Symposium: To Hell and BackVIEW EVENT DETAILS
An exploration of artistic expressions of the afterlife across Asia
Hell has been embodied and portrayed in terrifying, bizarre, and occasionally humorous incarnations across religions and cultures for millennia. Whether considered as places of eternal or finite punishment, underworlds provide a rich setting for a potent cast of characters that have caught the imagination of artists and patrons who have shaped the visual cultures of Asia’s systems of belief, particularly Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Islam.
Hell is a universal concept, yet few have an understanding of the breadth and depth of the religious and cultural traditions that ponder the afterlife. We hope that this exhibition and symposium brings new dimensions to some of the notions of hell in Asian art, faith, and culture.
Join scholars in the fields of religion, theology, art history, and anthropology for an interdisciplinary symposium on hell(s) that will explore artistic expressions of the afterlife across religious traditions in Asia. Symposium admission includes all sessions, cocktail reception, museum admission, and performance tickets.
Schedule of Events
Friday, April 14
Keynote address and cocktail reception
Speaker: Francisca Cho (Professor of Buddhist Studies, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Georgetown University)
Saturday, April 15
Panel discussions, exhibition tour, and performance
Panel 1: “Hell and the Desire for Spiritual Transformation”
Moderator: Ben Bogin, Asian Studies, Skidmore College
Ismail Fajrie Alatas, Middle Eastern Studies, New York University
Sonam Kachru, Religious Studies, Yale University
Subhashini Kaligotla, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
11:30 a.m.—12:30 p.m.
Lunch break & exhibition viewing
Panel 2: “Describing Hell in Text & Image”
Moderator: Max Moerman, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Columbia University
Daud Ali, South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Nerina Rustomji, History, St. John’s University
Rachel Saunders, Curator of Asian Art, Harvard University
Panel 3: “Performing Hell”
Moderator: Rachel Cooper, Asia Society
Matthew Isaac Cohen, Dramatic Arts, University of Connecticut
Laurel Kendall, Curator of Asian Ethnology, American Museum of Natural History
Hank Glassman, Asian Studies, Haverford College
About the Exhibition
The first comprehensive exhibition in the United States to explore portrayals of hell across the Asian religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Islam, Comparative Hell: Arts of Asian Underworlds, examines how systems of belief and the underworlds within them are manifest in the rich artistic creations of Asia.
Exceptional and visually stunning artworks explore the impact of conceptions of hell on Asian visual culture over time. Didactic paintings, sculptures, and sacred objects introduce the notions of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and Islamic cosmology, as well as ideas about judgment, punishment, and salvation after death—many of which are shared by these traditions. Exhibition artworks portray religious threats of fiery torture as a means to shape values and beliefs, to instill virtuous behavior, and to encourage atonement for sins—reflecting a universal human desire for spiritual transformation.