Friday, April 15, 2011

Sandow Birk's American Qur'an at City Paper

"Sura 67: The Kingdom" from Sandow Birk's American Qur'an,
now on view at The Warhol Museum

A review of Sandow Birk's American Qu'ran, currently on view at The Warhol Museum, appears in the 4/13/11 edition of Pittsburgh City Paper.
Here's a small excerpt:
"Could it be that here he is using the Koran not as way to promote understanding, but as a tool for sociopolitical commentary? While this activity certainly has its value and place, operating under the guise of interfaith understanding would make it just as guilty of exploitation as the nation it criticizes." Read the review here.

I noticed the Warhol hasn't linked the review to their site, as they did with Kurt Shaw's article. This is very likely because I question the artist's goal, especially as it relates to the Warhol's mission with its larger series, Word of God. This series, which will feature at least two other theme-relevant shows, is supposed to foster interfaith understanding. Still, what the series' inaugural exhibition does do is foster discussion and constructive debate, and if this is its chief outcome, then I consider it a success, even though I read more dire and limiting implications into Birk's illustrations of the Muslim Holy Book. Overall, I am excited by the fact that The Warhol is organizing symposia. This is a vital part of engaging the community by making connections both personal and educational. This makes the works more than just framed illustrations on the wall. It makes them live and breathe meaning.

Because of the Saturday literature class I teach, I can't make it to this symposium (titled "Dis[locating] Culture") that's supposed to take place tomorrow, beginning at 1 p.m.. Resa Aslan of The Daily Beast is supposed to be the keynote speaker. There's actually another related panel on contemporary Islamic art that is scheduled for tonight at the Michael Berger Gallery. All this is very promising. It means that art is out there doing what it does when it's at its best conceptual potential (and I say 'conceptual' because I don't mean aesthetic, which often has a different impact).

But definitely check out the symposium description in the meantime.

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