“Triptychs, an art installation”
The attached photograph depicts Triptychs, an art installation that posits intellectual writings as fodder of religious iconography, reverentially displayed at the altar of academia (Low Library, Columbia’s administrative center). A Google Slides presentation that shows enhanced detail of each individual triptych is available at the following link: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1wY8o4Mrm3V2VBDr_5vTCad2E4tQ8-EGn...
This installation is a flurry of juxtapositions meant to question the relationship between intellectualism and religion. The authors are placed on godly pedestals, so displaying a quotation in the prominent center panel, where the crucifixion was often placed in religious iconography, creates a link between the secular and spiritual versions of higher authority. Furthermore, as this is a public facing work, I wanted to follow the common, though sometimes misguided, tradition of citationalism—pulling one quotation from a work to embody a larger theme. With only one or two sentences as the entry point for the work at large, one’s relationship to the text feels intimate but retains an artificiality because of the vast amount of text still unknown. This relationship may parallel one’s relationship to religious texts.
Another key juxtaposition is the relationship between the personal and the universal. On the left panel, I’ve attached a screenshot of the Instagram I’ve kept throughout the semester, where I pair striking quotations from things I've read with cityscapes that evoked similar emotions in me. These pairings are often difficult to put into words because they are based on very personal stirrings I felt when reading the texts and taking the photos. This photo contrasts with the right panel, which displays two cultural artifacts: a photo and an article heading. These reflect the world at large and the universal experiences that every single person encounters in some capacity. I chose both the personal and the universal snapshots after being inspired by timeless quotation in the center, yet they are two very disparate renderings of the quote’s appearance in the actual world.
A third juxtaposition is the legitimacy of the different forms of communication: the hallowed prose of political texts, the religious iconography of the triptych, the ephemeral mode of social media, and the urgent bulletin of contemporary journalism, both pictorial and written. By melding them all together to create this blur of intellectualism and religion, I posit that all four are equally valid means of communication to practice the “worship” of ideas that the installation depicts.
About the Scholar: Cassidy Sattler
Cassidy Sattler (CC’20) graduated magna cum laude in May 2020 with an English major. As a junior transfer, her time on campus was short, but its imprint was indelible. Outside of classes, Cassidy served on the board of The Columbia Review and worked at various campus-affiliated organizations, such as Columbia Magazine, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, and The Pulitzer Prizes.