1:15–2:25 PAPER SESSION 2
THEATRE AND ETHICS
LESLIE O’DELL – “THIS THING OF DARKNESS I ACKNOWLEDGE MINE:” ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS WHEN GOOD ACTORS PLAY BAD CHARACTERS
Popular culture continues to make use of a familiar trope: passionate and committed actor, cast as an evil character, succumbs to the seductive allure of the dark side. Ronald Coleman won an Oscar for his portrait in A Double Life (Cukor,1947) of actor turned murderer Anthony John whose enactment of Othello so unhinges his urbane, cultured persona that he commits in life the deed he enacts on stage. More recently, Natalie Portman took home the little gold fellah for her portrait in Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010) of a young dancer who, in rehearsing Odile under the direction of a manipulative choreographer, makes a similar journey into the tortured realm of paranoia and hallucination. Both of these films draw upon a set of assumptions that make for a good melodrama, but neither addresses the ethical considerations that confront good actors cast as bad characters. In this paper I trace the enactment of villainy from Shakespeare through melodrama to film in order to set the stage for the onset of naturalism as a genre of dramatic literature and a style of acting. Taking a Jungian approach, I explore the function of public enactments of the darker side of human nature and the actor’s contribution to a culture’s need to wrestle with moral complexity. I argue that the psychological journey undertaken by well-trained and ethically mature actors, cast as a morally complex character and rehearsing in a naturalistic method, chart an approach to ethical maturity from which we could all learn.
Leslie O’Dell, a Professor of Theatre and Film at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, served as the Shakespearean Text Consultant at the Stratford Festival for 15 seasons. Her directing credits include musicals (Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, Into the Woods), opera (Hansel and Gretel, The Old Maid and the Thief), and Shakespeare (As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hamlet) as well as contemporary comedies, dramas, and group creations. Her books for actors include Shakespearean Scholarship, Shakespearean Characterization, Shakespearean Language (Greenwood, 2000) and The Charismatic Chameleon (Sussex Academic Press, 2010). Her current research explores the actor’s experience of emotion.
CORDULA QUINT – INTERSUBJECTIVE ILLUMINATIONS AT THE THÉÂTRE DU SOLEIL: SPONTANEOUS COMMUNITAS AND THE ETHICAL CHALLENGE OF LE DERNIER CARAVANSÉRAIL AND LES ĖPHÉMÈRES
In his book Only Entertainment, Richard Dyer argues that “entertainment does not…present models of utopian worlds…Rather the utopianism is contained in the feelings it embodies”. In turn, Jill Dolan proposes in Utopia in performance : finding hope at the theater that it is these feelings that give rise to the “utopian performative.” For her, “being moved emotionally is a necessary precursor to political movement”, and in this sense, it is in the affective knowledge of “what utopia might feel like” – rather than the conceptualization of it – that politically progressive possibilities originate. In light of these ideas, two recent collective creations by the Théâtre du Soleil – Le Dernier Caravansérail (2003) and Les Ėphémères (2006)– are of immediate interest. For the company, with the leadership of French director Ariane Mnouchkine, ritual, celebration, and the encounter with a community of spectators have always been at the very heart of their working ethos and their artistic generosity. This spiritual and socio-political orientation is also deeply inscribed in the company’s recent productions, where the transformational performativity of art manifests itself in myriad ethico-aesthetic strategies. Les Éphémères, in particular, cultivates spontaneous communitas – in Victor Turner’s terminology – moments of intersubjective illumination, and a transcendent awareness of humanity’s potential for dialogic, ethical reciprocity. Also for the Soleil, it is the affective dimension of the audience’s encounter with the company members, the works’ content and especially with one another that proves ethically catalytic. At the same time, Mnouchkine embeds “traces” of art- and illusion-making into these two works which not only provoke a profound re-thinking of canonical theories of style (realism, Brechtianism) and their prospective affective impact, but which also – in their untrammeled ludic virtuosity – celebrate art itself and, by extension, humanity’s making of it. This stylistic exploration is also extended in their most recent work – Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores) (2010).
Cordula Quint is Associate Professor of Drama at Mount Allison University, where she teaches courses in dramatic theory, literary criticism and theatre practice. Her book Robert Wilson’s Hamletmachine: Mise en Scène of Postmodern Groundlessness will be published later this year. Articles by her have appeared in various journals and anthologies, among them the Canadian Theatre Review, Theatre Journal, WHERE THE BOYS ARE: Cinemas of Masculinity and Youth, Popping Culture, Global Challenges and Regional Responses, Space and the Postmodern Stage, and the New England Theatre Journal.
RAFAL CZEKAJ – ETHICAL MOTIVATIONS IN ART: THEORY AND PRACTICE
In one of his poems Berthold Brecht asked rhetorically “What times are these when a talk about trees is almost a crime because it implies silence on so many wrongs?” This quotation expresses an ethical position, which comes down to the proposition that as long there are victims of injustice and suffering in the world no one has the right to any pleasure, including aesthetic contemplation. This conviction permeates Theodor Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, in which he expects art to perform functions other than entertainment. To meet these expectations is difficult to the extent that according to diagnoses made by representatives of the Frankfurt School, Adorno being its prominent one, the contemporary world is strictly subject to procedures of “instrumental rationality”, art in such a world being at best the object of “cultural industry”. It can be freed from this role only by a suitable theory, one that will make it possible to perceive in art the criticism of laws and mechanisms governing the external reality. Adorno achieves this by emphasizing in works of art those moments which make art an antithesis of the existing reality. According to Adorno, only autonomous art can function as effective social criticism. In order to accomplish the foregoing ethical proposition, contemporary artistic practice, however, increasingly often chooses the polar opposite of the road delineated by Adorno’s critical theory. Examples are provided by this year’s Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, whose curator is Artur Żmijewski – one of the leading representatives of the so-called Polish critical art. The art exhibited at the Berlin Biennale sheds the skin of autonomy in order to openly interact with the socio-political reality. In my report I shall discuss the theoretical strategy of Adorno’s aesthetics, at the same time demonstrating the motives and goals behind his conception. By referring to contemporary artistic practice (inter alia Santiago Sierra, and Berlin Biennale) I shall show that the same motives already require completely different strategies today. I shall also seek to answer the question why this is so.
Rafal Czekaj is assistant professor (adjunkt) in Department of Esthetics, Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (UMCS) in Lublin, Poland. In 2011 he defended doctoral dissertation on Theodore W. Adorno’s Critical Theory of Art, which was awarded the Polish Aesthetics Society’s first-degree award for the best dissertation the year in esthetics. His area of interest include philosophical esthetics and social contexts of art. Besides university activities he coordinates in Lublin the local club of “Political Critique” - Poland’s largest intellectual magazine and team of regular social and political commentators. Within the framework of the club he organizes meetings and debates about cultural and social issues.
CARL-FILIP BRÜCK – ADORNO ON AESTHETICAL AND ETHICAL RECOGNITION
Adorno is often viewed as a philosopher who implores us to recognize the “non-identical” that cannot be subsumed or mastered. What is less often noticed is that manner in which he problematizes the idea of recognition as such. In particular, Adorno’s thoughts on aesthetics could, I believe, be interpreted as responding to a dilemma that comes forth most clearly in the case of ethical recognition. It would seem that it is ethically laudable to recognize other persons for what or as they are. The question of what another human being “is” is, however, caught up a double hermeneutics: human beings have their own self-interpretations, their own way of understanding themselves and their lives. The question is, then, what recognition could mean given this hermeneutical situation. To say that we are merely to recognize the self-interpretation, the right to be taken by others as we take ourselves to be, seems insufficient. We are arguably not identical to what we take ourselves to be, there is a “non-identity” between our self- understanding and what we “are”. Ethical recognition would preferably allow us to acknowledge that we are always more than what we take ourselves to be. Given that our ways of understanding ourselves are largely conditioned by socio-historical context as well as personal history, a form of recognition that merely affirmed our identity to our own self-understanding would in some sense imprison us to these contextual factors. On the other hand, ethical recognition cannot be directed as something in complete opposition to our own self-understanding, claiming knowledge of, say, the other’s true “being” or interests, or we would end up in a paternalistic situation. I think that Adorno’s reflections on art can be read as response to this dilemma. It is Adorno’s conviction that successful artworks succeed exactly by being more than what they take themselves to be: they “succeed through the manner of their failure”. In the act of appreciating great art we are lead into a form of recognition that neither stays at the level of (reflective) self-interpretation, nor lays claim to a true, underlying form of being. The achievement of the artwork is rather to open up a kind of space, drawing us into a form of attention that gives us a glimpse of what true recognition of otherness could look like.
Carl-Filip Brück is a Ph.D. student at Stockholm University, writing on Adorno’s aesthetics, specifically his aesthetics of music. He has published texts on Adorno, on problems of historical interpretation, and on problems of aesthetic authenticity. Latest conference presentation was at the ACLA 2012 in Providence.
2:45–4:30 PAPER SESSION 3
POWER AND VIOLENCE
DEBORAH K. FUNG – WHEN ART GENERATES POLITICAL POWER: THE ART OF AI WEI WEI AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS
Art and artists hold the power to convey and introduce ideas by materializing the unspoken. Some artists take advantage of the general tendency to disregard or dismiss the impact of artistic statements. In China, where there is strict government censorship of public access to information and when the usual forms of protest such as publications or gatherings are disallowed, art offers another venue. Ai Wei Wei is an artist who understands his power as an imparter of vision and the underestimation of this power by others. He takes advantage of his circumstances to create art against the assumptions of those who hold power, whether it is the Chinese government or foreign investors. This paper explores the work of Ai Wei Wei in light of the international attention and government response he elicits, and his identification of morality with artistic responsibility. This paper also considers the ethics of political power (political power as the gathering of a group to action) and the ethical implications of the use of art to create political power.
Deborah Fung is in her third year of the M.Div. program at Regent College and recently completed an Artist in Residence internship at First Baptist Church in Vancouver, B.C. She intends to graduate by April 2013. Prior to her graduate studies at Regent, she completed a B.A. in Art and Biblical Studies at Wheaton College and M.A. in Art Therapy at George Washington University. She has worked as an art therapist and youth director. Her hopes vocationally are to further contribute to studies where art and theology coincide.
DOUGLAS G. CAMPBELL – THE AESTHETICS OF VIOLENCE IN VISUAL ART AND POETRY
Our contemporary culture is entranced by violence. Violence plays a large role in both popular culture and the arts. Violence is not new; human history, mythology and lore are filled with stories of violent actions and their repercussions. Very few artists, aestheticians or ethicists would purport that violence is a positive behavior. Most artists, aestheticians and ethicists would also agree that violence is something we must strive to curtail. The question becomes, how do we know when we depict violence in images or narratives, or by other artistic means, that we have done so responsibly? When do our presentations work to discourage violence and when do they encourage violence? There is no easy answer to this question, for it involves a multitude of complexities. So, rather than attempt to formulate a means of differentiating between egregiously violent images and narratives (those that encourage further violence) and those that are useful or necessary for truth-telling (those that discourage further violence), I will demonstrate and provide acceptable models for the latter. I will present images and poetry that I believe focus on the latter, but do so without falsifying the nature of violence and its aftermath. In order to do this I will read poems, such as the Aesthetics of Violence, Collateral Damage, Addendum, Shiloh and To Return, that I have written and some of which have appeared in Christianity and Literature, Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature, Out of Line: Writings on Peace and Justice and other publications. Concurrently I will show images of artworks such as Separation, Twins, Dancing around the Golden Calf, Uriah and others artworks I have exhibited.
Douglas G. Campbell is a professor of art at George Fox University. His artworks have been exhibited in over 170 juried and invitational exhibits and are included in private and public collections, including the Portland Art Museum, Mt. Angel Abbey and Oregon State University. His book, Seeing: When Art and Faith Intersect, was published in 2002. His poetry has appeared in Borderlands, RiverSedge, TheOtherSide, Voices in the Wilderness, Into the Teeth of the Windand other publications.
EVA MARIA RÄPPLE – JACQUES RANCIÈRE: THE PENSIVE IMAGE
Equality among humans has been a central focus in the critical writings of the French philosopher Jacques Rancière, beginning with his early works which explore the social movements of the 19th century to his texts on politics and aesthetics. A compassionate critical voice against the dominance of inherited inequalities, he radically questions commonly accepted divisions between knowledge and ignorance, philosophers and shoemakers, teachers and students. The paper discusses Rancière’s claim that the labor of translating and composing is at the heart of emancipatory practices for spectators of art forms. Rancière uses the term “pensive image” to describe the tension between “thought and non-thought, activity and non-activity,… art and non-art,” resulting in a zone of indeterminacy that resists thoughts of the spectators who impart reality on the image. I suggest that the well-known photo of a hooded prisoner in Abu Ghraib taken on November 2, 2003 by a prison guard, never intended to become a work of art, nonetheless functions as “pensive image”, demanding an engaged spectator to rethink known practices. The cloaked black shape of the hooded prisoner suspends the immediate violent action, thus, resists thought. As a “cipher of history” it compels the spectator to begin the work of negotiation between several regimes of expression, urging new modes of seeing. Space opens to ponder humanity – the invisibility of humanity –to engage in a discourse about practices and carefully crafted words such as “unlawful combatants” that mask the loss of humanity and justice. The photo requires a narrative where there is only silence, an experience connecting lives of the one photographed and the spectators. It demands spectators who perform the work of associating and dissociating the photographic replica to their known experiences. The image thus calls for emancipated spectators, translators, and engaged narrators.
Eva Maria Räpple is a professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at College of DuPage/Illinois. Her work focuses on the intersections of art, language, and imagination as a space for humans to engage in experimental discoveries of the sensible, thinkable, and potentially possible as a dynamic process between phenomenality and dis-identification and subjectiviation. Her frequent forays into the history of philosophy and environmental ethics are reflective of her interdisciplinary research interests and her quest for philosophy as a path to the “art of life.” Räpple received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland). Her most recent publications include “The Seductive Serpent” Religion, Culture, and Marginality: Comparative Perspectives. Eds. David Gay and Stephen R. Reimer. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2010.
NON-WESTERN ARTS AND ETHICS
FÉLIX VÁZQUEZ – JUAN GELMAN AND THE ETHICAL EXPENDITURE
In the second half of the 20th century some of the most influential Latin American poets chose to enter the ranks of clandestine armed movements to fight against the repression of their countries’ governments. In the ideal identity created in this poetry the subject is forged in “the struggle” for a better world. The sacrifice of the poet who gives his/her life for the “just cause” becomes the ultimate price of freedom, gladly paid by the combatant. In this fashion, poetic production adopts an economic logic similar to the one presented by George Bataille in his notion of “poetic expenditure”. In the particular case of Argentina, the takeover of power by the military junta in 1976 led several of the nation’s most recognized literary figures to join the armed resistance, including Juan Gelman, perhaps the initiator and most relevant writer of Argentina’s “generación del 60”. It is notable how, when his individual circumstances might lead one to believe his poetry would turn to condemnation after the “disappearance” of his son, daughter-in-law, and unborn granddaughter, Gelman’s poetry in fact moves away from the aesthetics of socialist realism, and from exile seeks the influence of the tradition of mystical poetry in an introspective turn. This presentation includes a reading of Gelman’s ‘Si dulcemente’ (1980) which questions Bataille’s notion of an unproductive “poetic expenditure”, as it is linked to what I will call a productive “ethical expenditure”. Moreover, I argue that in the production of the poem Gelman uses the “Name” of the disappeared to raise them to mythical stature in order to construct a subjectivity, no longer in a relationship with a “Face” as described by Emmanuel Levinas, but in a relationship with a divinity before whom the poetic subject is responsible.
Félix Vázquez is currently a Ph.D. candidate and Teaching Associate in the field of Romance Studies at Cornell University. His main research interest is in modern and contemporary Latin American and Transatlantic literature, particularly the intersection of poetics, ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology. The title of his dissertation is ‘Ethics, Poetics, and the Emergence of the Subject in César Vallejo, Octavio Paz, and Juan Gelman.’
RITA SALDANHA – CONSTRUCTION OF ETHICS IN KESAR: A NON-WESTERN EPIC
A literary text cannot be interpreted bereft of its cultural or spacial context and the ethical or moral code that a literary work dictates is fashioned from this context. Non-western epics evince how ethics have been constructed to accommodate and uphold social and political power structures. Such socially constructed ethics create ambiguities in the narrative- ambiguities, which are reflected in the form of the text and which create complexity. This paper delineates how Kesar- an oral epic native to Tibet and Ladakh- India, has been constructed to further a particular form of rulership that is sustained and supported by the religious practices of Bonism. The epic celebrates the heroic deeds of Kesar an ancient semi – divine warrior king of Tibet/Ladakh. The epic hero Kesar is said to be a historical figure. The epic reinforces stereotypical notions of good and evil through battles between Kesar and his enemies. In the battles fought by Kesar, his achievements are narrated as feats against demons and barbaric hoards, who exhibit no military prowess and strategy. Kesar is represented as a trickster who wins battle through guile. There are no detailed descriptions of the enemy in any part of the narrative. The paper questions whether the battles that Kesar undertakes are ‘just’, and whether they should be interpreted as an allegory of the battle between good and evil. It explores whether the warrior hero’s acts are moral even though they promote a certain kind of religion? If the epic is considered a moral piece, who decides what is moral? This paper discusses such ambiguities as inherent in the structure of the narrative.
Dr. Rita Saldanha is currently working as Professor and Head of Department at the Department of English and Comparative Literatures, Central University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir State, India, where she teaches graduate students and guides research. She holds a Ph.D. degree in English and she has put in more than 35 years of teaching at the graduate level of the universities of Jammu and Kashmir state. She has worked as the Editor of a multi-disciplinary research journal and as the Head of Department of the University of Jammu. She has published many articles and books. Her areas of interest are comparative literatures and contemporary literary theory. Dr. Saldanha was also awarded the Shastri-Indo Canadian Fellowship in 1997.
RYAN STANDER – ENDURING WITNESS: LOS DESAPARECIDOS (THE DISAPPEARED) AS METZIAN “DANGEROUS MEMORIES”
In 2005 The North Dakota Museum of Art (NDMOA) convened a powerful international traveling exhibit called “Los Desaparcidos (The Disappeared).” It brought together the work of 15 living South and Central American contemporary artists still grappling with the legacy of disappearance, torture, among other atrocities committed by the military dictatorships of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Much of this haunting exhibit was marked by themes of brutal specificity in names, facts, and faces. While the show raised potent questions of memory and the need for expression, it also brought healing by helping 13 people discover their long-hidden identities as descendants of their disappeared parents. This paper examines the Disappeared exhibit in light of both liturgical theology and Johann Baptist Metz’s language of “dangerous memories.” Metz, a Catholic political theologian, argues that the memory of suffering, particularly of Jesus upon the cross, is dangerous in its capacity to render critique to the prevailing culture and to stimulate human imagination for social and political action. By remembering those who have suffered, suggests that their suffering was not in vain because it motivates efforts to change and stop such suffering. Metz claims that the dangerous memory of their crucified Lord is a fundamental hermeneutical key for the Christian church as it foreshadows the eschatological promise of liberation from suffering and oppression. With a mindfulness of William Cavanaugh’s Torture and Eucharist, I will argue that the language and practices of “dangerous memories” are needed provocations for North American audiences. Using the Disappeared exhibit as an example, I will explore how the liturgical formation of this counter interpretive memory can serve the broader engagements with political art and suffering while inciting change and action beyond the walls of the museum and church.
Originally from the farmlands of northwest Iowa, Ryan Stander is a fairly recent transplant to the Red River Valley of North Dakota. He’s alternated his education between art and theology with a MFA from the University of North Dakota, MA in Theology from Sioux Falls Seminary (SD), and a BA in Art from Northwestern College (IA). His theological interests draw upon liturgical theology and the religious imagination to evocatively engage contemporary visual art. As a printmaker and photographer, his work has been exhibited internationally in South Africa, China, Central and South America; nationally in New York, New Jersey, and Texas; and across the Upper-Midwest.
7:30 KEYNOTE 2
NORTHWEST BUILDING AUDITORIUM
TERRENCE LINDVALL – THE MOCKING OF GOD: A HISTORY, THEOLOGY, AND ETHICS OF CHRISTIAN SATIRE
While sounding oxymoronic, religious satire has existed as an enduring literary genre from the times of Hebrew prophets to the present. There exists within the religious community a self-monitoring and self-correcting vocation of the prophetic satirist. His or her calling is to keep religious leaders accountable by using wit and humor as means of grace seeks to sanctify through sacred scoffing. This paper argues that not only are there men and women who are called to satirize as a religious vocation, but that there are also recognizable targets, namely those in power. As ecclesiastical leaders are most prone to wander from their spiritual and ethical callings, they are given holy prophets who speak the Word of God to them in satirical ways. The ethics and efficacy of such modes of discourse inhere difficulties and dangers, but the tradition itself, from Elijah through Christian saints like Jerome and Kierkegaard, wrestles with the task of calling fellow saints and sinners to a more righteous life.
Professor Terry Lindvall occupies the endowed C. S. Lewis Chair of Communication and Christian Thought at Virginia Wesleyan College. He earned his BA from Vanguard University, his MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, and his PhD from the University of Southern California where he wrote his dissertation on C. S. Lewis’ Theory of Communication. Born with a twin sister in Basel Switzerland, he lived a peripatetic life until settling down in Virginia Beach, Virginia teaching film at Regent University, where his students won several national Student Academy Awards and he was known for breaking the Dean’s window with a snowball. He also had a four-year stint as the Regent University President and was a defendant on Court TV, but confesses those years were a blur. He has taught at the College of William and Mary, Duke University, and numerous other institutions until invited to spend his silver years at Virginia Wesleyan College. He has authored books on film (Silents of God: Silent American Film and Religion; Sanctuary Cinema; and Celluloid Sermons) and on humor and faith (The Mother of All Laughter: Sarah and the Genesis of Comedy; Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis). He and his wife Karen have two children, Chris a fourth year at the University of Virginia and Caroline, a freshman at James Madison University. He and his daughter have just published a children’s book, The Girl Who Couldn’t Laugh. He is presently working on a cultural history of animation, a book on prayers and hymns in film, and his magus opus, In the Seat of Scoffers: A History of Religion, Satire, and Laughter from the Hebrew Prophets to Stephen Colbert. One of his favorite former students, TWU Professor Ned Vankevich, was in his wedding party and wore brown shoes with his tuxedo.
NED VANKEVICH - RESPONDENT
Ned Vankevich is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communication and member of the School of Arts, Media, and Culture at Trinity Western University.
Ned is an award-winning film and television Producer-Director who has made over 100 commercials, several documentaries, and a variety of short films. He has won a Bronze Medal at the New York International Film festival, two National Case III Awards, Five RIM Award, and an Addy Award for his commercials. He has also produced, directed, and photographed a number of professional film and television works in over 20 countries including humanitarian-related projects in the war zones of Northern Israel, Southern Lebanon, Serbia and Croatia.
Ned is also a published author and rhetorical scholar who has written one book, had articles published in academic journals, and presented over twenty-five papers at scholarly conferences in North America and Europe. He has also won three academic andcreative grants and teaches a variety of film and media criticism courses from a rhetorical and ideological-ethical perspective.
His current research areas include ecstatic film, political rhetoric and philosophy, and ontological ethics.