UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM,
Saturday, November 6, 2004, 2:30 To 7 pm
Annual Symposium: “Let’s Get Metalphysical: Contemporary Art and Spirituality”
Annual Zeitlin Lecture: Alex Melamid
This fall the UAM is holding the fifth annual symposium, Let's Get Metaphysical: Contemporary Art and Spirituality. This program will be followed with a lecture by Russian born, New York-based conceptual artist Alex Melamid, in which he will discuss his unique relationship to religion.
The participants of this symposium, Let’s Get Metaphysical, will examine the ways in which the proliferation of non-traditional and informal forms of spiritual practices is addressed by contemporary artists. The New Age movement has many sub-divisions, but it is generally a collection of Eastern-influenced metaphysical thought systems, a conglomeration of theologies, hopes, and expectations held together with eclectic teachings and goals towards general “feel-goodism.” New Age philosophies, which can encompass anything from mysticism and psychic phenomena to earnest efforts to move towards self-actualization through an increased self-awareness, is often ridiculed as mock religion or cultish superstition. Beyond the massive walls of self-help books on display in every Borders bookstore across the country and the Psychic Network, now available through every local cable company, New Age points to a shift in the ways we think about spirituality and has become the subject of cultural curiosity. Many contemporary artists have begun to incorporate the attitudes and concepts of this new sense of spirituality in their work in a variety of ways. Interestingly, not only are all of these artists engaging in a critique of this phenomenon, but some are finding that components of New Age spirituality can be utilized as tools to study our times on a larger social scale. This panel discussion will bring together four artists who will address these issues, as well as how spirituality and the New Age movement has influenced their practice or entered the subject matter of their work.
The facilitator for the symposium is Ralph Rugoff, Director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco and author of such inventive books as Circus Americanus, a collection of essays that explores the cyclone of visual artifacts whirling through American culture. With rare insight, Rugoff, a curator, writer, and art critic, studies and illuminates the unexpected visual spectacles found in contemporary culture. The panel includes AA Bronson, Anne Collier, Meg Cranston, and Mungo Thomson, all artists whose work deals with ideas of spirituality, religion, or mysticism. With a mix of irreverence, sincerity, humor, and audacity, the artists on the panel will tackle difficult questions about the role that spirituality plays in everyday life today. Often inspired by recent political developments that have led to a public examination of the notion of religion, some of their works are cheerfully provocative while others are more intimate and inspired by their own personal relationship to the spiritual realm.
The Fall 2004 Zeitlin Lecture will be given by Russian-born, New York-based conceptual artist Alex Melamid, discussing iconic images of art as religion and his unique relationship to the realm of religion. Born and raised in Moscow under Communism, Melamid was free from the religious presupposition of a faith-based background. When he moved to the United States in 1978, he arrived at the academic core of the philosophical tradition, which had proclaimed the death of God, following Nietzsche, and he sought out new expression of faith, hope, and the spiritual life. In recent years, Alex Melamid has been considering the notion of art as a form of religion, or indeed as a religion in itself. During his years of participation and interaction with the art world, Melamid has noticed a paradigm shift and an elevation in the attitudes of the public towards the world of art, and by extension, the world of artists. He has found the similarities between the structure of the Judeo-Christian tradition and that of the world of Western art to be striking. For Melamid, the theological artistic question implied by this theory is vast. In his lectures he examines such questions as, does art contain an innate healing power? The quest to answer such questions seeks to understand not only the art world of the present, but also that of the future, for critic, artist, and audience alike.
Inaugurated in 2000, Contemporary Discovery is a free program, open to the public. We encourage students, faculty, and community members to attend and participate in the lively discussion. Each year the University Art Museum brings together a group of panelists and one facilitator to discuss a topic that relates to our programming as well as current events in the art world and beyond.
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