color Beyond Kandinsky: ecstatic-electronic art against the controlling world's sedate blandness Re: The Changing Shape of Art

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


Saturday, April 2, 2011

ecstatic-electronic art against the controlling world's sedate blandness Re: The Changing Shape of Art

For me, the purely abstract associated with Kandinsky is a played out trope, more materialistic then spiritual. What seems to stand a slight change for a new spiritual art today is an impure electronic-based semi-abstraction; that is, abstraction mixed with infected representation.

Such a post-abstract approach to spiritual art suggests to me an inventing of an electronic-based art in which what matters is no longer pure identities, or logos, or distinctive characters but rather ecstatically dense phantasmagorical forces developed on the basis of inclusion—where from now on things will be represented only from the depths of an infected and inclusive energetic density withdrawn into itself (perhaps adumbrated and darkened by its obscurity) but bound tightly together and inescapably grouped by the vigorous connections that are hidden below in its digital depth (code).

Such noisy, semi-abstract capricious forms of ecstatic-electronic art (with their rhizomatizing connections) placed within a full ground that never isolates them but rather surrounds their outline with excess - all this might be presented to our spiritualizing gaze in a post-abstract art matrix. Such are the powers of a new spiritual art.

May I just say that this phantasmal flee from both pure abstraction and the play of popularity-based representation has the most urgent political/social ramifications in our media saturated society.


  1. I like the term "post-abstract" very much as a way of defining our current situation (and it seems to apply just as much to the analog arts it does to the digital). Truly Kandinskyan abstraction being today out of the question, it seems that many artists have settled for an endless recapitulation of Greenbergian formalism, without, I take it, too much concern for the Modernist agenda it continues to perpetuate (i.e., the supposed autonomy of art, notions of purity and disinterestedness -- the whole Kantian inheritance, in short). It's interesting that Charlene brought up Kandinsky's "crisis of the missing subject," as I'd call it -- the period during which he felt acutely anxious about what would replace the representation of real-world objects in the new art *as content.* I wonder if, now that "pure" abstraction has run its course, we've reached a similar crisis of content, of meaning. Once again we seem to be pointing beyond the dualism -- this time that of abstraction and representation, or form and content.

  2. I remembered you told me about Philip Guston. I guess he has something to do with the post-abstract (or he might even trigger that)? It seems like Kandinsky v.s. Guston as abstraction v.s. concrete representation (in Taney's words). So we are interested in the middle ground between the "heaven" and "earth"?

    Nothing has approached this dynamic semi-abstraction better than the digital at the present time. I absolutely love this new shape of art.

  3. I wonder if there's an important distinction to be made between the "middle ground between heaven and earth," as Yuting wonderfully puts it, and a third way that encompasses both poles at once. I say this only because I'm always a bit dubious when it comes to middle ways that seek to level extremes, as they often end up resembling the "sedate blandness" that Joseph cites.

  4. good point, Taney. you made think of one possible reconciliation between the two cases (in fact, it was pointed out in the first day). We can make that middle ground dynamic instead of static, so that one may be able to commute between the two poles while is always in the middle--the path connecting the two poles.

  5. Yes on both/and fusion achieved by entering in and coupling where intense difference is confronted and addressed in both directions. My interest is not in denying differences between two modes, but in investigating how these two models may interact in new ways.