Sellars directs hope in Chicago


"I wish it were a joke," director Peter Sellars whispered to his Mandel Hall audience glumly. "It's sickening to be alive at this time of history." In his lecture, "Art and History," Sellars reflected on art's responsibility to create lasting positive social change. Sellars, whose work began 30 years ago while an undergraduate at Harvard University, with a puppet production of Wagner's Ring Cycle, has since won numerous awards and wide acclaim for innovative and politically challenging productions, such as Nixon in China and Dr. Atomic.

Donning Buddhist prayer beads and intermittently lauding deep breathing and vegetarianism, Sellars delivered a message that appeared to resonate with his 200 listeners. He reflected on the responsibility of the arts "to create an atmosphere where it is OK to torture people or it isn't OK." The arts, he argued, both "measure our own voices" against those of history "and move us forward." Concerned that "future generations will look at this as one of the most evil ages," he said he hoped that artists will "help turn the page of history."

Sellars's talk was the first of this year's University of Chicago Artspeaks presentations. Musician Daniel Bernard Roumain plays Mandel Hall February 1, and conceptual artist Hans Haacke performs his "Dog and Pony Show" April 7.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photo: Director Peter Sellars hopes art will provide the "momentum to move forward" during a difficult moment in history.

January 11, 2008