MARKS, Laura




Author Tags: Art

Having travelled for eight years throughout the Muslim world, studying classical and contemporary art from Isfahan to Istanbul, from Damascus to Fez, Laura Marks has explored the relationship between contemporary media art and classical Islamic art in Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (MIT Press, 2010). “Contemporary art has Islamic roots and usually doesn’t know it,” says Marks, the Dena Wosk University Professor in art and culture studies at SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts.


Marks traces the historical lineage of how Islamic art traveled into European art. “Islamic aesthetics journeyed westward from medieval times, drawing out powers of abstraction and embodiment, ultimately to inform modernism and contemporary new media art,” she says. “The West can only become richer by learning more about Islam and Islamic art.”

Marks draws connections between the imageless, text and calligraphy-inspired work of traditional Islamic art, and the modern works of new-media and contemporary artists.

Her book suggests that the pixel-based abstraction, artificial life, and virtual worlds we find in computer media already existed in Islamic art 800 to 1100 years ago.

Today, many of the most significant pieces of traditional Islamic art are housed in Western museums. “In a way, these collections are part of the colonial legacy,” says Marks. “But by bringing these Islamic art works into Western museums, these museums acknowledge that Islamic art is part of Western heritage.”

“The Western/Muslim connection is so important,” says Marks. “Not only is there a historical connection, but it is also very useful to understand that Westerners have an Islamic heritage. We must embrace that heritage and learn from it.”

[2010]