Since 2008, Company of Ideas Forums have explored the biggest issues in art. Each annual event tackles a major philosophical question about the meaning, function and value of visual art in a debate format. Speakers are drawn from all corners of intellectual and creative life. Art historians, philosophers, political and literary theorists, novelists, musicians, artists and environmentalists are asked to deliver intelligent and accessible papers that present clear positions. Students and other delegates are given formal space to engage with these big ideas, leading to interdisciplinary and inter-generational debate about matters of profound and enduring importance.

2022 Company of Ideas Forum

Art and Crisis: “In the Shadow of the Endgame”

We are finally emerging from one of the gravest crises in centuries. The Coronavirus pandemic has killed millions of people, decimated the global economy, and transformed many aspects of life in perhaps irrevocable ways. The last two years have also provoked important questions about the function and value of art during catastrophes — questions that have long been integral to the mission of the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park.

Born only months after the detonation of the atomic bombs in Japan and growing up in the fraught geopolitical landscape of the Cold War, Jeffrey Rubinoff came to see his work — and art in general — as a counterpoint, and potential solution, to the world’s most intractable crises. Towards the end of his life, he was preoccupied by the threats posed to our species by nuclear weapons and transgenic engineering. He could never have predicted that a pandemic would soon join their number.

At this year’s Forum — the first since the start of the pandemic — we explore the relationship between art and catastrophe. We will reflect on the vast artistic consequences of Covid-19, but also examine how other crises, both past and present — shaped, and were shaped by, visual art. We will interrogate a cluster of questions that include, but are not limited to:

  • Do crises make art more or less essential?
  • How do social catastrophes undermine or damage art?
  • Are artists obliged to address the major crises of their times?
  • Do major social events permanently change art?
  • Can art be therapeutic in times of crisis?
  • How can art help us make sense of major historical crises?

Student Speakers

Educational Program for Students

Participating students are required to prepare a ten-minute presentation. Each set of presentations will be followed by questions and group discussion.

Students can choose to talk about any topic, but are required to directly address one or more of the following questions:

  • How can art help us make sense of major historical crises?
  • Can art be therapeutic in times of crisis?
  • Are artists obliged to address the major crises of their times?

Student speakers are encouraged, where possible, to make reference to what they have seen, read or heard at the JRSP.

2022 Forum Information

2019 Forum Brochure

Forum Proceedings to Come

Watch Forum Livestream Recording:

Basis for Forum Themes

Rubinoff ‘Insights’ statement is a record of how he understood his art to be as an act of will in accord with his conscience. They form the basis for the themes addressed by the Company of Ideas Forum.