Nevet Yitzhak, video still from OFF THE RULING CLASS (2015). Courtesy of the artist.
Did you know that the Cleveland Museum of Art has an authentic version of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker on its grounds? Did you know it was bombed as an act of political activism against the Vietnam War in 1970? The very thought of it is chilling, especially as we see radical religious groups destroying priceless ancient art and artifacts around the world. The 1970 bombing and the subsequent fallout inspired Nevet Yitzak, an Israeli artist on a recent residency in Cleveland. Now, her commissioned installation at MOCA has inspired a panel discussion on social icons and cultural terrorism.
In conjunction with Nevet Yitzhak’s OFF THE RULING CLASS video-based installation, part of MOCA Cleveland’s Fall 2015 exhibitions, MOCA hosts a special panel discussion exploring the 1970 bombing of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Auguste Rodin sculpture, The Thinker. Using the bombing and Yitzhak’s installation as a starting point, the panel will discuss the effects of cultural terrorism, as well as the “role and power of icons in secular society.”
The panel discussion takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 12, and is free with general admission to MOCA Cleveland.
"We live in a turbulent world filled with pain, suffering and corruption,” says MOCA Cleveland’s Curator of Public Programs Deidre McPherson. “Art vandalism is meant to agitate and provoke. It's been going on for thousands of years and usually comes from a place of deeply held beliefs. Both Nevet's piece and this program draw attention to the fact that art matters. The impulse to destroy art objects proves that they are significant symbols. When asked why she decided to focus her new work on The Thinker and what she finds compelling about the statue's history, Nevet said, ‘To choose an artwork as the target of a violent act confirms that art is very powerful, that it holds status and significance.’”
The panel includes Assistant Director and Associate Curator of Ancient Art at the Toledo Museum of Art Adam Levine, PH.D., Director of Graduate Studies and an associate professor for the Department of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University Pete Moore, PH.D. and Behrang Samadzadegan, of Tehran, Iran, currently residing at Zygote Press as one of the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion artists. The panel is moderated by Brittany M. Hudak, Communications Manager of the Collective Arts Network (CAN) Journal.
"It has been 45 years since Rodin's The Thinker was bombed on Cleveland's doorstep (so to speak),” reflects Hudak. “Our discussion aims to re-examine this event, not only through the context of Nevet Yitzhak's piece, but also through the eyes of our three panelists, who will each bring their own unique viewpoint to the topic of violence and acts of cultural aggression."
Nevet Yitzhak’s OFF THE RULING CLASS was inspired by the Cleveland Museum of Art’s annual, ritualistic cleaning and conservation of The Thinker. The CMA’s sculpture (of which there are multiple, authentic versions around the world), was bombed in 1970 as a protest of the Vietnam War. After the bombing, Sherman Lee (CMA director at the time) ordered the sculpture to be reinstalled with its damaged lower half remaining as a reminder of the period of political unrest. It has remained in its damaged state for nearly half a century. Some see the figure’s footless base as an unintended symbol of amputee Vietnam veterans and the overall destruction of war and violence.
Combining archival imagery with digital animation, Yizhak relates the trauma of the bombing to Rodin’s original subject for The Thinker, Dante Alighieri, author of the Diving Comedy (c 1320), contemplating mortality and eternal damnation.
Learn more at MOCA Cleveland this Thursday.
(MOCA Cleveland) 11400 Euclid Ave., 216-421-8671, mocacleveland.org