Looking at Death: Images of 9/11, Before, During, and After

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What might it mean for a synagogue, a church, a mosque, or a temple, to set up a video screen in its sanctuary and play these images of death from September 11—and then turn around and respond to them? What reinvented rituals might result from a ritualized, contextualized reception of these images? Such communal framing gets us beyond the questions of morbid voyeurism because it eliminates the one-way dimension and places images within a social setting. It further allows us to reflect and come to terms with dying, thereby stirring the potential for a good death. 

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Cozy Cottage or House on Fire? Thomas Kinkade’s Theo-Aesthetic Legacy

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Kinkade challenged the high-brow haughtiness of the art world, grew rich in the process, and seemed to fumble around, rock-star like, with drinking and bad behavior. Liberals scoffed at the hypocrisy of yet another social-religious conservative who can’t live up to a decent set of moral standards, while his mass-produced images were hugely loved, especially by evangelical Christians who felt that here, finally, was an artist for them. He called himself the “Painter of Light” and then trademarked the phrase. He includes a Christian fish (icthus) above his signature—but he’s also alleged to have urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure at Disneyland, among other socially unacceptable activities.  

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See Me, Feel Me: Remembering Ken Russell, 1927-2011

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Russell is continually, even post-mortem, called “provocative,” “controversial,” and “iconoclastic.” And at least a few of these obits have noted his conversion to Roman Catholicism all those years ago, though he was never quite settled in his faith. Certainly there was religious content in his films—the nuns and priests in a sexual standoff in The Devils (1971), Anthony Perkins’ creepy street preacher in Crimes of Passion (1984)—but it was the human experience that Russell so strangely charted that leaves me thinking of his “religious” nature. He portrayed the depths of human depravity and desire, of lust and liking.

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Looking For Answers at the Oscars: A Guide to This Year’s Contenders

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The top films for 2010—especially those up for this Sunday’s awards—leave most of the species-specific questions behind. Instead this year’s crop reflects anxieties (as well as promises) about who we are and who we might be becoming in and as humans, in our own skins—never mind the “prawns” or “Na’vi.” Questions provoked by this year’s films include those concerning the nature of our selves in connection and collision with our families, our larger social institutional entanglements, and our own bodies. The other key theme, effecting each of the others, had to do with the ways new media technology is inserting itself into our intimate lives, and changing our identities, both public and private.

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Wojnarowicz’s Ant-Covered Jesus: Blasphemy or Religious Art?

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It doesn’t take much to realize the main theme of A Fire in my Belly is death. More specifically, it is the vulnerability, penetrability, and perpetually possible disintegration of the human body. This fleshly mortality became especially real to Wojnarowicz in the still emerging AIDS crisis of the time. Thus, by necessity it is a deeply human and deeply religious artwork. Which does not mean these images are pleasant and easy to look at. No warm and fuzzy pop spirituality this.

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