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This year marks the hundred-year anniversary of the publication of Wassily Kandinsky's classic book On the Spiritual in Art (originally released in 1911). The following proposal outlines the relevance of this book to us today and proposes a commemoration of the centennial of its publication in the form of an online symposium to run in conjunction with a film screening. The commemorative events will be hosted by the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Introduction: Looking Backward
In one sense, an anniversary is just an arbitrary marker; the fact that something significant happened exactly one year or one decade ago today has no actual bearing on today's events. The real significance of an anniversary, of course, is that it presents an opportunity for reflection and the structure of a framing device through which to view, assess, and examine our lives.

It is in this spirit of reflection and examination that we propose to revisit Kandinsky's classic essay. The book's subject, which to many might seem an anachronism, affords us a curiously well-suited and timely vehicle for such an undertaking. The recent collapse of our economy has thrust us into a kind of cultural moratorium in which, finding ourselves uncomfortably suspended between crisis and transformation, we are being forced to turn inward, to look at ourselves. Suddenly, it seems, the inner life—the home province of the spiritual—has acquired a special urgency it has not been granted in the American cultural landscape for some time. A second factor making Kandinsky's book so relevant now has to do with its specific address to art and artists. For although the book has implications that extend far beyond the domain of art proper, it was written primarily for those of us who have committed our lives to art in some form or other, and who are striving to participate meaningfully in the larger culture. "Meaningfully" is the operative word here; for above all else On the Spiritual in Art is an address to serious artists. In our view, the art world has not been particularly hospitable to serious art and artists of late, entertainment having, it seems, superseded all other values. While there are countless artists at work today grappling with meaningful issues in their studios, all too often their work remains in the shadows of the spectacle. If art is to contribute anything of real value to our culture's transformation, it is these serious artists whose voices need to be heard.

The Book
The import of On the Spiritual in Art is belied by its appearance: it is a slim volume of barely over fifty pages. In the first part, Kandinsky offers an impassioned plea for a spiritual revolution in art whose achievement would liberate artists from the "bonds" of the material world (representation in art was then just beginning to give way to abstraction). In the second part, the author lays out his theories of the psychology of color and the language of form, and concludes with an address to the moral responsibility of the artist.

Kandinsky's text is far from perfect; indeed, the contemporary reader will find in its pages every order of difficulty with which to take issue. But if one can accept some of the more overt anachronisms (the pervasive overtones of the Christian worldview, the exalted language, the unqualified use of words such as soul and spirit), one will be rewarded with observations and insights that are as profound as they are pertinent to our times. Of these, Kandinsky's struggle with materialism is perhaps the most interesting, as his nemesis was the very same overvaluation of things and appearances that has, in its more advanced form, brought us to our current situation. This crucial reminder in a time of cultural transformation is grounds alone for revisiting Kandinsky.

The Current Situation
"Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions." The book opens with this portentous sentence. From it emerge two overarching questions that are as urgent today as they were in 1911: First, what is the intrinsic character of the work that our epoch's artists have begotten? And second, how does its existence in the cultural environment not merely reflect but give shape to our inner lives?

In a world in which being entertained has acquired the status of a primary value—one which we seek to realize in even our news—how has art positioned itself in relation to this overwhelming force? Does its character present a challenge or counterpoint to it, or has it been swept up by the ethos and capitulated to our need for constant titillation and amusement? The second question arising from Kandinsky's opening line cuts to the heart of what is perhaps the most pressing "spiritual" issue of our times: How is the inner life—its structures, cadences, range, and complexity—changing as a result of our current environment?

General Questions
Many of the major and minor issues addressed in Kandinsky's book can serve as discussion points with great generative potential. The following list represents some of the more general questions arising from the text that might be used as a framework for the commemoration.

Conclusion: Looking Forward
Although the point of departure for this project is a text written over a century ago, it is of course toward the future that our work will be directed. By reconsidering this hundred-year-old classic and using it as a lens through which to view and assess our shared cultural history, we will be afforded a unique opportunity to critically examine our current situation. Whatever emerges from the dialogue initiated by this commemoration, it is hoped that Kandinsky's enthusiasm will infuse our endeavors with renewed vision and inspire us to imagine the shape of our future in new and exciting ways.