Performances, Talks & More

Those who are not Institute participants are welcome to join us for the free and ticketed events that are open to the public listed below. Ticketed events are free for UNC Asheville students.

Visit the Institute Events page for the full list of events, and register for the Institute here.

Wednesday, Oct. 13

Events will take place at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center.

7 p.m. – Music

7:30 p.m. – Talk: Religion + Art in the 21st Century, Aaron Rosen

The image of the blaspheming modern artist, trampling on all that is good and holy, never fails to grab headlines. But while some artists simply aim to shock and offend religious sensibilities, they are surprisingly rare.  Contemporary artists who engage seriously with religious traditions, themes, and institutions are much more prevalent and indeed much more interesting.  It is time to set aside old assumptions about the antagonism between art and religion and look again with fresh eyes.

In this lecture, Aaron Rosen, a leading scholar on religion and contemporary art as well as a practicing curator and critic, explores some of the key ways in which artists today are reframing how we think about religion and spirituality, and driving new approaches to ethical issues including climate care and racial justice. Rosen will draw on his popular book on the subject, Art & Religion in the 21st Century, with a special focus on works produced since 2020, in a period of seismic change to our moral landscape.

Thursday, Oct. 14

All events will take place at UNC Asheville’s Highsmith Student Union unless noted otherwise.

2:30 p.m. Talk: Community and Infinity in the Art of John Biggers and Daniel Minter, Rachel Elizabeth Harding

This presentation will explore thematic parallels in the work of painters John Biggers (1924-2001) and Daniel Minter (1961). Separated by more than a generation, and each with his own unique professional trajectory, these creative artists share Southern roots, diasporic visions and sensibilities grounded in both the materiality and the mysticism of African American life. 

3:30 p.m. – Music, Alicia Jo Rabins

4 p.m. – Talk: Original Zen: Its Art Then and Now, David Hinton

The arts were considered forms of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist practice in ancient China, and mountain landscape played an important part in that practice. Hinton will outline Ch’an insight. Then, starting from that understanding, he will discuss how Ch’an shaped the arts in ancient China, and how it migrated to America in the twentieth century, where it shaped poetry and visual-art in fundamental ways, a process in which John Cage and Black Mountain played a major role.

7:30 p.m. – Film screening and talk: Testify, Beyond Place, Marie Cochran
At Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center

Testify, Beyond Place pays homage to the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as well as its relationship to Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC. The year the film was produced in 2021, marked the 85th anniversary of the church demolition and gravesite removal to make way for the expansion of the campus. A marker at Robertson Residence Hall designates the original site of the church structure and approximately 100 graves. Testify bears witness to this event and provides a context for dialogue about a shared history and honors the resilience of the congregation.

  • Producer/Director – Marie T. Cochran
  • Cinematography, Sound Design and Original Music – Kevin Slamon
  • Editing – Kevin Slamon and Marie T. Cochran

Friday, Oct. 15

All events will take place at UNC Asheville’s Highsmith Student Union unless noted otherwise.

1:30 p.m. – Talk: You Can’t Tell It/ Like I Tell It: Danced Spirituals as Liturgy, Christopher-Rasheem McMillan

In this talk, Christopher-Rasheem McMillan will situate ‘Danced spirituals’ as African American liturgical devices that synthesize meaning-making, corporeal expression, and disidentification through the black body. McMillan returns to Susan Manning’s work “Dance Spirituals” with a focus, not on the authenticity of danced spirituals as they relate to race and gender, but on a polyvalent liturgical frame that can contain expressions of artistry and expressions of spirit, in productive tension. McMillan will locate “ the work of the people/liturgy’ as embodied, corporeal, and responsive to the context from which it is made. He will look at Helen Tamiris’s The Negro Spirituals, Ted Shawn’ s Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen and Ronald K Brown’s ‘Order My Step’ as case studies that speak to the public organization of a body in space as a liturgical and artistic act, grounding the choreography as a meaning-making in and through live religious experience.

3:15 p.m. – Talk: Making Nothing Out of Something: Art as a Means of Clearing Ground, Curt Cloninger

Rather than use my art to try and introduce people to God as I have come to know him, I use my art to undermine people’s confidence in their ability to reductively know. I do this by forcing media and language to undo and unsay themselves. Language is revealed as an embodied force in the world, not simply a system of meaning-making. My goal is to begin clearing an open ground where a person might more readily be found by the living God who is there. I will show examples of my artwork, talk about my art practice, and discuss my own faith as it relates to my artwork and my media theory.

7 p.m. – Performance: through the mirror of their eyes, Kimberly Bartosik
At Warren Wilson College

Created on the heels of “I hunger for you” (BAM 2018), Kimberly Bartosik’s “through the mirrors of their eyes” brims with compassion and violence. The piece begins inside of a storm. A crowd of children runs through. They know which way to go: they are the bearers of direction. Featuring the extraordinary Joanna Kotze, Dylan Crossman, Burr Johnson (Bessie Nominee, Outstanding Performer), and a trio of young performers, the piece is infused with reminders of time, its wild rush forward, its holding patterns, and our abilities to navigate pathways of destruction and renewal.​

Buy Tickets

Saturday, Oct. 16

1:30 p.m. – Performance: Music of John Cage – Thomas Moore, piano

This performance of solo piano works by John Cage will feature compositions from the 1950s through the 1990s, including the often discussed but infrequently performed 4’33” — Cage’s “silent” piece of 1952 — as well as Variations II (1961), selections from the Etudes Australes (1974–75), and One5 (1990).

2:30 p.m. – Talk: John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing and Its Inspirational Value for the Visual Arts, Kay Larson

John Cage became famous in several ways: By linking his music with Merce Cunningham’s choreography, so that each partner could boldly explore previously unimagined methods of creating. By taking risks with his music in parallel with his urgent quest to envision the qualities of spirit he discovered in Asian practices such as Hinduism and Zen. And by writings that continue, some 80 years after first publication, to provoke and explain by their example.

In a recent review of German artist Gerhard Richter’s “Cage Series” of paintings, art critic Jason Farago wrote: “John Cage’s dictum, ‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it,’ could be Mr. Richter’s motto as well.” The phrase comes from Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing,” perhaps the most radical, most important, and most provocative of Cage’s essays. Published in 1961, in Cage’s first book Silence, “Lecture on Nothing” has much to say to creative artists. The lecture is also beautiful and tough-minded, and worth performing in its own right.

In all his work, Cage sought to “get himself out of the way” so that vivid encounters with the world could “make their own art.” These methods are still useful and timely.

7 p.m. – Film: A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff

A hybrid of musical memoir and narrative fantasy, A Kaddish For Bernie Madoff tells the story of Madoff and the system that allowed him to function for decades through the eyes of musician/poet Alicia Jo Rabins, who watches the financial crash from her 9th floor studio in an abandoned office building on Wall Street. Fueled by her growing obsession, real-life interviews transform into music videos, ancient spiritual texts become fevered fantasies of synchronized swimming, and a vivid, vulnerable work of art is born from the unique perspective of an artist watching the global financial collapse up close.

Buy Tickets