In sponsorship with The Department Anthropology, the Robert and Avis Burke Lecture Series, Department of the History of Art, Islamic Studies, The IU Art Museum, Religious Studies and NELC Present:
Dr. Kenneth George
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Monday, October 12, 2009
4:30 pm, IMU Oak Room
“Ethics, Iconoclasm, and Qur’anic Art in Indonesia”
Abstract: What predicaments and crises are posed, whose interests are served, and what discourses are advanced when artists use the Qur’an for aesthetic projects? This talk throws light on some of the ethical and ideological energies that have animated today’s Muslim art publics by looking at the anxiety and outcry in Indonesia’s art world over the use of Qur’anic script in fashion and in painting. I argue that moments of panic or outrage may afford us a special glimpse of ethico-political claims as to what is or is not Islamically significant in the field of visual culture, and simultaneously reveal some of the power relations that shape national and global Muslim art publics. By looking at problems that have befallen designer Karl Lagerfeld, painter A. D. Pirous, and other Indonesian artists, I suggest how a custodial ethics for handling Qur’anic Arabic has played into the hands of Muslim religious conservatives as they extend their authority into national and transnational art worlds, and more generally how Qur’anic art has become a space of struggle over the scope of secularism, religion, and culture.
Bio: Ken George is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Past Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies (2005-2008). Ken’s early work in Indonesia (1982-1992) dealt with ritual speech, song, and violence. Since 1994, he has been collaborating with Indonesian painter A. D. Pirous and others in exploring the predicaments and possibilities for Islamic visual culture in national and transnational art publics. His books include the forthcoming Picturing Islam: Art and Ethics in a Muslim Lifeworld (Wiley-Blackwell); Spirited Politics: Religion and Public Life in Contemporary Southeast Asia (co-edited with Andrew Willford); and Showing Signs of Violence: The Cultural Politics of a 20th-Century Headhunting Ritual, winner of the 1998 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.