The Problem of Religious Art in Modernity

Ludmila Piters-Hofmann's picture

The Problem of Religious Art in Modernity                         

Uses and Abuses of the Icon in Russia


8th Graduate Workshop of the Russian Art & Culture Group, in collaboration with the “Eurasia in Global Dialogue” Program at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna


October 14–16, 2020 (UTC+2 hours)

online via ZOOM.


Working language: English


In Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche wrote: “that species of art can never flourish again which—like the Divine Comedy, the paintings by Raphael, the frescoes of Michelangelo, Gothic cathedrals—presupposes not only a cosmic but a metaphysical significance in the objects of art.” In his usual provocative manner, Nietzsche attracted attention to the problem of religious art in a secular modernity. This issue was already implicit in Kant’s notion of the viewer of the work of art as “indifferent to the real existence of the object of representation.”


The eighth graduate workshop of the Russian Art and Culture Group will consider the deep implications posed by the problem of religious art by examining the various ways in which the icon was adapted in modern Russia to serve different artistic, philosophical, and political agendas.




Wednesday, October 14

13.30   Opening: Welcome Address

          Prof. Dr. Isabel Wünsche, Jacobs University Bremen


Panel I: Russian Icon-Painting

Chair: Clemena Antonova


14.00   The Icon-Painters' Pattern-Books and the End of the Byzantine Iconicity in the Post-Medieval Russia

          Alexei Lidov, Lomonosov Moscow State University


14.30   The Icon Within the Icon: The Rhetoric of the Composition and the Peculiarities of Icon Veneration in Russia

          Oleg Tarasov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow


15.00   Break


Panel II: Fin De Siècle Russian Art

Chair: Isabel Wünsche


15.30   Uniting the Opposite: Orthodox Imagery in Russian Folklore Depictions

          Ludmila Piters-Hofmann, Jacobs-University Bremen


16.00   From Sacrilegious Monstrosities to Modernist Masterpieces: The Changing Reception of Mikhail Vrubel’s Religious Murals at the

          Fin de Siècle

          Maria Taroutina, Yale-NUS College Singapore



Thursday, October 15

Panel III: The Mother of God and Her Portrayals

Chair: Clemena Antonova


14.00   Marion Iconology and Women's Agency

          Viktoria Lavriniuk, University of Ottawa


14.30   Liubov Popova and Reality as a Site of Construction

          Petra Carlsson, Stockholm School of Theology


15.00   Break


15.30   Guest Lecture

         Presence and Power: Reflections on the Politics and Theology of Icons

         George Pattison, University of Glasgow


16.00   Some Inquiries Concerning the Understanding of Icons

          Thomas Németh, University of Vienna



Friday, October 16

Panel IV: Philosophical Ideas on Icons

Chair: Isabel Wünsche


14.00   The Power of Images and the Failure of Aesthetics: The Russian Position

          Clemena Antonova, Eurasia in Global Dialogue (IWM), Vienna


14.30   Divine Darkness and Uncreated Light: Byzantine Meanings of Avant-Garde’s Icons

          Tatiana Levina, Higher School of Economics, Moscow


15.00   Break


Panel V: Twentieth Century Russian Art

Chair: Ludmila Piters-Hofmann


15.30   Abstraction as Expression of Religious Truths in Wassily Kandinsky’s Painting

          Lilia Sokolova, University of Cologne


16.00   Stalin Christ as a Czar: On "Anachronic" (Socialist) Realism

          Nikita Balagurov, independent scholar, St. Petersburg


16.30   Concluding Discussion


Initial idea and organization: Prof. Dr. Isabel Wünsche, Dr. Clemena Antonova, and Ludmila Piters-Hofmann.


The event is organized in collaboration with the “Eurasia in Global Dialogue” Program at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), and generously supported by the Kroll Family Trust, Switzerland.


The Russian Art and Culture Group is based at Jacobs University Bremen. Headed by Prof. Dr. Isabel Wünsche, it brings together scholars and young researchers from Eastern and Western Europe.


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