Public Program

In Dialogue: On Acedia and “Specters of Noon”

Early Christian texts describe acedia as a demon that besieges the soul at noon, when the day listlessly drags and delirious visions momentarily reign in the blinding light. For their exhibition, Specters of Noon, currently on view in the Menil Collection, the artistic duo Allora & Calzadilla conceived of seven works that together evoke the spirit of acedia. Join us for a conversation with the artists and religious studies scholars Niki Kasumi Clements and Jonathan Zecher. They will consider how the works in the exhibition revolve around this concept, serving as a manifestation for noon’s hold over humankind, and as a metaphor for the uncertainties defining our time.

About the Speakers:

Since 1995, Jennifer Allora (b. 1974, United States) and Guillermo Calzadilla (b. 1971, Cuba) have built a research-based practice that engages with the history of art and responds critically to the intersections among culture, history, and geopolitics. The duo produces interdisciplinary works combining performance, sculpture, sound, video, and photography. Their work has been exhibited extensively internationally, and they have participated in many biennales, including the 56th and 51st Venice Biennials. Allora & Calzadilla live and work in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Niki Kasumi Clements is the Watt J. and Lilly G. Jackson Assistant Professor of Religion and the Allison Sarofim Assistant Professor of Distinguished Teaching at Rice University, researching at the disciplinary intersection of philosophy of religion and the history of Christianity. She specializes in late ancient Christian asceticism and critically engages contemporary questions of ethical formation and conceptions of subjectivity. Clements is the author of Sites of the Ascetic Self: John Cassian and Christian Ethical Formation (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020), the first comprehensive treatment of the ethical thought of John Cassian (c. 360-435) who illuminates the workings of acedia. She received her PhD from Brown University in Religion and Critical Thought in 2014.

Dr. Jonathan Zecher is Senior Research Fellow at Australian Catholic University’s Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, where he studies early Christian asceticism, the medical cultures of late antiquity, and traditions of prayer and spiritual practice in Byzantium and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. He also works in the history of emotions and clinical practice in late antiquity and their applicability to conversations in the health humanities today. Zecher received his PhD at Durham University in Patristics and Historical Theology in 2012. From 2011 until 2017 he was Visiting Assistant Professor in the Honors College at the University of Houston, teaching Greek, Latin, Christianity, ‘Great Books,’ and ancient medicine.

About the series:

In Dialogue is the Menil Collection’s series of live, online conversations. Menil curators are joined by notable scholars, artists, and art professionals for engaging discussions about the museum’s collection, current exhibitions, and ideas shaping contemporary discourses about art. All programs are free and open to everyone.