God as burden: A theological reflection on art, death and God in the work of Joost Zwagerman

  • Rein Brouwer


In one of his essays on art, Dutch author and essayist Joost Zwagerman (1963–2015) reflects on the work of (Dutch) South African artist Marlene Dumas (1953). Zwagerman addresses in particular Dumas’ My Mother Before She Became My Mother (2010), painted 3 years after her mother died. In his reflections, Zwagerman proposes an interpretation of Dumas’ work. He suggests that Dumas, in her art, does not accept the omnipotence of death. Maybe against better judgement, but Dumas keeps creating images that not only illustrate the desire for meaning but also embody this desire. The image and the desire for meaning merge in Dumas’ paintings. The painting itself becomes an autonomous ‘desire machine’, according to Zwagerman. In this article, a (practical) theological reading of Zwagerman’s own posthumously published volume of poetry, ‘Wakend over God’ (2016), is presented, with a specific interest in art, death and God. The sacramental hermeneutics of Richard Kearney and the theopoetics of John Caputo are brought into the conversation to elicit the dimensions of faith and religion in Zwagerman’s own ‘desire machine’.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2072-8050
print ISSN: 0259-9422