Religion & Art Live at St Stephen Walbrook


Sat 6 April 2024
St Stephen Walbrook
London EC4N 8BN

with thanks to Revd Stephen Baxter and Elizabeth Maragh

A performance/talk/event with sound pieces incorporating text from The Sickness Unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard, readings from Anaïs Nin and the music of Ash Ra Tempel.

liminal experience | mystical states | aesthetic attitude | site of transformation | encounter | transfiguration | despair | cry | hope

Blood Echoes: Donna Matthews with Antónis Kastellaní and Nina Danino

Donna Matthews is an improviser and video artist currently in her final year of a practice-based PhD in Music at the university of Glasgow. Interested in issues such as poetic intuition, inspiration, and gift, her work explores how the intuitive state might be conveyed through aesthetic form, whilst also exploring improvisation as a means of ‘undoing form’ to experience the inspired state.

Antónis Kastellaní is a singer and multi instrumentalist whose work has focused on establishing links between traditional and experimental music. Interested in the meeting points of improvisation as composition, his work bridges formalism with the unforeseen and spontaneous.

Incorporating singing, improvisation and glossolalia, with text from Anaïs Nin, and drawing from Simone Weil’s notion of attentiveness as a mode of prayer, Blood Echoes facilitates a site where the shift from self-preoccupation to unselfconsciousness can be explored. This liminal state shares much in common with flow – and relates to scholar Lewis Hyde’s notion of gifted states; where the artist has a sense of being a receiver – rather than a creator.

The Sickness Unto Death: Dan Byrne-Smith with Antónis Kastellaní

Dr Dan Byrne-Smith is an artist and writer who lives in the New Forest and is training to become an existential psychotherapist, studying for a DProf at NSPC in London. His published work includes writings on art, science fiction and critical utopianism. He is the author (as Dan Smith) of Traces of Modernity and is the editor of Science Fiction: Documents of Contemporary Art. He was formerly a senior lecturer at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London.

For this event, Dan performed a collaborative reading of the beginning of Kierkegaard’s essay The Sickness Unto Death, with improvised vocal responses by Antónis Kastellaní. This Christian work, which is also a precursor to modern existential thought, explores despair as a kind of spiritual death. Despair can be negated, he argues, through a relational approach to self. The collaborative reading of his text is offered as a space of relational affect.

Ash Ra Tempel: Nina Danino

Nina Danino is a filmmaker and artist. Her feature film Solitude (2022) on Nico as icon, screen and poet is a diptych and sister film to MARIA (2023) on Maria Callas which presents her transfigured in a visual iconostasis. She is Reader in Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London.

‘My films and soundtracks (not all) have sought visionaries and mystics, saints and jouissance. I inscribe myself into rock psychedelia. I am performing karaoke to Ash Ra Tempel’s Light: Look at Your Sun from the album Schwingungen (1972). Ash Ra Tempel’s music is also in the film soundtrack of Solitude (2022).’