"...the Imagination (or love, or sympathy, or any other sentiment) induces knowledge, and knowledge of an 'object' which is proper to it..."
Henry Corbin (1903-1978) was a scholar, philosopher and theologian. He was a champion of the transformative power of the Imagination and of the transcendent reality of the individual in a world threatened by totalitarianisms of all kinds. One of the 20th century’s most prolific scholars of Islamic mysticism, Corbin was Professor of Islam & Islamic Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Teheran. He was a major figure at the Eranos Conferences in Switzerland. He introduced the concept of the mundus imaginalis into contemporary thought. His work has provided a foundation for archetypal psychology as developed by James Hillman and influenced countless poets and artists worldwide. But Corbin’s central project was to provide a framework for understanding the unity of the religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His great work Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi is a classic initiatory text of visionary spirituality that transcends the tragic divisions among the three great monotheisms. Corbin’s life was devoted to the struggle to free the religious imagination from fundamentalisms of every kind. His work marks a watershed in our understanding of the religions of the West and makes a profound contribution to the study of the place of the imagination in human life.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Enfoldment & Infinity

"In sixteenth-century Iran, Ishraqî thought and Sufi mysticism shared the goals of annihilation of self in the awareness of God. Ecstasy and fana'. Persian painting of this period reflects these ideals. Laura U. Marks suggests the seductive power of fana' exists in contemporary media as well. Islamic mysticism can offer us criteria for contemporary art. Even art that is not mystical in its aims." - The Mystical Mirror Image in Persian Painting & Interactive Media - Laura Marks & Nat Muller - Amsterdam July 13

Laura U. Marks is a writer and a curator of artists’ media. She is the author of The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (2000)], Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (2002), and the forthcoming Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (MIT Press, 2010). She has curated experimental media for festivals and art spaces worldwide. Dr. Marks is the Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.

From the publisher's description of Enfoldment & Infinity:  

"In both classical Islamic art and contemporary new media art, one point can unfold to reveal an entire universe. A fourteenth-century dome decorated with geometric complexity and a new media work that shapes a dome from programmed beams of light: both can inspire feelings of immersion and transcendence. In Enfoldment and Infinity, Laura Marks traces the strong similarities, visual and philosophical, between these two kinds of art. Her argument is more than metaphorical; she shows that the “Islamic” quality of modern and new media art is a latent, deeply enfolded, historical inheritance from Islamic art and thought.

Marks proposes an aesthetics of unfolding and enfolding in which image, information, and the infinite interact: image is an interface to information, and information (such as computer code or the words of the Qur’an) is an interface to the infinite. After demonstrating historically how Islamic aesthetics traveled into Western art, Marks draws explicit parallels between works of classical Islamic art and new media art, describing texts that burst into image, lines that multiply to form fractal spaces, “nonorganic life” in carpets and algorithms, and other shared concepts and images. Islamic philosophy, she suggests, can offer fruitful ways of understanding contemporary art."


Thanks to Charles Cameron for alerting us to this work. - TC

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