The Spiritual (Re)Turn: Wrap-Up


Krista Tippett

Host of public-radio program Speaking of Faith


Huma Bhabha

Artist, recipient of the 2008 Emerging Artist Award from the Aldrich Museum of Art

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr.

William M. Suttles Chair of Religious Studies at Georgia State University

Mark C. Taylor

Chair of the Department of Religion and co-director of the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University


eva schuster wrote :

I would like to respond to Mr. Taylor's contribution to the panel. As much as I like his notion of what art should be doing, disturb rather that reassure, which points to the utter seriousness and care that the gifted should be giving to his or her talent, I, being an artist myself and having undergone a very serious 20-year process of transformation within a spiritual context, feel art should actually be assuring. But assuring of what: of the call of the spirit, of that which is higher. It would be disturbing in the way that it would introduce the longing and the urgency of the creative impulse, the impulse to go the edge, to evolve, thus unsettling the narcissist of our postmodern time. But at the same time, it should be assuring of the higher possibility. Spiritual confidence is something that most of us don't know at all, and to transmit the reassuring truth of the which is higher and to reintroduce Spirit into our world of today, in a way that makes sense to us postmodern, highly sophisticated people is the purpose of art for me today. So disturbing, yes, but assuring of the truth of something being greater than we, assuring of cosmic hierarchy that is what I want my art to transmit.

I really appreciate this panel and the opportunity to listen and to express, so we can create a new and higher context for all of us. Thank you.
eva schuster posted on 10/26/09
Burkhard Hickisch wrote :

I am intrigued to find this discussion about spirituality in art at this forum.

Being interested in art all my life I always had the feeling that the true meaning of art is about displaying a greater reality and allowing access to a kind of unlimited feeling of the unity and indivisibility of life and existence. I think this always already existing oneness is what spirituality is about. Spiritual art in this definition helps me to sink into a state of conscious feeling-participation with that mysterious reality in which “I” am arising.

In 2007 I have had the chance of seeing Adi Da Samraj's exhibition Transcendental Realism at the Venice Biennale that B. Kalivac Caroll mentioned. I was amazed how strongly Samraj's images drew me into another state of consciousness. They changed something in my perception that is still continuing. Looking back I would say I have had a real spiritual experience which means something profound about the oneness of reality was unveiled. It was not the first time that works of art have had this impact on me. I remember that also Kandinsky opened another world for me in this spiritual sense when I first saw one of his images as a teenager.

I strongly believe that art has the power to change the individual point of view and to serve the feeling of unity so that we are educated to act not only in our own interest, but for the sake of the greater whole. In this way spiritual art is even political.

Burkhard Hickisch posted on 10/24/09
B. Kalivac Carroll wrote :

Considering how contemporary exhibitions, art reviews, and forums seldom enter this thematic territory at all, I can only admire the panelists and participants for engaging in this conversation. One point touched upon but that might be unpacked further is how and why some contemporary art has been in some sense marginalized when associated with the overloaded word “spiritual.” At this point in history “spiritual” can mean virtually anything, and that usage dilutes and even excludes some of the ontological, phenomenological, and other concerns about consciousness and reality in general that artists grappled with throughout the twentieth century. Besides Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich, other artists were intensely interested in these issues. Marcel Duchamp, for example, though generally considered primarily as a pioneer of postmodernist art, also remained interested in alchemy, invisibility, and the occult, although those influences on his work have been ignored or dismissed as hearsay. The recent excellent Guggenheim exhibition The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989 revealed how important the search for a deeper reality, so to speak, is for modern artists, as well as the essential role of a global cultural dynamic of aesthetic exchange. While spending several days viewing and researching The Third Mind, I interviewed the exhibition’s brilliant curator, Alexandra Monroe, the Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim, who correctly pointed out that the fundamental issue is really about consciousness. I found a similar strain in Traces of the Sacred (Traces du Sacre) at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, an exhibition I attended for several days in 2008. Although each of those exhibitions and the current Kandinsky exhibition focused on distinct themes, the combined dynamic of seeking to understand reality and global cultural exchange remain relevant in all three.

Nor was it only modernist figures such as Kandinsky and Mondrian who both made art and wrote art theory. Contemporary artists such as the extraordinary artist, scholar, and spiritual teacher Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008), who wrote Transcendental Realism: The Image-Art of Egoless Coincidence with Reality Itself, whose art was exhibited in the 2007 Venice Biennale, has not been recognized at the depth of understanding that his art and writing reflect and transmit. The contemporary artist Fre Ilgen also offers remarkably informed and articulate art theory in his book Art? No Thing! Analogies Between Art, Science and Philosophy. Like Kandinsky, both of these artists have written penetrating art theory, and like Kandinsky, their respective art writings are less about religion and more about the nature of reality. I suspect there are other contemporary artists who are interested in how art and art theory can serve as a pivoting force for a deeper understanding of reality.
B. Kalivac Carroll posted on 10/23/09

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