis
TitleBlood, death and desert: engaging with radical theology through art practice, history, and theory
AuthorsJohnson, C.

This work uses a practice-led methodological model to investigate the complicated relationships between contemporary art, Christian radical theology, the desert landscape, blood, and death.

It is practice-as-research comprising both constructed and documentary photography, combined with interdisciplinary research into art history, contemporary Evangelical Christian visual culture, the art and landscape of the Great Basin and American West, Christian iconographies, theology, and various strands of radical theology. This situates my art practice within the canons of contemporary and religious art between which there is a growing discourse. Radical theology, also referred to as ‘death of God theology’ or ‘Christian atheism’, informs this discussion.

Connections with the Crucifixion of Jesus and the death of God lend themselves to a detailed investigation of both blood and death. Blood has long been a powerful and enigmatic player in the human story, particularly in the Christian tradition. Blood is proximate to both life and death, and it is here the exegetics of blood and abjection intertwine with radical theology. In another connection, the desert plays a role in sacred texts as both a place of tribulation and refreshment. A landscape with deep ties to the roots of Christianity, the desert operates as both subject matter and a means for articulating the sacred. The sacred and social landscape of the American West is central to this work.

This work contributes sensible knowledge and original art exploring issues articulated around an iconography of blood, the corpse, and the desert, from the very particular standpoint of an unorthodox Christian thematic as well as contributing to the current debates about the place between religion and contemporary art through the critical engagement of this text with other informed writers. The visual art is significant in contributing to the almost exclusively text-based field of radical theology.

Sustainable Development Goals16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
Department nameArts and Creative Industries
Institution nameMiddlesex University
PublisherMiddlesex University Research Repository
Publication dates
Online28 Mar 2024
Publication process dates
Accepted30 Jan 2024
Deposited28 Mar 2024
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
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Accepted author manuscript
CMacKenzie-Johnson thesis.pdf
File access level: Open

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