Barry Flood will be coming to speak at the Trehan Lecture in the Arts of the Islamic World Wednesday, November 17, 2010, on “From Gilding to Whitewash: Aesthetics and Ethics of Distraction in the Early Mosque.”

Dr. Flood is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities at the Institute of Fine Arts and Department of Art History at New York University, where he has taught since 2001. He received his B.A. from Trinity College Dublin (1988) and Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh (1993). He has been the recipient of scholarships from the Carnegie Foundation (2007-8) and the Getty Research Institute (2007) and fellowships from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts (2006) and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. (2001-2). His archaeological fieldwork includes a survey of medieval Islamic monuments in the Merv Oasis, Turkmenistan, as part of the International Merv Project (1992), two seasons of archaeological fieldwork with the French Archaeological Mission to Sind at the medieval Islamic site of Sehwan Sharif, Sind, Pakistan (1997-8) and an architectural survey for the British Institute of Persian Studies in Khurasan, eastern Iran (1998 and 2000).

Professor Flood is the author of three books: Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval ‘Hindu-Muslim’ Encounter (published in India and America, 2009); Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque (2008, an edited volume on the history and historiography of the early Indian mosque in the Oxford University Press India series Debates in Indian History and Society); and The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture (2001). He is editor of Globalizing Cultures: Art and Mobility in the Eighteenth Century (to be published as a dedicated volume of the journal Ars Orientalis, 2010) and Permanence and Impermanence (issue 48 of Res: Journal of Anthropology and Comparative Aesthetics, 2005).

Dr. Flood’s talk is entitled “From Gilding to Whitewash: Aesthetics and Ethics of Distraction in the Early Mosque.” The theme of distraction has been much in evidence in recent work on visual culture, given impetus by a renewed interest in the work of 20th-century theorists such as Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer. Neither the experience nor the analysis of distraction is exclusive to modernity, however. Distraction was also a significant theme in the writings of medieval Islamic jurists, concerned about the allure of the glittering ornament found in mosques. Reading medieval juridical texts against surviving monuments, this talk investigates the insights that these concerns provide into the relationships between the forms and materials of architectural ornament, their visual properties, and their ethical implications.

Please join us in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Ave and Central Park West, at 5:45pm for a reception before the talk.