‘The biggest little place in America,’ was, for the novelist Henry James, Concord, Massachusetts. Sounding like a slogan for the town’s tourism board today, not to mention like a quaint expression of American pastoral kitsch, James’s phrase is meant to reference the difference between Concord’s modest size and its prominent place in history. In contrast to a current population of about 17,000, Concord was the physical site of one of first skirmishes of the American Revolutionary War in 1775 as well as the metaphorical cradle of American Transcendentalism some 60 years later.
Articles published in this section report on events such as exhibitions, conferences or lectures that are relevant in regard to central questions of the research project.
Last month, a workshop that I organized on the American art historian and New York intellectual Meyer Schapiro (1904-1996) finally came to fruition. Hosted by the Centre for American Art at the Courtauld Institute here in London, the workshop was conceived as an afternoon of engagement with texts by Schapiro and was punctuated by three presentations: the first by myself, the second by Jérémie Koering of the University of Fribourg, and the third by Hagi Kenaan of University of Tel Aviv. Other scholars, including members of the Bilderfahrzeuge Project, joined as discussants and in the intervening days I’ve continued to think about the workshop and the ideas that it helped generate. In what follows I offer up some further reflections.
A review of the exhibition „Zwischen Kosmos und Pathos. Berliner Werke aus Aby Warburgs Bilderatlas Mnemosyne“ at the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 08.08.-01.11. 2020.
Derzeit zeigt das Haus der Kulturen der Welt die „originalen“ Photographien von Aby Warburgs Bilderatlas Mnemosyne aus der Photographischen Sammlung des Warburg Institute in London. In Ergänzung dieser Schau sind in der Gemäldegalerie diejenigen Objekte aus den Berliner Museen versammelt worden, deren Reproduktionen zum Repertoire des Atlasses zählen.
A review of the workshop ‘Blick Richtung Europa? 15 Perspektiven’ (8-9 July 2020, Berlin) by Anita Hosseini and Judith Rottenburg.
Stets richten und richteten sich Blicke aus Europa in alle Himmelsrichtungen und generierten Ideen und Bilder des ‚Anderen‘. Die dabei selbstverständlich in Anspruch genommene Position des beobachtenden und damit auch deutenden Subjekts kann mit politischen, wissenschaftlichen und kulturellen Machtansprüchen und Expansionsbestreben Hand in Hand gehen. Was passiert jedoch, wenn die Blickrichtung gewendet, wenn die Aufmerksamkeit auf die Tatsache gelenkt wird, dass diese Blicke immer schon gespiegelt wurden?
Plaster casts are image vehicles par excellence. They can reproduce and multiply three-dimensional form, and serve the dissemination of visual ideas from one place to another; they can record lost stages of a work’s appearance, e.g. pre-completion, pre-damage, pre-destruction or pre-restauration. Often perceived as perfect one to one copies of the external form of a three-dimensional work, they can also accidentally or deliberately differ from what they reproduce, and with their white and even surface they can condition the perception of the works they represent. Thus, cast are also works in their own right, objects with their own history. Yet, for long, they proved rather evasive. Until recently, there have been few attempts to date them either through material or technical analysis. Given their status as copies, historicaly they were often not documented, and where archival references to casts exist, the objects under discussion are often either lost or impossible to identify beyond reasonable doubt. This situation is changing, as a recent exhibition at the Villa Medici in Rome (November 2019-March 2020) demonstrated
Wellnow.wtf is a digital exhibition curated by Faith Holland, Lorna Mills, and Wade Wallerstein that opened on 4 April 2020, and featured a large international group of eighty net artists with moving-image related practises. The web address of the installation is the installation site of the show, run in turn by the same three curators doubling as “Silicon Valet”, a pun on both the sound of the phrase “Silicon Valley” and on the kind of Valley tech-optimism that haunted the first wave of net art in the early 2000’s-2010, against which this exhibition is constructed.
On October 10, 2019, the exhibition Inspired by the East opened at the British Museum, which, according to its title, seeks to demonstrate how the ‘Islamic world’ influenced Western art. Besides a large number of paintings from the late 19th century, a few historical maps as well as objects of arts and craft are shown. The title, however, misleads the visitor: It is not an exhibition dedicated to the influence of the East on the West, but rather a show of orientalist art that presents an imaginary Orient from the perspective of the colonial West.
Perhaps the true appeal of what was once called “primitive art” lay not in its exoticism but in its apparent lack of historicity. For many European artists, as Meyer Schapiro perceived in 1937, the art of indigenous peoples had accrued “the special prestige of the timeless and instinctive, on the level of spontaneous animal activity, self-contained, unreflective, private, without dates and signatures, without origins or consequences except in the emotions.” The singular modernity of the avant-garde depended, in other words, on the correspondingly derelict nonmodernity of the primitive.
It is surprisingly easy, cliché though it sounds, to get lost in Hampstead Heath, that large, hilly, and famously wild park in north London. And if you get just lost enough at just the right spot, you might not only forget where you are but also when you are. That is what Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, seems to have wanted when he left Kenwood, a large estate at the northern edge of the Heath, including a neoclassical mansion filled with a careful selection of 63 master paintings, to the nation upon his death in 1927. The Iveagh Bequest mandates that the collection be “preserved as a fine example of the artistic home of a gentleman of the eighteenth century” and so it has.
The “Museum of the Moon” is about the moon in the same way “Die Zauberflöte” is about a magic flute; it both is and it fundamentally isn’t. Luke Jerram’s work of public art, a giant glowing sphere with an 120dpi detail map of the moon on it to at 1:500,000 scale, is currently set in a blue-tinged exhibition hall at London’s Natural History Museum. It is perhaps the visual equivalent of a Singspiel. It is the kind of thing jaded critics won’t admit to liking in public, in virtue of it being almost too eminently likable and popular.
Wie realisieren Museen heute ihre Ausstellungen, welche Displays, Formate der Vermittlung und textuellen Rahmungen wählen sie, um die Objekte und damit verbundenen Diskurse einem öffentlichen Publikum nahe zu bringen? Diese allgemeine aber ebenso grundlegende Frage stellt sich seitdem Objekte in privaten oder öffentlichen Institutionen präsentiert werden, unterliegt aber mehr denn je der Notwendigkeit einer umfassenden Reflektion – zumal in Zeiten einer kritischen Neuordnung der Institution Museum.
Conference organised by Spike Bucklow, Victoria Sutcliffe and Lucy Wrapson, Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge. Held at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, 15-16 November 2018.
This recent conference had an obvious political dimension as it encouraged the discussion of omnipresent international exchanges in the practice and reception of art as part of a phenomenon that presently troubles and polarizes our societies. In its extreme connotations, the term ‘migrants’ brings to mind images of uprooted individuals facing mortal danger as they try to escape from war, poverty and social injustice. The term also polarizes opinions as it evokes associations as diverse as peaceful self-fulfilment and cosmopolitanism, exciting cultural exchange, and ideas of flexible workforces moving across continents to satisfy the demands of global companies on the one side and fears of imported crime, a drop in living standards, loss of jobs and national identity on the other.
„Vous faites comme vous voulez“ Der Künstler Issa Samb aus Senegal in einer Ausstellung von Antje Majewski im Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin
Seit der Ausstellung „Hello World. Revision einer Sammlung“ im Jahr 2018 hat der Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin es zu seinem Ziel erklärt, sich verstärkt mit einer „globalisierten Perspektive“ in zeitgenössischer Kunst und Kunstgeschichtsschreibung auseinanderzusetzen. Bis zum 12. Mai 2019 ist dort nun eine Ausstellung zu sehen, die sich mit Fragen des Verhältnisses von Menschen zu ihren Lebensräumen, zu nicht-menschlichen Lebewesen und Objekten in unterschiedlichen Regionen der Welt befasst. Ihr Titel stellt weniger eine Frage, als dass er eine Anleitung verspricht: „How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions“.
‘Reframing Chinese Objects: Collecting and Displaying in Europe and the Islamic World, ca. 1400-1800’. Workshop at the Universität Heidelberg, 7-8 December 2018.
An international workshop entitled “Reframing Chinese Objects: Collecting and Displaying in Europe and the Islamic World, ca. 1400-1800” was held at the Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg, on the 7th and 8th of December 2018. The workshop, conducted as part of the “Objects of Wonder” project and funded by the Excellence Initiative II of the Heidelberg University, investigated some of the remarkable ways in which Chinese objects were reframed and re-contextualized through practices of collection and display across the Islamic world and Early Modern Europe.
‘I consider myself a researcher. I probably am not a collector by nature’, says Uli Sigg, former Swiss Ambassador to China who has assembled the world’s largest collection of experimental art from the Sinophone spheres. In the form of an exhibition, part of this collection travelled from the Kunstmuseum Bern and the Zentrum Paul Klee to Vienna. It is housed at the MAK (Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art) until 26 May 2019.