Stephen E. Ostrow Distinguished Visitors Program

Fall 2017

Finbarr Barry Flood

"Amplifying Aura? The Prophetic Sandal in the Ages of Its Technological Reproducibility"
Wednesday, April 5 at 7:00pm
Vollum Lecture Hall

Although recent controversies about the historical representation of the Prophet Muhammad have focused on figural paintings, these were relatively rare and circulated in a limited milieu. More commonly, he was represented metonymically, by depictions of his footprint or sandal, for example. The most famous sandal relic was kept in Damascus, and from the twelfth century onward images of this sandal relic were generated by tracing its outline. Tracings of tracings were often generated in their turn, disseminating the image of the sandal and its blessings from Morocco to India.

This enchained series continued into modernity, when new print technologies and photography were applied to the reproduction of the sandal’s image. The deployment of modern technologies of mass (re)production is directly related to ongoing debates within Islam about the acceptability of relics, shrine veneration, and mediation. However, the perceived ability of mass-produced images to transmit the amuletic charisma of the original relic also raises larger questions about images, indexes, and the mediation of prophetic aura.

Finbarr Barry Flood is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the Humanities in the Institute of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences at New York University. He earned a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in Islamic Art History and a B.A. from Trinity College in Archaeology with Mental and Moral Science. He specializes in art and architecture of the Islamic world and cross-cultural dimensions of Islamic material culture and is the author of numerous books, articles, and essays.

About the Program

The Stephen E. Ostrow Distinguished Visitors Program in the Visual Arts was established by a generous 1988 gift from Edward and Sue Cooley and John and Betty Gray in support of art history and its place in the humanities. The lecture program enables Reed College's art department to bring distinguished individuals in the arts to the college for periods of up to a week. These visitors give public lectures and seminars with students.

The intent of the program is to bring to campus creative people who are distinguished in connection with the visual arts and who will provide "a forum for conceptual exploration, challenge, and discovery." The program is named in honor of Stephen Ostrow as a tribute to his career and out of respect for his advisory role in the formulation of the Cooley-Gray gift and the design of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery. Ostrow is the Chief of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, D.C.

Past artists have included:

2016.02 Douglas Crimp, art historian
2015.10 Jeremy Deller, conceptual/video/installation artist
2015.03 Janine Antoni, sculptor/photographer/performance artist
2014.02 Fred Wilson, conceptual artist
2013.10 Dario Gamboni, art historian
2012.10 Kara Walker, collage artist
2012.02 Richard Shiff, art historian
2011.09 Do Ho Suh, installation artist/sculptor
2011.03 Joseph Koerner, art historian
2010.11 Patricia Fortini Brown, art historian
2010.02 Terry Winters, painter/printmaker
2009.10 David Rosand, art historian
2009.03 Alexander Nemerov, art historian
2008.10 David Reed '68, painter/installation artist
2008.03 Martin Powers
2007.11 Gary Hill, video artist
2007.10 Barbara Stafford, art historian
2007.04 David Freedberg, art historian
2006.10 Mona Hatoum, installation artist/sculptor
2005.04 Ann Hamilton, installation artist
2004.09 Hans Haacke, conceptualist artist
2003.11 Jennifer Bartlett, painter/printmaker
2003.04 T.J. Clark, art historian
2003.04 Al Held, abstract painter
2002.11 Leo Steinberg, art historian
2000.04 Michael Fried, art historian
2000.01 Judy Pfaff, installation artist
1999.04 Linda Nochlin, art historian
1999.03 Adrian Piper, performance artist
1998.09 Robert Davidson, performance/installation artist
1997.09 Robert Morris, minimalist sculptor
1996.09 Jules Feiffer, graphic artist