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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Casting Jesus @ UMOCA

Christian Jankowski: Casting JesusJune 2 – July 28, 2012

Salt Lake City - The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) is pleased to announce the United States museum premiere of Casting Jesus, a new film by German artist Christian Jankowski.

For nearly two millennia, artists who have wished to depict Jesus Christ have had to make difficult decisions about the appearance of the person to play the role. In Casting Jesus (2011), Christian Jankowski allows the viewer to become a fly on the wall, observing as a distinguished panel of representatives from the Vatican—including Monseñor José Manuel del Rio Carrasco, Vatican Priest; Sandro Barbagallo, Art Critic at the Vatican’s L'Osservatore Romano newspaper; and Massimo Giraldi, journalist and Secretary of the Commission for Film Classification of the Italian Bishop Conference—engage in the process of casting actors in the role of Jesus Christ. 

Filmed by Jankowski in the Complesso Monumentale Santo Spirito in Saxia, Rome, and watched via live video stream by a separate audience of 300, the jury gradually narrows the field down to one as they observe the actors completing a variety of tasks including breaking bread, performing a miracle and reciting scripture, as well as dramatic recitations of aphorisms attributed to Jesus.

By contrasting the acknowledged earnestness and religious faith of the jurors with a selection process that borrows heavily from pop culture mainstays such as American Idol, Casting Jesus also thoughtfully explores the difficulties and absurdities in human efforts to encompass the divine. At the same time, however, the dialogue between the Vatican jurors and the actors lays bare the hidden processes of thousands of years of art history that have resulted in varied depictions of Jesus Christ as Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement and actor Jim Cavaziel’s portrayal in The Passion of the Christ (2004).   

“This film helps explores the very human processes by which Jesus comes to be depicted in religious art and popular culture,” said Aaron Moulton, senior curator at UMOCA.  “Jankowski’s participants are both unflinchingly thoughtful and yet vulnerable to unscripted qualities such as frankness and folly within this pursuit of the adequate profile. The format of a casting call is disarming, inviting each of us to think more carefully about how we imagine the physical appearance of Jesus, and why.”

Christian Jankowski (born 1968 in Göttingen, Germany) is a contemporary multimedia artist who largely works with video, installation and photography. His practice analyzes realms of criteria and rhetoric within art institutions, news media, popular culture and spectatorship. Through humor and wit he makes his viewer and the subject productively question their relationships to one another through plays on iconography, value and information.

The exhibition of Casting Jesus will be accompanied by a public panel discussion of the issues that are presented in the local community by portrayals of Jesus Christ; Thursday, June 19, 7 PM in the UMOCA Auditorium. Anticipated panelists include: Rita Wright, Chief Curator, LDS Church History Museum; Ben McPherson, Artist; Sheila Muller, Professor Emeritus Art History; and others.

The award-winning Utah Museum of Contemporary Art exhibits groundbreaking artwork by local, national, and international artists. Five gallery spaces provide an opportunity for the community to explore the contemporary cultural landscape through UMOCA’s exhibitions, films, events, classes, and presentations.

Founded in 1931, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art was recognized as Best Museum in the State of Utah in both 2011 and 2012, and is a four-time recipient of support from the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Located at 20 S. West Temple; open Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Friday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Saturday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday. Admission is free. For more information call (801) 328-4201 or visitwww.utahmoca.org.

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