The Work of Art

The Work of Art

Rethinking the Elementary Forms of Religious Life

How are we to think of works of art? Rather than treat art as an expression of individual genius, market forces, or aesthetic principles, Michael Jackson focuses on how art effects transformations in our lives. Art opens up transitional, ritual, or utopian spaces that enable us to reconcile inward imperatives and outward constraints, thereby making our lives more manageable and meaningful. Art allows us to strike a balance between being actors and being acted upon.

Drawing on his ethnographic fieldwork in Aboriginal Australia and West Africa, as well as insights from psychoanalysis, religious studies, literature, and the philosophy of art, Jackson deploys an extraordinary range of references—from Bruegel to Beuys, Paleolithic art to performance art, Michelangelo to Munch—to explore the symbolic labor whereby human beings make themselves, both individually and socially, out of the environmental, biographical, and physical materials that affect them: a process that connects art with gestation, storytelling, and dreaming and illuminates the elementary forms of religious life.
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Preamble
  • Part 1
    • Worlds Within and Worlds Without
    • Melbourne Now
    • The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
    • Art as Religion
    • The Interplay of Coming Out and Going In
    • Consciousness
    • From Joyce to Beuys
    • Production and Reproduction
    • Axes of Bias
    • A Visit to the Kunstmuseum Basel
  • Part 2
    • The Life and Times of Paddy Jupurrula Nelson
    • Ecstatic Professions
    • Art and Adversity: Ian Fairweather and the Solitude of Art
    • Transplantations: The Art of Simryn Gill
    • My Brother’s Keeper: The Art of Susan Norrie
    • Heroic Failure: The Art of Sidney Nolan
    • Une Vie Brève, Mais Intense
    • The Pare Revisited
    • A Man of Constant Sorrow: The Existential Art of Colin McCahon
  • Part 3
    • Landscape and Nature Morte: The Art of Paul Cézanne
    • Art and the Unspeakable
    • Marina Abramovic and the Shadows of Intersubjectivity
    • Exodus
    • Making It Otherwise
    • Art and the Everyday
    • The Work of Art and the Arts of Life
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Permissions
  • Index
  • Color Illustrations


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