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Dante Commemoration

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2021 marks the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet, philosopher & statesman, Dante Alighieri.  I'm organizing a commemorative event on 3 Dec 2021 at my university that will feature a student panel discussing "how and why we read Dante today", and an experiential, collaborative, performative, artwork, drawing on Dante's magnum opus, The Divine Comedy.  The artwork combines passages from the poem with creative responses generated by participants in the form of drawings, poems, memoir, and other expressions. The Divine Comedy takes place in an imagined literary "afterlife," but fundamentally meditates on the physical & spiritual traces we leave in this world through our interactions with our families, friends, and societies.

Participants in the project will add their responses to the text, prepared on a large (6' x 2') canvas. Prompts will include the following:

Draw one of the sinners or saints or monsters represented in Dante's poetry
Draw a symbol of hope, of sorrow, or of suffering
Write a poem or a story in response to Dante or one of the drawings you see
Write a memorial tribute to a loved one or someone you admire
Write an apology for a wrong you've done
Write a note of forgiveness for a wrong done to you
Leave a handprint where you see yourself
Write an aspirational goal (spiritual or physical)
Write a thank you note expressing gratitude for something.

Dante's work stands at the intersection of social science, arts, and humanities. The project embraces diverse responses to his ideas about justice, rendered in Dante's exploration of sin and redemption through the three parts of The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The project's immersive experience supports the mission of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences by encouraging participants to place their own stories in the context of Dante's narrative about the human capacity to learn from the past, understand the present, and shape the future. here's the prepped canvas (which is a bit hard to make out in this small-scale photo).  Participants will use bleach to write/draw on it - that lifts the ink creating something of a ghostly effect.  I'll show some details from it that show off the calligraphy better in another post.  And I'll post what it all turns out looking like after the event.

Close up details

And the "title" image.  I know, I know - they're hard to read.  I can only say that they're way more legible in real life.  And it's going to look so cool when people get to drawing and writing on it.

Erica McPhee:
This is incredible. What an amazing endeavor. I am looking forward to seeing the after once the students have added their work. Best of luck to you!  :)

Wow, what a terrific project. Your use of color is wonderful, as always, and the idea of allowing the audience to participate in so many ways is a great way to inspire thoughts, insights, feelings, all with a common background. It should also show how a single image can provoke so many different reactions. A really fine teaching/learning tool. Brilliant. I hope it is in a place where it can be seen by many people, and that many will participate in adding to it. I'll also be looking eagerly forward to the "finished" (if it can ever be said to be finished) product. How long will it be available to receive additions? Although large at 2 by 6 feet, I wouldn't be surprised if it gets crowded, at least in some sections. I wonder where the most comments will be placed?

Were I the professor and you the student submitting this as a art/pedagogical project, you would receive an "A."

I may post something here in response (not to be placed on the work, of course) after some thought about it.


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