In today's shifting political, economic, and ecological landscape, the need for compassion has never been greater, compassion understood as mutual interdependence, knowledge of self and others, and concern for human flourishing. This kind of compassion requires seeking to know all aspects of human reality, being open to truths beyond our everyday experience and embedded in it. Artists often awaken compassion most profoundly. They form our imaginations such that we can envision our interconnectedness in ways that mere didacticism cannot achieve.
Compassion used the buildings of Union Theological Seminary to create a kind of pilgrimage. The works were situated in various locations to create a tour of this remarkable and often overlooked historic complex.
Alfredo Jaar's Embrace (1995), from his Rwanda series, greeted the visitor in the Hastings lobby. Scott Treleaven was featured in the James Chapel with black and white photos from Cimitero Monumentale (2009). Marina Abramovic's video 8 Lessons on Emptiness with a Happy End (2008) shared the Narthex with Yoko Ono's Whisper Piece (2001). Terence Koh's invisible installation was located in the Refectory, with its 40-foot ceiling and massive stone fireplace, nearby. If the visitor strayed to the other end of the building, she might have found Bas Jan Ader's iconic image I'm too sad to tell you in the Burke Library, echoed in the plaintive chant of Michael Bühler-Rose's liquid ritual I'll Worship You and You'll Worship Me (2009), which could be found in the upper reaches of the Rotunda. Chrysanne Stathacos' Rose Mandala Mirror (three reflections for HHDL), also in the Rotunda, was originally created in honor of the Dalai Lama. While circumnavigating the cloisters that link the various spaces of the seminary, further works by Gareth Long and Paul Mpagi Sepuya could be found.
The Institute of Art, Religion, and Social Justice was founded under the auspices of Union Theological Seminary to explore the relationship between contemporary art and religion through the lens of social justice.
Compassion was curated by AA Bronson, Artistic Director of the Institute.