color Beyond Kandinsky: Session II: 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

Session II: The Changing Shape of Art

Having explored some of the ways in which approaches to the spiritual have changed in the century since Kandinsky, the session that begins today will shift the focus of our discussion away from the spiritual in general and toward its embodiment (or disembodiment) in art specifically. Over the next two days, we’ll be exploring the changing shape of art, for which I pose the following questions as points of departure:

  1. How has the once-privileged relationship between abstraction and the spiritual fared since Kandinsky? Does this connection still hold a century on?
  2. Does music remain the paragon of spiritual art, as Kandinsky so fervently believed?
  3. What is the current status of “the object” (i.e., art’s material embodiment) in contemporary spiritually-inclined art?
  4. Is there currently a renewed emphasis on place or site in contemporary art that might reflect a new (or newly recovered) awareness of the spiritual? 
  5. Is there a unique role for time-based media such as film and video in contemporary art that aspires toward the spiritual?
  6. What role might there be for digital technology in expressions of the spiritual in art?
  7. How do recent developments in artistic practice (e.g., “post-studio” practice, art-as-ritual, and trans-disciplinary work) relate to the spiritual in art?

1 comment:

  1. I've been interested in the trend in modern graffiti towards abstraction and performance as evidenced in work by contemporary artists such as Augustine Kofie, Futura and Doze Green, as well as social networks like Graffuturism. Creators of and participants in real and virtual spaces, are challenged to interpret various forms of representation by virtue of various relationships to other elements internal to our shared sign systems. Artists in this knowledge context are tasked to liberate the body in real time and space... Doze Green’s current body of work consists of paintings that translate complex metaphysical concepts that resonate with Afrofuturism, such as the “possible manipulation of energy and matter to create a timeless space.”

    Roy Ascott argues (Drain mag) that virtual syncretism which is historically linked to religion and culture can also "contribute to our understanding of the multi-layered worldviews - material and metaphysical - that are emerging with our engagement in, amongst other things, ubiquitous computing and post-biological technology." We can see this manifested in modern graffiti around the world as well as in new media forms. The rituals and procedures of sacred ceremonies from other cultures find their equivalent in Western codes and protocols of computer technology.

    This syncretic liminality is a parallel process of the bringing together of disparate technologies (interactive and digital, reactive and mechanical, psychoactive and chemical), and new rituals of communication (mobile, online), and forms of community (the Net), is seen in our society, and indeed remains open to the incorporation of the older arcana.