College of Fine Arts and Communication

Research and Creative Activities

Colloquium 4 — November 2, 2007 — Van Bokkelen Theatre

Jim Paulsen Summer of 2007 Contemporary Art in Venice, Kassel and Munster
Jim Paulsen and Leigh Maddox, Department of Art

Every 10 years three major contemporary art events coincide. The Venice Biennale occurs each odd year, Documenta in Kassel, Germany, is every five years, and Skulptur Projekt, Munster, Germany, takes place every 10 years. These events are considered by critics and art professionals to define the state of the visual arts each decade. We visited all three venues in 1997 and re-visited them in the summer of 2007. From inflatable icebergs in alternative spaces in Venice to El Anatsui’s stunning tapestries of beer-can pulls, Al Weiwei’s 1,001 wooden Qing Dynasty Chairs to Trisha Brown’s balletic performance installation in Kassel and in Munster Mike Kelley’s Petting Zoo and Susan Philipzs singing Giulietta’s Aria from the Tales of Hoffman at her sound sculpture under the Tomin Bridge that spans the Aasee, we will show images and discuss the incredible breadth of work exhibited, from the antique and formal, to the highly conceptual.  We will also discuss the changes from a decade ago.

Imaginary Travels of Marco Polo
Nora Sturges, Department of Art

For several years, including my sabbatical last year, I have been working on a series of paintings depicting imaginary events in Marco Polo's travels. The paintings were originally inspired by Italo Calvino's novel Invisible Cities, and they explore ideas of xenophobia, tourism, exoticism, and cultural difference. In this presentation, I will show images of the paintings, and discuss the origins of the series, how the paintings have grown to encompass personal experience as well as aspects of the original story told by Marco Polo, and the development of the narrative form within the series.

Tom Waits, Greek Tragedy and the Rational and the Irrational in Music and Art
Gerry Phillips, Department of Music

Tom Waits’ music of the mid-seventies is harmonically simple, slipping between boozy ballads and a kind of multi-faceted rap. Waits peels slivers of life out of graffiti on a bathroom wall or a huckster's well-worn line. In “Tom Traubert’s Blues” Waits borrows the chorus of the well-known Australian song “Waltzing Matilda,” creating a powerful image of Matilda—a Dionysian vision enfolding Traubert in a mythic union of love and death, ecstasy and annihilation. Waits has found a way to subsume the very words to an emotionally evocative form of diction that, along with a plaintive musical embodiment of the text, and an uncanny and harsh vocal persona, creates an expressive tapestry matched by few. Thinking of Waits as a representative of the ecstatic intoxication of the ancient Greek satyr chorus may therefore not seem so remote. Envisioning Greek tragedy as the pre-eminent exemplar of radical inconsistencies between so-called human rationality and the (so-called) irrational world—and linking it with insights from Waits’ work can be instructive. The sense of utter homelessness evoked in some of his work reflects, in street language, one of the questions that lies at the very heart of Greek tragedy: Are we creatures living in a universe which is, which has, no home for us—a universe utterly oblivious to us? Worse, is our homelessness rather the expression of the universe’s brute thingness, therefore, sheerly incapable of such a thing as “recognizing” our existence?


College of Fine Arts and Communication
Center for the Arts, Room 3001 (map)
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Phone: 410-704-3288
Fax: 410-704-6026


• Submit your proposal for the next COFAC Colloquium. The deadline is Jan. 22.






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