Issue 24.4, November 2009

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Editor's Introduction

Artists might exploit the pictorial and verbal dimensions of Qur’anic Arabic for expressive ends belonging to other regimes of value, but in doing so they routinely must face the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of stripping these signs and their materiality from the context of divine revelation.  Artists are but one group of arbiters concerned with what constitutes (or transgresses) the ethical treatment of Qur’anic verse as an art form.  We see contemporary Muslim art publics overlap with, and so include, networks of religious authorities who might otherwise have no familiarity with art world concerns.  The power relations in these Muslim art publics are diverse, broadly inflected by particular national and institutional forces, and alert to the political, cultural, and ideological energies that animate today’s transnational Muslim public sphere.  The intermingling of those Muslim art publics does not inherently advance a suffocating and uniform ultraconservatism across contemporary art worlds.  To the contrary, that transcultural intermingling may encourage Muslims to sustain their fascination with and debate over the pleasures and power of art without fear of becoming unmoored from Qur’anic revelation.