BAK Critical Readers in Contemporary Art
The Return of Religion and Other Myths: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art

BAK Critical Readers in Contemporary Art

By Sven Lütticken, Maria Hlavajova, Jill Winder, Jan Assmann, Christina von Braun, Paul Chan, Boris Groys, Arnoud Holleman, Marc de Kesel, Kenan Malik, Maria Pask, Dieter Roelstraete, Jorinde Seijdel

The Return of Religion and Other Myths: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art is the latest publication in BAK, basis voor actuele kunst’s Critical Reader Series and the final part of a three-fold project organized by BAK under same title, in which the popular assumption of the return of religion to the field of artistic practice and its discourses, the public sphere, contemporary politics, and media in the West is interrogated as a constitutive “myth” of our current condition. Through a wide-ranging selection of texts, a remarkable group of artists, art historians and theorists, scholars of religion, and sociologists unpack the historical underpinnings of religion’s so-called “return,” art’s long-standing relationship with iconoclasm and connection to religious representation, the manipulation of certain religious imagery in the mass media, and contemporary art’s potential to complicate and problematize commonly-held beliefs about the role and potential of the image in today’s world. The reader contains newly commissioned texts, a number of new translations, and adapted contributions from On Post-Secularism, a series of lectures and conversations that took place within the framework of The Return of Religion project in late 2008 and early 2009.

With contributions by: Jan Assmann (Egyptologist and cultural theorist, Heidelberg and Konstanz); Christina von Braun (cultural theorist, author, and filmmaker, Berlin); Paul Chan (artist, New York), Boris Groys (philosopher, art critic, essayist, and curator, New York) & Maria Hlavajova; Arnoud Holleman (artist and writer, Amsterdam); Marc de Kesel (philosopher, Ghent and Nijmegen); Kenan Malik (writer, lecturer, researcher, and broadcaster, London); Maria Pask (artist, Amsterdam); Dieter Roelstraete (writer and curator, Antwerp and Berlin), and Jorinde Seijdel (art historian and critic, Amsterdam).

Table of contents


Maria Hlavajova, Sven Lütticken, Jill Winder

What’s Wrong With Images?

Jan Assmann

The Headscarf—An ‘Empty Signifier’

Christina von Braun

What Art is and Where it Belongs

Paul Chan

In the Absence of the Horizon

A Conversation Between Boris Groys and Maria Hlavajova

On ne touché pas—On Copyright and Iconoclasm

Arnoud Holleman

The Image as Crime. On the Monotheistic Ban on Images and the ‘Criminal’ Nature of Art

Marc De Kesel

The God Wars in Perspective

Kenan Malik

Beautiful City Booklist

Maria Pask

Great Transformations: On the Spiritual in Art, Again

Dieter Roelstraete

Iconocrash: Contemporary Forms of Civil Iconoclasm and Civil Iconolatry. Notes on Queen’s Day 2009

Jorinde Seijdel


Editors: Maria Hlavajova, Sven Lütticken, and Jill Winder

Design: Kummer & Herrman, Utrecht

Published by: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and post editions, Rotterdam

Language: English

Pages: 212

ISBN: 978-94-6083-007-5

This publication is sadly no longer available.