Q/A NICOLETTE POLEK

Can Art Replace Religion?

“Religion teaches us how to be, while art provides us experiences of being. Where religion is removed, people look elsewhere for a replacement. We instead search for God in the form of politicians, fashion, sewer drains. When art takes on the role of religion, it either becomes didactic, an extension of ideology – like Socialist Realism’s neutered murals of grinning workers – or it, along with culture, adapts a  flattening attitude, a frothing-at-the-mouth obsession with viewing subjects as either “equal to” or “lesser than” some arbitrary system of measure, effectively eliminating reverence for that which is “greater than”. Under this rule, art then slips into mediocrity, and mediocrity can easily fall into destruction. In Blake Butler’s novel Alice Knott (2020), a viral video of someone incinerating a Willem de Kooning painting is shared on the inter- net, which inspires a series of similar videos of people violently destroying other obtainable masterpieces: Botticelli, Louise Bourgeois, Tullio Crali, etc. Are we doing something similar now? It’s clear that we cannot help but desire something more than the world of flesh and consumerism and rationality.”

– The full text appears in Spike #66. You can buy it in our online shop –