Saturday, March 24, 2012
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Writing Art History. Linking center(s) and periphery(ies)
A ‘nomad’ seminar
The series of transformations that the disciplines of art and architectural history have been undergoing in recent years suggests a questioning of their methodologies and master narratives. This tectonic shift is mirrored by the increasing recent interest in the ‘geography of arts’, which seems to respond to the need of replacing the current ‘vertical’ art history by a ‘horizontal’ or a transnational one, as envisioned by Piotr Piotrowski. In other words, instead of an exclusive and directive discourse developed by and around centers, an inclusive and unifying perspective that includes peripheries.
As Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann has noted, the interest in the ‘geography of art’ is closely related to the reframing of the geopolitical context after 1989. Geopolitics has had a significant impact on writing art history and shaping its directive lines. The different mappings (successive or synchronic) are responsible for the geocultural landscape and its tectonics. For instance, the East/ West confrontation followed a double-scale evolution in the last half of the century: the political polarization of the world during the Cold War turned, after the imagined but yet so powerful Iron Curtain was dismantled, into a ‘clash of civilizations’. In the current context, it seems appropriate to reassess the very concept of ‘geoculture’ and its articulations.
The Nomad Seminar bears the imprint of what appears as a predicament facing art and architectural history. Even if it has been stimulated by a geohistoric approach, the Nomad Seminar project does not aim to remap the geography of art and architectural history, but rather to question its very history. At the same time, it seeks to explore relationships between center(s) and periphery(ies), an enterprise fundamental for a ‘global’ art/ architectural history. Thus, the Nomad Seminar does not attempt to create a new, unifying, narrative of art and architectural history, but to bring together different perspectives with the goal of considering them as a polyphonic whole.
To facilitate this heterogeneous approach a structure developed in a series of meetings, forming a ‘nomad’ seminar. This structure permits focus on different themes as determined by and relevant to the institution hosting the seminar, while shifting the geocultural perspective.
Methodologically, we propose therefore a constant reframing of art and architectural history approach implies a deconstruction of the discourse of art and architectural history. Among the issues the ‘nomad’ seminar intends to discuss are:
- Art history and its object. How does the very object of art history shape its discourse and determine its methodology? For instance, architecture is part of the general narrative of the periods from Antiquity up to the beginning of the 19th century; however, its historiography concerning the ‘era of modernity’ has evolved most often separately, as a sign of its ‘professionalization’. Architectural history seems to have evolved into a field reserved for architects, thus moving progressively away from the general discourse of art history, but also from the arena of interest for art historians.
- Art history and its different chronologies. The characteristics of each period – especially in terms of geocultural framing – influence the narrative of its historiography. This is particularly apparent in the case of ‘peripheral’ areas: while the discourse concerning the art before the 19th century follows a local/ regional pattern, the discourse about the modern period is determined by the dynamic of major Western centers due the ‘universalization’ (transformed into ‘internationalization’/‘globalization’) of the language of art and architectural history.
- Art history and memory. Does memory have any impact on the historiography of art history? Relevant examples are to be found particularly in controversial or conflicted heritages, such as colonial art or art claimed by two (or more) territories.
- Art and its institutions. The artistic organizations and institutions active on a large geographical scale played a decisive role in forging the discourse of art and architectural history. The history of CIHA or the CIAM, for instance, mirrors the different shifts operated within the general narrative of art/ architectural history.
Aims. Due to its structure, the project aspires to have a pro-active and direct implication in re-thinking art history as a discipline. Not only it aims to contribute to the study of its historiography, but it also intends to offer concrete support to its teaching (and, hence, to the curricula of the hosting institution). In addition, some of the papers to be presented in the six envisioned sessions (see below) will be gathered in a collective volume, thereby providing a tool of analysis for the current state of art/architectural history.
Carmen POPESCU, Coordinator
Nomad Seminar in Historiography