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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  September 2008

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING September 2008

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Subject:

New art project at the Magnes: first temple for the worship of science.

From:

Marcia Tanner <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 8 Sep 2008 22:56:22 EDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (125 lines)

For Immediate Release
Contact: [log in to unmask] (mailto:[log in to unmask]) 

BERKELEY ERECTS FIRST TEMPLE FOR WORSHIP OF SCIENCE 

New  "Atheon" Builds on Latest Cosmology from NASA... Project Conceived by 
Artist  Jonathon Keats to Debut at Judah L. Magnes Museum With Co-Sponsorship 
from the  University of California 

September 4, 2008 -  Four millennia after  Abraham fathered Judaism, 
Christianity and Islam, and 150,000 years after  hominids introduced burial rituals to 
the Mediterranean, religion has finally  been rendered wholly compatible with 
science. Beginning on September 27, 2008, a  two-story downtown Berkeley 
building dubbed "the Atheon" will provide a  spiritual home for rational people in 
California, and guidance to acolytes  worldwide.

Establishment of an Atheon has been a high priority in the  scientific 
community for the past several years, rivaling even enthusiasm for  the new Large 
Hadron Collider. "When you listen to people like Nobel-laureate  cosmologist 
Steven Weinberg, or Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, you hear a lot  of talk 
about how god-based religion is out-of-date," says conceptual artist  Jonathon 
Keats. "The leading minds believe that science can and should provide a  
spiritually satisfying replacement. But until recently no one bothered to  consider 
what form that alternative might take."

Mr. Keats recognized  that this was a role for an artist. "Renaissance 
masters such as Michelangelo  did so much to make Christianity palatable to the 
masses," he observes. While  Mr. Keats himself can neither paint nor sculpt, 
leading institutions including  the Berkeley Art Museum and Yerba Buena Center for 
the Arts have affirmed his  ability to think artistically, featuring his 
conceptual work in multiple recent  exhibitions. Moreover, he's the only living 
artist to take an interest in  building a temple to science. "I'm hardly the best 
person for the job," he  admits, "but if I didn’t take it on, nobody would."

Late last year, Mr.  Keats approached the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley 
with the idea of  temporarily installing a prototype Atheon in their 
newly-acquired downtown  building, which was slated for major overhaul. "The building 
has  fourteen-foot-high cathedral-style windows," says chief curator Alla 
Efimova,  "and frankly nothing was planned there during restoration when Jonathon 
came  along." With a grant from UC Berkeley's Chancellor's Community 
Partnership Fund  - alleged to be considerably less than the $10 billion spent on the 
Large Hadron  Collider - construction of the Atheon began. 

This week, Mr. Keats goes  public with his plans. "The essence of religion is 
stained glass and song," he  says. In the case of the Atheon, the stained 
glass is patterned to show the  cosmic microwave background radiation - capturing 
the universe in the first  several hundred thousand years of creation - using 
NASA's new WMAP satellite  data. "The cosmic microwave background is the 
sky's natural stained glass, our  origin story imprinted on the cosmos," explains 
Mr. Keats. "And now it's visible  to us for the first time, glowing through 
the windows of the Atheon."  

The song composed for the Atheon is equally scientific,  a canon  for three 
cosmic voices titled "Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?" The  canon 
is comprised of  sounds pulsating through several hypothetical  universes as 
well as our own living cosmos, musically arranged by Mr. Keats  using audio 
files produced by University of Virginia astronomer Mark Whittle.  According to 
Mr. Keats, "these universes don't provide any answers. If people  are to find 
spirituality in science, it's likely to be by immersing themselves  in 
questions."

For the foreseeable future, disciples will have to do so  on the sidewalk. 
Due to construction work inside the new Magnes Museum building,  the Atheon will 
be visible only from the exterior, at the corner of Harold Way  and Kittredge 
Street. The windows will be illuminated nightly until February 1,  2009, and 
the canon will be audible by cellphone, as well as on a special  website 
devoted to the Atheon - www.magnes.org/atheon - scheduled to go live in  late 
September. The Atheon website will also glow with the cosmic microwave  background 
radiation, so that people everywhere will be able to turn off their  lights 
and set up a miniature shrine to science on their home computer.  

"Eventually there will be an Atheon in every town," anticipates Mr.  Keats, 
who's organizing a synod at UC Berkeley in December to consider this  
eventuality. "There will be many different architectures and diverse liturgies.  
Science will make a fine religion," he predicts. "What remains to be determined  is 
whether this religion will be good science."


ABOUT THE  ARTIST
Jonathon Keats is a conceptual artist, fabulist, and critic residing  in San 
Francisco. Recently he choreographed the first ballet for honeybees at  Yerba 
Buena Center for the Arts in conjunction with Bay Area Now 5. He has also  
exhibited extraterrestrial abstract artwork at the Judah L. Magnes Museum,  
unveiled a prototype ouija voting booth for the 2008 election at the Berkeley  Art 
Museum, attempted to genetically engineer God in a petri dish in  
collaboration with scientists at the University of California, opened the  world's first 
porn theater for house plants in the town of Chico, and petitioned  Berkeley to 
pass a fundamental law of logic, a work commissioned by the city's  annual 
Arts Festival. His projects have been documented by PBS and the BBC World  
Service, garnering favorable attention in periodicals ranging from The San  
Francisco Chronicle and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to Nature and New  
Scientist, to Flash Art and ArtUS. Additionally,
Keats serves as the art  critic for San Francisco Magazine and as a columnist 
for both Artweek and Wired  Magazine. He is the author of two novels and a 
collection of fables forthcoming  from Random House, as well as museum catalogue 
essays, monographs, and artist's  books. Since graduating summa cum laude 
from Amherst College in 1994, he has  been a visiting artist at California State 
University, Chico, and a guest  lecturer at the University of California, 
Berkeley, as well as the recipient of  Yaddo and MacDowell fellowships. He is 
represented by Modernism Gallery in San  Francisco. He can be contacted at 
[log in to unmask]


ABOUT THE  MAGNES
Berkeley's Judah L. Magnes Museum houses the third largest collection  of 
Judaica in the United States. Through innovative educational programs,  
exhibitions, and publications the Magnes engages with significant issues in  
contemporary life, promotes public dialogue and scholarship, and encourages  
understanding of Jewish history for present and future generations. The Magnes  also 
houses the Western Jewish History Center and the Blumenthal Rare Book and  
Manuscript Library. The Magnes is accredited by the American Association of  Museums. 
During renovations, the Magnes will host a series of installations in  the 
second floor windows of the new building at 2222 Harold Way. For more  
information, see www.magnes.org.







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