Symposium critiques modern museum
By BRIDGET MAHONEY
"Symposium" is one of those big, intimidating words. It probably brings back excruciating memories of a philosophy seminar full of troublesome books one might prefer to leave on the shelf collecting dust. Its meaning must be a group of overly intellectual individuals dissecting and debating dry, abstract and incomprehensible theories, right?
Wrong. There is an appeal here for everyone.
The art symposium, "Critique of the Museum in Contemporary Art," spans more than just artistic and art-historical issues. Incorporated themes include gender studies, sexuality, politics, economics, religion, public life and social activism because artists respond to these issues through their work. This Friday, the Department of Art, Art History and Design is presenting the symposium in association with the International Association of Art Critics, U.S.A. To encourage a wider audience, the event is open and free to the public, and will take place in room 101, DeBartolo from 2 to 5:30 p.m., with a reception following.
With various aspects of the art world represented by the four guest speakers, the purpose of "Critique of the Museum in Contemporary Art" is to critique and debate the museum as a cultural institution, its purpose and its effect on the practice of art and art history. To continuously improve the art museum, it is necessary to keep addressing these questions just as the public sphere's political, social and religious issues are always being challenged themselves.
"It is part of a continuing effort to make people aware of things going on outside of here," said Heidi Steinke, a graduate student in painting, who is assisting Professor Robert Haywood with the organization of the symposium.
Professor Haywood, a Notre Dame Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Criticism, will kick off the symposium with opening remarks and his lecture, "Void to Void: Sister Wendy's Grand Tour." He will examine Sister Wendy, a cloistered nun without any educational background in art history, and how she analyzes art on her PBS television show.
The featured artist, Krzysztof Wodiczko, a Professor of Fine Arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is head of the Interrogative Design Group, will present the keynote address. He is an internationally acclaimed artist who uses such mediums as photography, design, sculpture and architecture, and whose work has been displayed in over 70 countries.
In addition, a video regarding his current work in Japan will be shown, and his book, "Critical Vehicles," recently published by MIT Press, will be available at the symposium, as well as in advance at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.
"This is the first time we've had an artist of his stature come to the University whose work is still out there right now," said Steinke.
Originally from Warsaw, Poland, Wodiczko was awarded the 1999 Hiroshima Peace Prize for his efforts toward peace and justice in the world. By increasing awareness through his art, he challenges the social inconsistencies of democracy and questions the boundaries of artistic practice.
"He's very interested in different cultures and where his art fits in," said Heather Jeno, a senior art history major. "He'll do stuff that's pretty much against the norm."
"Homeless Vehicle" (1988), a demonstration of his public intervention efforts, is a functional cart built to provide shelter and assistance to the "scavenger" homeless person. Rather than solving these problems, Wodiczko intends to articulate the conditions of the homeless, so the vehicle is shaped like a warhead to attract the attention of passers-by.
Wodiczko is also famous for his photographic projections onto architectural and sculptural monuments and buildings. They juxtapose political, economic, social and religious ideals with realities to indicate the hypocrisies of individual rights in the public sphere. As his artwork extends into the public arena, it challenges whether the museum is necessary for public art and what constitutes public art.
Another speaker is Richard Meyer, the Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Southern California. His work is fairly controversial as it considers questions of gender and sexuality in artistic culture. His lecture will address "Projections of Desire: Censorship and Homosexuality in Contemporary Art."
Alan Wallach is the Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art History and American Studies at the College of William and Mary. As a renowned scholar for his research on the art museum and its function in the U.S., he will share a lecture on "The Museum of the Twenty-first Century and the Redefinition of Contemporary Art" at the symposium.
The lecture "The Museum as Medium (Inside the Problem)" will be given by Phyllis Rosenzweig, the Associate Curator of American and Contemporary Art at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. She worked closely with Wodiczko on his projection on the Hirshhorn Museum and has curated many other important exhibitions.
In conjunction with the symposium, the video exhibition "Damaged Democracies: A Documentary Exhibition of Krzysztof Wodiczko's Interrogative Art and Design," will be open at the South Bend Regional Museum of Art Sept. 15 to 25. The video will show pieces of his work from around the world.
Jeno also acts as the curator for this exhibition. It is a part of her research project funded by a $700 Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program grant. She is the first Notre Dame student to curate an exhibition at the South Bend Regional Museum of Art.
On Wednesday, Steinke will also review Krzysztof Wodiczko and his artwork in her own presentation from 2 to 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Riley Hall of Art and Design.
All Scene Stories for Wednesday, September 22, 1999