color Beyond Kandinsky: Follow-up to Joseph

The year 2011 marks the centennial of the publication of Wassily Kandinsky's classic text, On the Spiritual in Art. Inspired by this anniversary, this project set out to explore the place of the spiritual in contemporary art and to propose a challenge to the current devaluation of the inner life that prevails within the art world in our market-driven era.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, a ten-day virtual symposium moderated by Taney Roniger and Eric Zechman was held in this forum. The symposium closed on the evening of Friday, April 8th. Below is the full record of the proceedings.

Panelists invited to participate were: Suzanne Anker, Laura Battle, Connie Beckley, Anney Bonney, Deirdre Boyle, Nathaniel Dorsky, Jeff Edwards, James Elkins, Max Gimblett, Tom Huhn, Atta Kim, Roger Lipsey, Enrique Martinez Celaya, Joseph Nechvatal, Daniel Siedell, Charlene Spretnak, David Levi Strauss, Alan Wanzenberg, and Pawel Wojtasik. For participant biographies and other project details, please visit our site:


March 30th–April 1st: Session I: The Spiritual Then and Now

April 2nd–April 3rd: Session II: The Changing Shape of Art

April 4th-5th: Session III: Art and Its Audience

April 6th–April 7th: Session IV: The Artist in Society

April 8th: Conclusions


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Follow-up to Joseph

I agree with Joseph’s suggestion that we move away from the limiting emphasis on the subjective inner life in our thinking about the spiritual. And I agree that David Bohm’s implicate order provides a beautiful model for a new approach, since it emphasizes our “enfoldment” within the greater whole (and, by extension, its enfoldment within each one of us). It seems clear to me that if we are to really move “beyond Kandinsky,” the latter’s Manichean dualism is the glaring obstacle. I am a bit cautious about taking all our cues from science, however. I say this not because I’m suspicious of science itself (least of all the kind proposed by “new paradigm” thinkers such as Bohm), but because it seems that the over-emphasis on (some might say glorification of) science over the last century has too often led to a dangerous scientism… But more on this later. I’m eager to hear how others might propose we rethink our definition of the spiritual.


  1. the spiritual vs. the actual →→→→ the spiritual intersects but not belongs to the actual. the spirit-ual doesn't necessarily require actions. (to list all the properties of the spiritual is too challenging, just exclude something here )

    I googled the following from the internet:

    One of Taoism’s most important concepts is wu wei, which is sometimes translated as “non-doing” or “non-action.” A better way to think of it, however, is as a paradoxical “Action of non-action.” Wu wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world. It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awake-ness, in which - without even trying - we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise.

  2. Perhaps the most basic definition of spirituality as it relates to the artist’s objective lies in the subtler distinction between the presence or absence of an individual awareness of feeling that needs sharing: aesthetic vs. anesthetic (whether subjective or objective, we can’t get around “feeling” as a factor, even if we collectively agree it can’t be the sole focus). This, coupled with the one universal aspect of artistic motivation: an abhorrence of working in a void, must inevitably bear on our definition. Spirituality is perhaps the phenomenon of collective experience that is both subjective and objective, whether simultaneous or (con)sequential, that is both intimate and universal. The connector between finite and infinite?