University of Sussex Media Release.
. Sussex Host to 'State of the Arts' Conference

29 March 1999
For immediate release

A resurrection of a different sort will be happening at Sussex University this Easter. At the third annual conference of The New Metaphysical Art group, formed by Sussex academic and poet Dr Peter Abbs with composer Jonathan Harvey and choreographer Anna Carlisle, the rebirth of contemporary art will be top of the agenda. The group hopes to create a new movement which will, according to Dr Abbs, "see art as a serious quest for meaning".

Powering this high-profile and high-brow protest movement, the New Metaphysical Art (NMA) manifesto declares a distaste for "the uncritical and endless use of parody and pastiche" and "the ironic and clever habits of postmodernists". It is a manifesto which inspired such luminary figures as the late Yehudi Menuhin to act as patron to the group.

NMA followed up their radical stance with a picket of the Turner Prize in 1997 which won them both notoriety and a groundswell of support. Calling on the director of the Tate Gallery, Nicholas Serota, to justify his role "in a monster which year after year, tramples on art", Peter Abbs demanded his resignation.

Although he plans for NMA to take more direct action in the future, Dr Abbs is keen to stress that the movement is one with creative as well as critical aims. "The conference will be a celebration of the living and the elemental in art today. From the outset we have aimed to actively experiment with new art, to create and perform challenging new work - to provide an alternative. I suppose you could say we are the real avant-garde."

The conference will be examining the ways in which new metaphysical art can renew the spirit, boasting the presence of the twin heavyweights of modern classical music, John Tavener and Jonathan Harvey. Jonathan Harvey believes that music can fufil a spiritual need which largely goes unanswered in today’s society: "States and churches no longer have the same authority as they once did. There is a spiritual crisis in the world, and metaphysical art can address it by giving people joy and enlightenment. People have to look inside themselves for the spiritual, and art can give them a map to discover their own depths."

Joining the composers will be the poet Michael Hamburger, choreographer Anna Carlisle and artist Andrzej Jackowski. Peter Abbs is expecting 300 guests to attend the conference, which he hopes will be just the start of an art movement "which will finally open doors that have been closed for twenty years of banality and trivialisation".

The New Metaphysical Art Conference will take place at the University of Sussex on Saturday April 10th, from 9.30-8.30.

For further information please contact Sally Hall, Information Office, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 678335, email s.l.hall@sussex.ac.uk, Dr Peter Abbs, University of Sussex Institute of Education, Tel. 01273 606755 ext. 2497 or Lorna Pidgeon, USIE, Tel. 01273 678348.

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