color Beyond Kandinsky: Session IV: The Artist in Society

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


Session IV: The Artist in Society

Session IV: The Artist in Society

The session questions are intended to provide a loose framework for the discussion and to catalyze dialogue. Participants are welcome to respond to any of them in whatever way they see fit and to pose questions of their own as they arise.

(1) Shaman, seeker, prophet, visionary; genius, eccentric, cultural rebel, renegade: Have these roles gone the way of the Modernist dream? What kinds of alternative roles can we conceive for the artist, and how can we work toward their implementation?

(2) Has Kandinsky’s enterprise of defiance and revolt—his self-appointed role as “spiritual warrior”—been rendered suspect by contemporary sensibilities, or is there still a place for an oppositional avant-garde in contemporary culture?

(3) What role might activism—environmental, political, social—play in a new spiritual art?

(4) What is the role of the personality of the artist in today’s art culture? Has the person of the artist displaced the former role of his/her work, and in what ways might this be damaging and/or beneficial to the “spiritual atmosphere” – or interior dimension – of our culture?

(5) Does the supreme value placed on the individual that is such a large part of the legacy of Modernism continue to disincline artists toward work that engages questions of relatedness, or our embeddedness in the larger whole? Are these latter engagements seen as "weaker" pursuits, suited only for the less talented and ambitious?