Southern Religion

Blake Prize video silently explores religious experience

Angelica Mesiti’s 11-minute, “silent video work entitled [Rapture (silent anthem)]” of “sea of ecstatic young faces” at a hard rock and metal rock concert won Australia’s $20,000 Blake Prize for Religious Art and Spirituality for 2009.

The judges, whose decision was unanimous, said:

Filmed from a concealed position beneath the stage at a rock concert, Mesiti’s camera looks out at a sea of ecstatic young faces. In a unanimous decision, the judges praised it for its beauty, emotional intensity and technical virtuosity. An enigmatic work that operates on many levels, Rapture depicts the joy of being alive while also hinting at the darker aspects of religious emotion.

In an interview with Ashleigh Wilson of The Australian, Mesiti said:

I was just interested in these notions of worship and ecstasy and transcendence and where they’re actually found in a contemporary setting.

One of the most prestigious Australian art competitions, the Blake has for 55 years been awarded a prize for works which, according to the Blake Society about page, “explore the subject of religious awareness and spirituality.” The Blake invites an “open, personal and idiosyncratic response, so much so that it has earned the criticism, ire and sometimes applause of critics and the public alike. After all, what is religious art?”

John Watson won the Blake Poetry Prize for Four Ways to Approach the Numinous {.pdf].

Diane Coulter’s sculptureCousin Elizabeth NT” won Blake Prize for Human Justice.

Grant Stevens’ videoIn the Beyond” won the Award for Emerging Artists.

The awards are controversial.

Christopher Allen, The Australian’s national art critic, said of the winner: “Ecstasy is cheap,” and termed the show as a whole “fairly lacklustre.”

While Blake Society chairman the Rev. Rod Pattenden, undeterred, said, “Each creative work makes a response to a sense of the spirit within the complex and sometimes conflicting nature of contemporary culture.”

We’ve seen a sample of Mesiti’s video [which we hope to be able to share], and side with Pattenden.

September 4, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Blake Prize video silently explores religious experience