The Society for the Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture
Continuity and Change in the Arts, Religion and Culture:
Blasphemy, Buddhism and the Bible
Saturday, Nov 3rd, 2007 at
MUSEUM OF BIBLICAL ART
1865 Broadway at 61st Street, New York, NY
As Mark C. Taylor pointed out at a recent ARC program, religion and art share the sometimes contradictory work of insuring a measure of continuity from generation to generation, while at the same time fueling the engines of change. These dual roles are carried out in a number of ways, and our program will focus on three striking examples.
In the first instance, illustrated in Brent Plate’s book, Blasphemy: Art That Offends, the artist can confront established religion with a radically opposing view, forcing change. In the second example, the contradictions can be negotiated within religion as images of the divine are created and then revised or destroyed. This process is illustrated in Pamela Winfield’s work with Zen iconography and iconoclasm. Finally, the evolving dance can play itself out against the backdrop of the wider visual culture as religion finds expression in a variety of art forms. This process is illustrated MOBIA’s exhibition of art inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Given the diversity of both art and religion today, it is clear that those of us who track this vortex of forces at the interface of art and religion, find ourselves drawn into the eye of a storm. Not that we regret being caught up in this maelstrom. Indeed, we thrive within it.
-- Charles P. Henderson
Session 1: Blasphemy / Art that Offends
Brent Plate / Religious and Secular Authority meets the Visual Arts
“I will discuss my latest book, Blasphemy: Art That Offends, illustrating the ways blasphemy is a contested, fluid, and dynamic category of meaning that both establishes and challenges divisions between the sacred and the profane; this brief history provides a survey of the visual cultures of blasphemy, exploring juxtapositions between local artistic practices and hierarchical authority systems in Muslim, Jewish, and Christian histories.”
Session 2: Buddhism / The Art of Enlightenment
Pamela Winfield / What's Wrong With This Picture?
Zen Iconoclasm Reconsidered
“Zen's reputation as an ascetic, minimalist strain of Buddhism is well documented. Zen lore is full of ribald monks whose antinomian antics involved defecating on religious statuary and burning Buddhist images in order to demonstrate their grasp of emptiness and their detachment from reified notions of Buddhahood. Yet Zen masters throughout history have hardly eschewed all imagery. This talk investigates the thought and visual expression of Dōgen (1200-1253) the celebrated founder of Sōtō Zen Buddhism (one of the two largest Zen demoninations in Japan). By exploring Dōgen's complex views regarding the subtle art of enlightenment, we might revise, update and nuance our view of Zen 'iconoclasm' in general.
Session 3: The Bible / The Art of Forgiveness
Exhibit: Images of the Prodigal Son
The biblical story from Luke 15 of the loving father who forgives his wayward son has inspired artists through the centuries. MOBIA has organized an exhibition dedicated to this theme, featuring works from the Renaissance to the present day. More than 70 prints, sculptures, and paintings by artists including Rembrandt, Pietro Testa and James Tissot provide a wide-ranging overview of the impact this theme has had not only upon the history of art, but upon culture generally.
Performance: Prodigal Songs
Prodigal Songs, is a new song cycle commissioned by MOBIA for the ensemble, Trio Eos; it recasts the parable as stations of a meditation about waste and bounty, wealth and gratitude. Less a pageant than a tapestry of voices, this gathering of seven lyric poems, with text by poet Tess Taylor and music by composer Robinson McClellan, asks what it means to enjoy the abundance of the world. Using language both contemporary and ancient, the work explores ideas of taking and partaking, sensory pleasure, spiritual fulfillment, and the yearning to belong.
The Program Schedule
9:15 am Registration and Refreshments
10:00 am Session 1:
Blasphemy / Art that Offends
S. Brent Plate
“Religious and Secular Authority meets the Visual Arts”
11:30 am Session 2:
Buddhism / Art of Enlightenment
“What's Wrong With This Picture? Zen Iconoclasm Reconsidered”
12:30 pm Luncheon and Discussion
2:00 pm Session 3: The Bible
The Art of Forgiveness
Images of the Prodigal Son
Performance: Prodigal Songs
4:30 pm Wine and Cheese Reception
About the program participants
S. Brent Plate is Associate Professor of Religion and the Visual Arts at Texas Christian University. His teaching and research are focused on how humans see, what we see, how our ways of seeing are culturally and religiously constructed, and how seeing is one behavior by which we make meaning of our worlds. This approach encompasses the "visual arts," but engages with the visual on a more fundamental and everyday basis: what we see in film, television, fashion, graphic design, urban planning, etc.
Book-length publications include The Religion and Film Reader (co-edited with Jolyon Mitchell, Routledge, 2007), Blasphemy: Art that Offends (Black Dog Publishing, 2006), Walter Benjamin, Religion, and Aesthetics (Routledge, 2005), Re-Viewing the Passion: Mel Gibson's Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Representing Religion in World Cinema (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), Religion, Art, and Visual Culture (Palgrave/St. Martins, 2002), Imag(in)ing Otherness: Filmic Visions of Living Together (AAR-Scholars Press/Oxford UP, 1999). He has also published articles in journals such as Literature and Theology, Soundings, CrossCurrents, Biblical Interpretation, and Postmodern Culture.
Plate is also Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the journal, Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief, Runner-Up for the 2006 Best New Scholarly Journal award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.
Pamela D. Winfield began her study of Religion and Art History at Georgetown University with internships at the National Gallery in Washington DC and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. After living in Japan for several years, she pursued her doctoral studies in Japanese Buddhism at Temple University in Philadelphia thanks to a Russell Conwell Fellowship. A grant from the Cross-Cultural Institute further supported her dissertation research at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) in Kyoto.
In 2003, she received her doctorate in Religion from Temple University and joined the faculty at at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy. She is the founding Co-Chair of the Sacred Space in Asia Group at the American Academy of Religion, is a former CrossCurrents Coolidge Fellow, and is currently researching new Buddhist imagery in Japan thanks to a Religion and Art Fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council. In addition to publishing numerous articles, chapter contributions, translations and book reviews related to Buddhist art and doctrine, she is currently revising her dissertation on Icons and Iconoclasm: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment.
Trio Eos reveals the beauty of the female voice and its potential to express human joy, grief, hope and loss. Confined to no one genre, the Trio performs music from the Early Middle Ages to the present, exploring the full range of sonorities available to a treble ensemble. Members Michele Kennedy, Jenna-Claire Kemper, and Kate Mulvihill have coached with Richard Lalli of Yale University, Jacqueline Horner of Anonymous 4, and Linn Andrea Fuglseth of Trio Mediaeval; they have recorded commissions of new works, and performed regularly since forming in 2003.
Non-Members $60; Students $15
Fee includes continental breakfast,
lunch and reception.
($5.00 extra at the door.)
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The ARC Story
time to time the Board of Directors elects as Fellows individuals it identifies
as having made a distinguished contribution to their respective fields. The list
of Fellows elected over a period of nearly four decades thus exemplifies what
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