The Arty Semite

Keats's Prayer for the World to Come

By Dan Friedman

  • Print
  • Share Share

Rarely has the presence of the Divine Being been so radically affirmed by the actions of a Wired magazine columnist. Having decided that our own created universe was getting perilously close to extinction, Jargon Watch writer Jonathon Keats set up an altar designed to stimulate the Ineffable One into further acts of creation.

Jonathan Keats

The title “Pornography for God” recalls his equal opportunity 2007 piece “Pornography for Plants” (also known as “Cinema Botanica”) which projects explicit images of plants being pollinated onto plants on the floor in the gallery. From November 12, both pieces will be hosted at alternative arts space Louis V E.S.P. Located on an upper floor of a walkup in Williamsburg, Louis V E.S.P. is at the perfect nexus of belief and hipsterdom.

Rather than the prurient delights of pollination, though, this new installation displays images from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The two LHC tunnels, Alice and Atlas, have live online graphic feeds of the experiments where they replicate the Big Bang, and these glow through a ghostly altar in front of which votive candles, incense, flowers and other objects are offered. In the tradition of pornographic exhibitions, the show is intended to excite the Creator by showing acts of creation. “I felt sorry for God,” Keats told me, “monotheism must be lonely.”

Conceptual artist and author Keats says that he is agnostic, standing behind but not implicated in his artwork. His constructions (that have in the past included a temple to science and an experimental attempt to grow God in a petri dish) frame assumptions, allowing people to draw their own conclusions and start their own conversations.

On the face of it, the conversations in this case seem to be ones about the active existence of a Divine Being and the state of repair of this world. However, if we, like Keats, take a step back from the altar something else is actually suggested by the three framing assumptions — that we are destroying our world, that we are replicating the moment of creation and that an Omniscient Being would be swayed by our votive offerings and prayers.

At the heart of each of these assumptions — each of which Keats has adopted from familiar and healthy public discourses and practices — is a deep anthropocentric hubris. With whatever justification, the selfishness of global despoilage, the self-confidence of our science and the potential self-centeredness of prayer are all brought into question by a project that takes the uncomfortable human term “pornography” and says that, shame and all, we are not unique in the universe.

As with much of Keats’ work, the installation, though innocuous in its material form, is highly provocative. Rather than an affirmation of belief, even backhanded, Keats has skillfully played Pascal’s Wager for the new millennium.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Pornography for Plants, Pornography for God, Pornography, Louis V.E.S.P., Large Hadron Collider, Jonathan Keats, Exhibits, Dan Friedman, Conceptual Art, Cinema Botanica, CERN, Visual Art, Williamsburg

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel:
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war?
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah:
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.