This three-part blog series presents a joint contribution from one of our TheoArtistry partnerships: Ewan Bowlby, Emily Fleming, and Hannah Palmatary. These reflections have emerged from their recent immersive performance of original poetry and musical compositions, entitled “Spirituality in Creativity: A TheoArtistry Collaboration.”
Spirituality is a complicated, contested idea, that will inevitably mean different things to different people. Personal experiences, inherited beliefs, and cultural or community context all shape and influence our individual sense of the spiritual. Whilst academic disciplines have often sought to impose clarity and objectivity on such indeterminacy, by tying spirituality to abstract definitions or predetermined criteria, our TheoArtistry collaboration has taken an alternative approach. We have used the freedom of artistic creation to work constructively with the vague, contextual qualities of spirituality, treating it as an open, pluriform concept receptive to personal, particular experiences. The aim of our project is to produce a programmatic performance which uses poetry and music to fashion a sense of the spiritual that emerges out of the interplay of several different voices, each heard in their own right. This will give the audience a rich, diverse range of perspectives, which can spark conversation, provoke unexpected thoughts and draw out unacknowledged feelings.
Using a collaborative artistic process has also allowed us to examine the relationship between spirituality and physicality. Both Emily’s compositions and Hannah’s poetry bring to light the way in which spirituality is often understood and expressed through our bodies. Specific, tangible encounters in time and space, created through the music and poeticism, help to show how body and spirit are inherently interconnected. Rather than fixing, then stubbornly protecting, a rigid, abstract spirituality, the movement between different pieces of poetry and music picks our different stages in an evolving spirituality, showing how this development is intimately related to changes in our bodies.
What is emerging is a celebration of the openness, vagueness and malleability of spirituality, and its relationship to physicality. The artists are revealing ways in which artworks can narrate and even create changes in our personal, spiritual lives, demonstrating how art can deepen and broaden our spiritual understanding. Their works open up new semantic worlds and melodic soundscapes in which spirituality and physicality can be explored, reflected or transformed.
Ewan Bowlby is an ITIA PhD student researching ways of using the arts in the spiritual care of cancer patients. He has enjoyed working with two talented, engaging artists to design new ways of investigating the relationship between spirituality and physicality, gaining fascinating insights into the creative processes behind their work.