Title: Contemporary art and iconoclastic debates: the interrelations of the sacred and profane


“Religion is so much a part of life, so intimately entangled with everything we think and do, that it seems absurd it does not have a place in talk about contemporary art.”
James Elkins

This course explores the link between art, philosophy, and religion, focusing in particular on contemporary art exhibitions. The "Modern Age" did not eliminate the sacred, but it made it internationally available in a profane way. In examining art exhibitions from the late 19th century to the present that consider religious and spiritual issues, students will develop an understanding of how the dissemination of the theological convictions of philosophers into the mainstream influenced culture, society and politics worldwide. Drawing upon the philosophical and theological concepts of Michel Henry, Martin Heidegger, David Morgan, Bruno Latour, Marie-Jose Mondzain, Rudolf Otto, Ludwig Wittgenstein and others, will allow for different methods of seeing works of art from a sacred and profane point of view.  Students will be encouraged to critically engage in discussing works of contemporary artists such as Marina Abramovic, Maurizio Cattelan, Bill Viola, Wassily Kandinsky, Barnett Newman, Jannis Kounellis, Stephen Antonakos, Kiki Smith, and more. Additionally, to shed more light on the artworks embedded with religious connotations, parallels will be made to the way images are perceived from the traditional perspectives of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism as well as the spiritual philosophies of Theosophy, Neo-Theosophy, New Age thought, and mysticism. In analyzing the different approaches toward these issues in recent exhibitions such as 100 Artists see God, Medium Religion, Iconoclash, and Eretica, students will learn how artists engage with the ideas of post-secular philosophers that have sparked some of the most controversial debates within contemporary philosophy.