posted by CAA — November 29, 2022
CAA is pleased to announce this year’s participants in the CAA-Getty International Program. Now in its twelfth year, this international program, supported by the Getty Foundation, welcomes twelve new participants and four alumni to attend the 2023 Annual Conference in New York City. The goal of the CAA-Getty International Program is to increase international participation in CAA’s activities and the field of visual arts in academia, thereby expanding international networks and the exchange of ideas both during and after the conference. We look forward to welcoming this year’s participants!
At a pre-conference colloquium, the new participants will discuss key issues in the international study of art history together with CAA-Getty alumni and US hosts. The program will delve into topics such as postcolonial and Eurocentric legacies, decolonization of museums, scholarship and pedagogy, interdisciplinary and transnational methodologies, and the intersection of politics and art history. Learn more about the first ten years of the program in our online publication.
Program participants—art historians, curators, and artists—hail from multiple countries, expanding CAA’s international membership and contributing to an increasingly diverse community of scholars and ideas. Selected by a jury of CAA members from a highly competitive group of applicants, each participant will receive funding for travel, hotel accommodation, conference registration, CAA membership, and a per diem.
Alumni invited back to the 2023 conference will present at the Global Change, Crisis, and the State of the Visual Arts session while also connecting our new participants with our burgeoning group of nearly 150 CAA-Getty International Program alumni.
2023 PARTICIPANTS IN THE CAA-GETTY INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM
Marina Grzinic is a principal research associate at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where she is affiliated with the Institute of Philosophy. She holds a PhD in philosophy and is an artist with a forty-year career. She has been a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria, since 2003, in charge of the Studio of Conceptual Art (Post-Conceptual Art Practices) at the Institute of Fine Arts. Grzinic is the principal investigator of the Austrian Science Fund and Programm zur Entwicklung und Erschließung der Künste (FWF-PEEK) project “Conviviality as Potentiality” (2021–25). She was also the principal investigator of the FWF-PEEK project “Genealogy of Amnesia (Opposing Colonialism, Antisemitism and Turbo-Nationalism)” (2018–21). Her areas of expertise include contemporary philosophy, contemporary art, the study of coloniality and decoloniality, transfeminism, the analysis of racism, antisemitism, nationalism, and the study of memory and history in the context of resistance.
Amrita Gupta is an art historian, writer, educator, and editor who works across art education and cultural management. In 2002, she joined the Mohile Parikh Center (MPC), Mumbai, and became its program director in 2005, facilitating critical thinking by curating a wide range of innovative art education programs. She runs the website V-IDEO: Ideas worth Sharing, an archive of short videos on Indian artists for which MPC is the knowledge partner. She received an MFA in art history from Viswabharati University, Santiniketan 2002.
Her writings on modern and contemporary art have been published in anthologies, journals, and websites in India and internationally, and she has authored and edited art books for children. She was a visiting lecturer in art history at the Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai; a fellow at ARThink South Asia (ATSA); a research grantee from the India Foundation for the Arts, and curatorial advisor for Art1st Foundation, Mumbai. Her current art historical research is on Northeast India, framing the region as a “critical art geography” where one can attend to meanings that engage with global modernism and heterodox contemporaneity drawn through one’s own historical position. An essay from this research has been published in the book 20th Century Indian Art (Thames & Hudson, 2022). She is cofounder and executive editor of the independent e-journal, Partition Studies Quarterly which focuses on partition stories of Northeast India within the larger discourse of the partition in the subcontinent.
Delaram Hosseinioun was born and reared in Tehran, Iran, and seeks to reflect the voice of Persian women in creative and comparative narratives in spite of borders and restrictions. Delaram received an MA in literary criticism from the University of Exeter and another in cultural studies from KU Leuven University. Through her PhD project at Utrecht University, titled “Unveiling the Other: The Metamorphosis of Feminist Persian Art from the Mid-Twentieth Century to the Present Day,” Delaram draws from gender theories in French psychoanalysis, such as in the works of Hélène Cixous and Judith Butler, and continental philosophy, namely in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Jacques Derrida. Working with artists and scholars around the world, Delaram deciphers artworks as pictorial dialogues and as artists’ attempts to surpass sociocultural restrictions. The revelation and universality of the feminine voice frame her core vision. Delaram’s other passion is art journalism and interviewing artists beyond borders.
Brigitta Isabella is a researcher of art history, critical theories, and cultural studies. Her research trajectory revolves around the (im)mobility of artists and the (im)mobilization of art within the geopolitical and geoaesthetic terrains of transnational solidarity. By looking into the transnational traffic of artists, objects, and ideas, she reexamines the reciprocity between nationalism and internationalism and how artistic traces of Third World solidarity can play a discursive part in decentralizing global art history. She studied philosophy at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and gained her MA in critical methodologies at King’s College, London. She is also a part of a research-action group called Kunci Study Forum & Collective and serves as the coeditor of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia, a peer-reviewed journal published by NUS Press. She is a lecturer at the Faculty of Visual Arts in Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Yogyakarta.
Żanna Komar, PhD, was born in Ukraine, lives in Poland, and is an art historian, theoretician of architecture, and exhibitions curator. She is a member of the academic staff at the Institute of European Heritage, part of the International Cultural Centre, Kraków, where she works as a content specialist. She specializes in urban studies, social and art history, and the theory and protection of cultural heritage. She is the author of numerous publications on the history of architecture and art, including the book Trzecie miasto Galicji. Stanisławów i jego architektura w okresie autonomii galicyjskiej (The third city of Galicia. Stanisławów and its architecture in the period of Galician autonomy, 2008). She writes about Art Nouveau, historicism, modernism, and contemporary art, and about totalitarian and modern architecture in present‑day Poland and Ukraine.
Larisa Mantovani holds a PhD in history from the Escuela Interdisciplinaria de Altos Estudios Sociales, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Buenos Aires. She has a BA in art history and a teacher training degree in art history from Universidad de Buenos Aires. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the Research Center in Art and Heritage of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CIAP/UNSAM-CONICET). She works as an assistant professor of history of decorative arts I and II at the Universidad del Salvador. Both her dissertation and current postdoctoral research focus on applied arts and the links between art, education, and industry in Argentina in the first half of the twentieth century.
Thabang Monoa’s research interests involve art history, art criticism, visual culture, curatorial practice, and cultural studies. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Tshwane University of Technology and then went on to do a master’s degree in visual art at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg. He later worked as an art historian in the faculty’s department of visual art. His doctoral study, which he undertook with the SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture, focused on the notion of Blackness in Afrofuturist aesthetics. Monoa is a member of the College Art Association (CAA) in the USA; a former council member of the South African Visual Art Historians (SAVAH); and is coconvenor of the Gerard Sekoto Winter/Summer School, which is administered through the Johannesburg Art Gallery. In his current capacity as a lecturer in Art History at the University of Cape Town’s Michealis School of Fine Art, Monoa continues to generate scholarly output concerning racial aesthetics, notions of futurity, and Black radical thought.
Haoxue Nie is an assistant professor at the School of Art and Humanities, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. She holds a PhD in Western modern art history and theory from the China Academy of Art (2018). Her dissertation was published as a monograph in 2019 titled Beyond Boundaries: George Ault and Early Modern American Art. She was a recipient of the Getty Foundation grant for the 35th CIHA Congress (2019) and the international Travel Grant by Terra Foundation for American Art (2016).
Her research covers the first half of twentieth-century American art history, especially from the 1920s to the 1950s. Recently, she has been focusing on the visual ideology of cityscapes within this period and how they remained minor artworks in the mainstream of art history, as well as the concept of time, space, and subjectivity as formal, ideological, and psychological manifestations. The intertextuality among easel painting, modern photography, and films with urban themes in American modernism is also a part of her scholarly explorations.
Zuzanna Sarnecka is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Warsaw (Poland). She earned her PhD in history of art at the University of Cambridge (2017). She is the author of The Allure of Glazed Terracotta in Renaissance Italy (Brepols, 2021) and coeditor of The Agency of Things in Medieval and Early Modern Art. Materials, Power and Manipulation (Routledge, 2017) and The Materiality of Terracotta Sculpture in Early Modern Europe (Routledge, 2023). Her current research focuses on the adaptation of technique of tin-glazed earthenware from the Italian peninsula across Central Europe. In her work, she aims to construct more inclusive narratives through close investigation of microhistories that have long remained ignored, not because of the lack of sources, but because of the cult of masterpieces. She promotes multisensory perspective in studies of the arts of the past, as more immediately significant for the twenty-first-century beholder, than stylistic attributions and dating.
Jakub Stejskal is a MASH junior research group leader at the Department of Art History, Masaryk University, Brno, where he heads the research group Remote Access: Understanding Art from the Distant Past. He has held fellowship positions at eikones (University of Basel) and Freie Universität Berlin. He holds a PhD in aesthetics from Charles University, Prague. His research interests lie at the intersection of archaeology, art history, anthropology, and philosophical aesthetics. He is the author of Objects of Authority: A Postformalist Aesthetics (Routledge, 2022) and his work has appeared in Critical Inquiry, World Art, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics.
Cheryl Chelliah Thiruchelvam holds a PhD in art history and is currently attached to the Advertising Department, Faculty of Arts and Social Science at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysia. Her research interests are Hindu-Buddhist visual arts of the Southeast Asian region and to a lesser extent feminist studies. Her latest publication is a book chapter on the prevalence of the Ramayana epic in Malaysian visual arts for the book The Multivalence of an Epic: Retelling the Ramayana in South India and Southeast Asia (Manipal Universal Press, 2021). She also has a forthcoming coauthored essay entitled, “Tracing Indian Cultural Connections in Malaysia and Brunei: From Early Candis to Modern Art,” for the book Connected Histories of India and Southeast Asia: Icons, Narratives, Monuments that will be published by SAGE Publications India. Besides that, she is also interested in writing criticism, reviews, and commentary within the Malaysian art scene.
Tanja Trška is assistant professor at the Department of Art History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Croatia, where she teaches courses on early modern art in Europe and present-day Croatia. She received her PhD in art history from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy (joint supervision with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb) in 2014. Her research interests center on early modern art and architecture, the exchange of cultural and artistic experiences between Italy and the eastern Adriatic coast, art patronage, and history of collections. She has collaborated on Croatian Science Foundation’s research project “Visualizing Nationhood: The Schiavoni/Illyrian Confraternities and Colleges in Italy and the Artistic Exchange with South East Europe (15th–18th centuries)” (2015–18) and is currently a team member of the research project “Provenance Research on Artwork in Zagreb Collections” (2020–24).
Patricia D. Meneses is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Campinas (Brazil). She earned her PhD in history of the visual arts at the University of Pisa (2009). She is the author of Baccio Pontelli a Roma. L’attività dell’architetto per Giuliano Della Rovere (Felici Editore, 2010) and editor of several books, such as Arte Não-Europeia: Conexões historiográficas a partir do Brasil (Estação Liberdade, 2020) and A imagen como experimento. Debates contemporâneos sobre o olhar (Milfontes, 2021). In 2019, she was Hans Jonas visiting professor at the University of Siegen, where she taught a course on “exotic” materials in art history. She is currently part of a Connecting Art Histories project sponsored by the Getty Foundation (“Teaching and Researching Non-European Art at Brazilian Universities”). Her research focuses on the connections between art, science, and ecology in the nineteenth century.
Natalia Moussienko is a leading research fellow at the Modern Art Research Institute of the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine (Kyiv). She is the author of numerous books and articles on art history, cultural diplomacy, cinema, and urbanism, including Art of Maidan (2016), Kyiv Art Space (2013), and Arts and Politics (2002). In 2016 the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine awarded Dr. Moussienko a gold medal for her achievements in cultural diplomacy. She was also awarded a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research at the Kennan Institute, Wilson Center, in Washington, DC (2011–12), and a Thesaurus Polonia Fellowship to study at the International Cultural Center in Krakow (2017 and 2022). Dr. Moussienko is an initiator and curator of Art of Maidan, a continuing project begun in 2014 to document the explosion of artistic creativity during the Revolution of Dignity in 2013–14 and a Russo-Ukrainian war premonition in it. Central to the project is a book and exhibition that has already been presented in nineteen locations in Ukraine, the United States, and Europe.
Shenouda Rizkalla Fahim Youssef is a trained archaeologist with extensive experience in archaeological fieldwork, database and collections management, and community outreach. His current research focus is on the museum practices in the Egyptian provinces, using the Akhenaton Museum in Minya, Egypt, as a case study. The museum, opening in 2023, will focus on the site of Tell el-Amarna, where the famous bust of Nefertiti, currently exhibited in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, was found. The aims of the presentation are to analyze the archival resources for the history of the museum, develop community outreach programs by engaging the local population with the collection, and using this to develop avenues for future outreach activities. The results will be related to wider discussions of repatriation and postcolonial heritage management in Egypt.
Rizkalla received a PhD in Egyptology from Helwan University, Egypt. His research has been diverse, working on recording and translating Ptolemaic Period hieroglyphics, creating and executing site management strategies, and addressing the looting of archaeological sites. He has been a member of many excavations and site management missions in Egypt since 2012, has given numerous presentations and invited talks, and has written a number of academic reports and publications.
J. Kelechi Ugwuanyi is a senior lecturer in the department of archaeology and tourism, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Global Heritage Lab, Transdisciplinary Research Area: Present Pasts, University of Bonn, Germany. Kelechi has a PhD in heritage studies from the University of York, UK, and MA and BA in archaeology and tourism as well as a diploma in tourism and museum studies from the University of Nigeria. He is a coeditor of the Journal of African Cultural Heritage Studies and sits on the editorial board of the Studies in Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory book series published by the Archaeopress. Kelechi’s research interests are critical heritage studies, museum, Indigenous knowledge systems, tourism, and contemporary archaeology. His current research revisits the originating communities of ethnographic archives collected from Africa during colonialism to reengage members of the descendant communities to understand their changing significance in the present.
posted by CAA — August 08, 2022
Join us this fall for the virtual symposium, Global Conversations: Materiality and Mediation, on October 4, 2022, organized by CAA and two of its international affiliated societies, the Design History Society and the International Association of Word and Image Studies.
To register for the event, visit this page. The event will take place from 11 am to 1 pm Eastern time.
This global collaborative project brings together three intersecting constituencies—art and design, design history, and word and image studies—to examine how materiality and mediation intersect.
Six participating scholars will present on the following topics, followed by Q&A and discussion. The event will be recorded and shared online following the event.
- “Tavolino di gioie”: The Mediation of Material Techniques in Late Cinquecento Hardstone Inlaid Tables – Wenyi Qian, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History, University of Toronto, Toronto
- Mediating the Meaning of Textiles through Exhibition Displays in Israel, 1950s-1970s – Noga Bernstein, Marie-Sklodowska Curie Visiting Researcher, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Made in Japan: Development of the Poster Medium in Japanese Commercial Art and Design – Nozomi Naoi, Associate Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College, Singapore Erin Schoneveld, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Director of Visual Studies, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania
- Mine Craft: Design Histories of Mining – Ellen Huang, Associate Professor of Art and Design History, ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California Arden Stern, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Sciences, ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA
This no-cost event is open to the public. Please consider donating to support no-cost programming and providing access to new and emerging scholarship.
CAA’s membership program connects you to the largest community of individuals and organizations working together and advocating to advance research, practice, and the impact of the visual arts. Visit our website for more information and to join our organization.
Arts organizations interested in joining CAA as an affiliated society can do so by visiting our website.
To join the Design History Society, please visit this page.
To join the International Association of Word and Image Studies, please visit this page.
posted by CAA — July 06, 2022
The Getty Foundation has awarded the College Art Association (CAA) a grant to fund the CAA-Getty International Program for a twelfth consecutive year. The Foundation’s support will enable CAA to bring twelve international visual-arts professionals to the 111th Annual Conference, taking place New York, NY, February 15–18, 2023. These individuals will be first-time participants in the program and will be accompanied by alumni of the program returning to present papers during the conference.
Participants will receive funds for travel expenses, hotel accommodations, per diems, conference registrations, and one-year CAA memberships. We encourage all international art historians, art history educators, and museum curators to apply. The program will also include a one-day preconference colloquium on international issues in art history on Tuesday, February 14, as well as ongoing engagement with other alumni from the program online and at future conferences. The deadline for applications is August 15, 2022. Guidelines and application can be found here.
Last year, CAA organized a publication to celebrate ten successful years of the CAA-Getty International Program. The publication, entitled Global Conversations: 10 Years of the CAA-Getty International Program features in-depth accounts of the program, a timeline of important events and milestones, and directories of past papers, members, and meetings.
The CAA-Getty International Program was established to increase international participation in CAA and the CAA Annual Conference. The program fosters collaborations between North American art historians, artists, and curators and their international colleagues and introduces visual arts professionals to the unique environments and contexts of practices in different countries.
Since it began in 2012, the program has brought 147 scholars to the conferences, from over 50 countries located in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Each year, a preconference colloquium on international topics in art history inaugurates the week, kicking off four days of conference sessions, meetings with new colleagues, and visits to museums and galleries. Subsequent to these events, the program has generated many scholarly collaborations, including publications, conferences, and exhibitions.
Most of all, former grant recipients have become ambassadors of CAA in their countries, sharing knowledge gained at the Annual Conference with their colleagues at home. Past recipients have said that “variety of topics presented also exposed me to the realization that there is so much to be done to unearth the hidden treasures of global art history, which hitherto I have overlooked in my discipline and nation but which will now form the basis of my future projects,” and “the direct contact with other global south researchers is an unique occasion, rarely possible and extremely enriching.”
posted by CAA — April 21, 2022
Filmed at the National Museum of Mexican Art, this program features a discussion about mentoring between two Chicago-based artists, Rubén Aguirre and Dan Ramirez, mediated by Cesáreo Moreno, Director and Curator of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Their conversation takes place inside the Aguirre’s exhibition Tectonic Reflections, open at the National Museum of Mexican Art until July 24. This program was a part of the session, “Mentoring Beyond the Classroom: The Continuing Relationship Over Time,” at CAA’s 2022 Annual Conference in February, chaired by Richard Serrano, a member of CAA’s Services to Artists Committee.
posted by CAA — December 22, 2021
We’re pleased to announce this year’s participants in the CAA-Getty International Program. Now in its eleventh year, this international program supported by the Getty Foundation will all twelve new participants and four alumni to participation in the 2022 Annual Conference. Learn more about the first ten years of the program in our online publication.
At a pre-conference colloquium, the new participants will discuss key issues in the international study of art history together with CAA-Getty alumni and US hosts. The program will delve into topics as postcolonial and Eurocentric legacies, interdisciplinary and transnational methodologies, and the intersection of politics and art history.
Alumni invited back to the 2022 conference will present in the session Can Art History Be Affective? Empathy, Emotion and the Art Historian, chaired by Getty alumni and International Committee members Nora Veszpremi and Cristian Nae, while also providing an intellectual and social link between new participants and our burgeoning group of CAA-Getty International Program alumni.
The goal of the CAA-Getty International Program is to increase international participation in CAA’s activities and the field of visual arts in academia, thereby expanding international networks and the exchange of ideas both during and after the conference. We look forward to welcoming the following participants.
2022 PARTICIPANTS IN THE CAA-GETTY INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM
Tatiana Muñoz Brenes is an art curator and researcher. She has combined the exercise of cultural management with Social Sciences by having degrees in Art History and Psychology, both from the University of Costa Rica. Her training has allowed her to work on the topics of community museums, sustainability, collection research, curating exhibitions and curatorial accompaniment for artistic production. Currently, her work focuses mainly on queer art and the LGBTIQ+ community in Latin America. In addition, she has extensive experience in international projects, lectures, publications and museum training in Scotland, Portugal, Spain, China, Japan, Ecuador, and other countries. Projects can be found at www.arthistorylady.com
Simona Cupic is Professor at the Department of Art History, University of Belgrade, Serbia. Her fields of research and teaching include art and culture between the World Wars, and the 1950s and 1960s. She is particularly interested in the visual and popular culture between 1920s and 1960s. She is the author of Mona Lisa & Superman. John F. Kennedy and the New Frontier of the Culture (2016), Elain de Kooning. Portraits (with Brandon Brame Fortune, Ann Eden Gibson, 2015), The JFK Culture (edited volume, 2013), and Bourgeois Modernism and Popular Culture. Episodes of the Fashionable, Faddish and Modern (1918-1941) (2011), among others.
Anica Draganić is an architectural historian, conservator and multimedia artist who currently serves as an Associate Professor at the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. She received her PhD in Architectural History and Heritage Preservation from the University of Belgrade with a dissertation on Austro-Hungarian historical breweries. Her work focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century European architecture, with particular emphasis on industrial heritage and identity issues in the intercultural context of Central Europe. Her extensive research on the architectural heritage of the Vojvodina region has been published in journals, conference proceedings, and books, but also presented in numerous exhibitions. Her most recent book, Shadows and Silhouettes of Industrial Past of Vojvodina, shows the complexities of the socio-political context in which the industrial architecture of a specific multicultural region emerged, developed and disappeared. She is currently particularly interested in European architecture from the socialist period, exploring its historical values and contemporary potential.
Heba Khairy Metwaly is an Exhibition coordinator at the Grand Egyptian Museum. She Oversees and provide rigorous, accurate and efficient exhibition coordination and follow up all aspects of exhibition development between all partners in the GEM. She is a PhD researcher specialized in the Collection Management and Documentation Practices in different museums. Heba has participated in many international and national field projects and studies focusing on the tangible and intangible material culture preservation and local community engagement and development. Heba has participated in the development of the daily life gallery “P34” at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, the European Union Funding Project of Transforming the Egyptian Museum. In 2017 she participated in the British Museum International Training Program, where she curated the Object in Focus temporary exhibition. She Also participated in many international conferences focusing on the preservation of museum collection and exhibition design.
Roma Madan Soni is an art historian with a PhD from the University of Wolverhampton, an Assistant professor at Box Hill College Kuwait, an ecofeminist-artist, and a researcher. Her art, teaching, and research are interdisciplinary, positioned at the node of ecofeminism: practice, theory and history, and contemporary visual politics. Her articles are published in Journal of Visual Art Practice, Feminist Media Studies, Ecofeminism and Climate Change, Crafts Research, Art & The Public Sphere, Necsus, International Feminist Journal of Politics, Journal of Gender Studies, Swasti, and a chapter in Cambridge Scholars. She collaborated for conference presentations and conducted workshops at CAA, SVIMS-Pune, JNU, LSR, Raza Foundation, University of Wolverhampton, Kuwait-Nuqat, KISR, TEDx Global Day- Gulf University of Science and Technology, Dar Al Athar-Yarmouk, Kuwait University, American University of Kuwait, Box Hill College Kuwait, American Open University, UN Habitat and Beit Sadu. She has exhibited at Kunsthaus-Steffisburg, TAPRI-Finland, DarAlAthar AlIslamiyah, The Scientific Centre Kuwait, MOMA-Kuwait, Masaha13, Artsy, Mayinart, Artling, Saatchi galleries, and painted the book-cover for Routledge Handbook of Feminist Peace Research (2021). Research grants, commissions and awards from The Scientific Centre Kuwait, Kuwait Foundation of Advanced Sciences, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, UN Habitat, and Arab Open University aided her research and creations. She is a member of the Museum Committee and a Reader for the Council of Readers at CAA. I chair the “Transformative Education Think Tank”-Collective Impact Coalition-Konrad Adenauer Stiftung to address Kuwait’s academic challenges. Her work has been accepted at the Venice Art Fair and Florence Biennale 2021.
Patricia D. Meneses is an assistant professor of Art History at the University of Campinas (Brazil). She earned her PhD in History of the Visual Arts at the University of Pisa (2009). She is the author of Baccio Pontelli a Roma. L’attività dell’architetto per Giuliano Della Rovere (Felici Editore 2010) and editor of several books, such as Arte Não-Europeia. Conexões historiográficas a partir do Brasil (Esta ção Liberdade 2020), and A imagen como experimento. Debates contemporaneous sobre o olhar (Milfontes 2021). Recently, she was Hans Jonas visiting professor at the University of Siegen (2019), where she taught a course on “exotic” materials in Art History. She is currently part of a Connecting Art Histories project sponsored by the Getty Foundation (“Teaching Non-European at Brazilian Universities”). Her research focuses on the connections between art, science and ecology in the nineteenth-century. She is presently developing a book project about hummingbird’s ecology in Brazilian visual culture.
Akinwale Onipede is an art historian, researcher and teacher at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He trained at the University of Benin, and, the University of Lagos, where he works in the area of the interface of global and local cultures and identities as expressed in visual arts. His main interest is in how developments globally in the philosophies, techniques, products and opportunities in visual arts, have affected its contemporary practice and direction in Nigeria. The universalization of cultures, consequent upon globalization, he argues, is skewed in favor of the West, whose culture is endorsed, whose pocket is deepest and whose machinery is most efficient, in the promotion of the direction of visual arts studies, practice, articulation and documentation. He is of the position that the continent that produced the great pyramids, the Nok, Igbo Ukwu, Ife and Benin masterpieces should play crucial roles in contemporary promotion of the arts.
Melissa M. Ramos Borges is an art historian with a predilection for the (re)vision of the discipline. She obtained her doctorate from the Programa de Estudios Artísticos, Literarios y Culturales with a specialty in Art History at the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid, where she presented the first comprehensive study of avant-garde art produced between 1960-1980 in Puerto Rico. She is a professor of Art History and Theory at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez and Río Piedras Campus. In addition, she is an independent researcher and curator who has published and presented her exhibitions and articles in various international platforms. She curated SUZI FERRER, the first retrospective exhibition of the groundbreaking feminist avant-garde artist, presently on view at the Museo de Arte y Diseño de Miramar. She is currently working on publishing a catalogue with contributions from various scholars which will accompany an upcoming traveling SUZI FERRER exhibition.
Shenouda Rizkalla is a trained archaeologist with extensive experience in archaeological fieldwork, database and collections management, and community outreach. His current research focus is the museum’s role in preserving the local community identity, applied to the content and display of the Sharm El-Sheikh museum and build up a sustainable community outreach program by engaging the local population with the collection and relate the results to wider discussions of repatriation and post-colonial heritage management in Egypt. Rizkalla is an Egyptology PhD graduate from Helwan University-Egypt. His research to date has been diverse, working on recording and translating Ptolemaic Period hieroglyphics, creating and executing site management strategies, and addressing the looting of archaeological sites. He is a member of many excavations and site management missions inside Egypt since 2012. He has many Presentations and Invited Talks, Academic Reports and Publications.
Nsima Stanislaus Udo is a Nigerian and an Africanist scholar. He completed his BA in History and International Relations in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He then proceeded to South Africa where he completed his Honors and MA degrees (cum laude) at the University the Western Cape in Visual History and Theory. He lives in Cape Town and is a doctoral candidate at the University of the Western Cape. His research interest is in African cultural studies: in thinking around visual representations, histories and meanings of African cultural and festival practices. His doctoral research is currently looking at the history of Calabar Festival and Carnival, Nigeria. He is exploring the multiple-layered cultural, visual, aesthetic, economic and secular representations of this complex and elaborate festival. Nsima Stanislaus Udo presently serves as a teaching and research assistant at the Faculty of Art in the same university.
John Kelechi Ugwuanyi is a senior lecturer and the coordinator of postgraduate studies in the Department of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He had his PhD in heritage studies at the University of York and MA and BA in Archaeology and Tourism at the University of Nigeria. His research interest is critical heritage studies, museum, indigenous knowledge systems, tourism, and contemporary archaeology. He is the co-editor of Journal of African Cultural Heritage Studies and sits on the editorial board of the Studies in Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory book series published by the Archaeopress in Oxford as part of the British Archaeological Report series of monograph. Kelechi has published in national and international journals of repute. He is a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and a recipient of other scholarship/grant including the Overseas Research Scholarship of the University of York, UK.
Elizabeth Catoia Varela holds a PhD in History and Criticism of Art from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2016). She worked at the Research and Documentation Center of the Modern Art Museum of Rio de Janeiro – MAM Rio (2009-2021). Her dissertation was published as a book in 2017 (Concrete Art Beyond Europe: Brazil, Argentina and the MAM Rio). She published other three books about the history of the museum. Varela was the curator of the exhibition “MAM: its history, its heritage” (2013-2016). She was awarded in 2020 with the AAM-Getty International Program/American Alliance of Museums and is a member of the College Art Association (CAA) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
Nadhra Shahbaz Khan is Associate Professor of Art History and the Director of the Gurmani Centre for Languages & Literature at LUMS, Lahore, Pakistan. A specialist in the history of art and architecture of the Punjab from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, Dr. Khan’s research covers the visual and material culture of the region during the Mughal, Sikh, and colonial periods. Her interest lies in investigating levels of human agency behind artefacts and architectural spaces, both as creators and consumers to understand their political, religious and socio-economic ambitions at different historical intersections. Her publications, conference papers and other research activities spread over more than a decade, especially her book titled Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Samādhi in Lahore: A Summation of Sikh Architectural and Decorative Practices has successfully brought Sikh art and architecture to the forefront of Pakistan’s heritage discussions and conservation activities.
Halyna Kohut is an associate professor in the Faculty of Culture and Arts at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine, where she teaches history of art, contemporary art, feminist art, and history of theatrical costume. Educated as an artist, she received her Ph.D. from the Lviv National Academy of Arts. Kohut is the CAA-Getty International Program alumna and a recipient of scholarships and grants from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Austrian Agency for International Mobility and Cooperation, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, and the Queen Jadwiga Foundation at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Kohut specializes in eighteenth-century East European carpets and kilims. Her most recent research interest focus on woman art in Soviet Ukraine. She is especially interested in how ideology informed the identities of women artists and how they challenged that ideology with their art practices.
Irena Kossowska graduated from the Warsaw University in 1980. She obtained a Ph.D. degree and Habilitation at the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, in 1990 and 2001 respectively. Currently she is Full Professor of Art History at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, and at the Polish Institute of World Art Studies in Warsaw. She specializes in the field of nineteenth- and twentieth-century visual arts, art theory, and criticism. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including from the Bogliasco Foundation, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, National Humanities Center, Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Henry Moore Institute, and the British Academy. She has written extensively on Polish and European art, including Artistic Reconquest: Art in Interwar Poland and Europe, The Search for Cultural Identity in Eastern and Central Europe 1919-2014, Symbolism and Young Poland; Reinterpreting the Past: Traditionalist Artistic Trends in Central and Eastern Europe of the 1920s and 1930s; and The Beginnings of Polish Original Printmaking 1897-1917.
Ana Mannarino is an art historian and a professor of art history in the School of Fine Arts and the Visual Arts Postgraduate Program at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she received her PhD in history of arts and visual arts. Her research focuses on Brazilian modern and contemporary art, particularly on the relationship between text and image, art and poetry, and the production of artists’ books.
Celebrating Ten Years of the CAA-Getty International Program!
CAA-Getty Global Conversation I: The Migration of Art and Ideas
Live Q&A: Thursday, February 11, 10-10:30 AM
CAA-Getty Global Conversation II: The Climate Crisis, Pandemics, Art, and Scholarship
Live Q&A: Thursday, February 11, 12-12:30 PM
CAA-Getty Global Conversation III: The Challenges, Disobediences and Resistances of Art in the Transnational Imagination
Live Q&A: Friday, February 12, 12-12:30 PM
CAA-Getty Global Conversation IV: Disruptive Pedagogies and the Legacies of Imperialism and Nationalism
Live Q&A: Friday, February 12, 2-2:30 PM
CAA-Getty Global Conversation V: A Multiplicity of Perspectives at the Museum of Modern Art (In conversation with curators at MoMA)
Live Q&A: Saturday, February 13, 10-10:30 AM
See conference schedule for details:
International News: The Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands Explores the Legacies of Colonialism in a Solo Exhibition by Victor Sonna
posted by Allison Walters — January 08, 2021
The following article was written in response to a call for submissions by CAA’s International Committee. It is by Ilaria Jessie Obata, an art historian and curator currently completing an MA in Curating Art and Cultures at the University of Amsterdam.
Victor Sonna’s first solo exhibition, 1525, which opened at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in July 2020, tells a multilayered story of personal introspection and shared colonial legacies. This collaboration between the artist and the museum is among the most recent exhibitions that fall under the mission scope of Musea Bekennen Kleur (Museums Confess Color), a contemporary platform established in Amsterdam in March 2020, in which “museums take accountability and responsibility through ongoing conversations about achieving diverse and inclusive institutional settings” (Musea Bekennen Kleur, https://museabekennenkleur.nl/).
The Van Abbemuseum, a participant in this project, is also one of the first museums in the Netherlands to embark upon a steady process of decolonizing its exhibitions and collections. This institutional decision was further marked by the Van Abbemuseum’s 2007 exhibition, Be(com)ing Dutch, in which participating artists Anette Kraus and Petra Bauer criticized racialized images of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), which perpetuate the use of black face for the Sinterklass holiday (Saint Nicholas). The museum encountered severe backlash from the far-right party in the Netherlands for its criticism of the Dutch holiday, which further exposed this contested discussion within the country as whole. This response exemplified the need to continue the process of decolonizing cultural and educational platforms that perpetuate racial stereotyping. Therefore, Sonna’s solo exhibition builds upon the museum’s desire for institutional accountability regarding the Netherland’s recent past and its involvement with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Sonna and the Van Abbemuseum decided to organize an exhibition with a dynamic narrative that would prompt discussion about contemporary colonial legacies. Working together, Sonna, Van Abbe director Charles Esche, curator Steven ten Thije, and guest curator Hannah Vollam, designed and curated an exhibition that presented Sonna’s research from multiple perspectives.
Born in 1977, Victor Sonna is a visual artist who moved to the Netherlands at age nineteen from Yaoundé, Cameroon. Having studied at the Design Academy in Eindhoven and then at the AKV | St. Joost in Den Bosch, Sonna is based in Eindhoven and works in various mediums. His Van Abbemuseum exhibition includes three installations of tapestries, prints, and audio-visual material. The exhibition narrative started with his purchase of a pair of chains that once belonged to an enslaved person in New Orleans. The number 152 was engraved on these chains and thus remains the focal point for the exhibition title, 1525 (Fig. 1). Sonna’s installations regularly refer to the commoditization of human life under slavery, or rather “…the treatment of persons as property or, in some kindred definitions, as objects… when the individual is stripped of his previous social identity and becomes a non-person, indeed an object and an actual or potential commodity” (Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, p. 65). Sonna’s purchase led to his own research on the socio-historical impact of colonial exploitation, which constructed and perpetuated the commodification of human life for Western imperial profit.
His audio-visual works, which contextualize and document the slave trade in Ghana, are shown in six separate film installations in the exhibition. Sonna visually captured the external and internal space of Fort Elmina, a former slave trading post that was seized and consolidated by the Dutch in 1637. He documents remembrances of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which have remained imprinted upon the walls of the fort and linger within the smell of the dungeons. The fort “plays a central role within the exhibition since the title,1525, also corresponds to the year marking the departure of the first slave ships from the West African coast to the Caribbean islands”(Harmen van Dijk, TrouwNL, 18 July 2020, translated from Dutch by the author). Sonna used this historical research to better understand the dehumanizing effects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade that turned enslaved African individuals into commodities, and led to a specific form of merchandising the colonial: distinguishing people as objects and as lesser than human.
The accompanying installations showcase Sonna’s training as a visual artist as he meshes together the mediums of sculpture, metalwork and tapestry through the jaw-dropping 82-foot-high steam beam tower, from which his framed tapestries hang within the inner spire of the museum. This massive installation, titled the Tower of Babel (Fig. 2), contains the 152 tapestries that require multi-angled viewings because both sides of the frames are packed with layers of overlapping materials, from glued cane sugar to metallic nails and coins. Sonna gathered 152 European Gobelins tapestries, made between the eighteenth and twentieth century, which comprise his series Bleach and Dust, Sugar and Rubber and Maps. However, Sonna wanted to deconstruct the singular perception of these tapestries as representing “the history and prosperity of Europe” (Harmen van Dijk, TrouwNL, 18 July 2020, translated from Dutch by the author), by exposing the forms of exploitative slave labor used to extract materials such as sugar and rubber, which are imbedded and glued onto the surface of the tapestry. On Sonna’s website he states that this series approaches the “layering and displaying of connected histories that have been etched, trapped and layered in the earth” (Victor Sonna, http://victorsonna.com/site/news.php ).
Sonna presses different sculptural materials into the tapestries, creating multiple reliefs on their surfaces (Figs. 3,4,5). He “traps” metallic objects: coins, metal chains, and nails along with Kente cloth from Ghana that has been rolled up and sewn into the tapestries, and granulated cane sugar glued around the edges. He purposefully imbeds these materials into the textural DNA of the tapestry and locks each object inside it. The reliefs pushing out of the tapestry juxtapose the Gobelins framed surface with the visual effects of these contrasting materials, making us look again. The materiality of such commodities is weighed down by the history of their production, one fueled by the violence and death that characterizes the slave trade and its plantations. The artist’s desire to etch and trap together seemingly disparate materials creates a correlation between a shared European history of colonial exploitation and the creation of racial difference.
Lastly, a striking section of this exhibition required two visitors to stand in front of one another, separated by a series of fifty-two silkscreen frames titled the Wall of Reconciliation (Fig. 6). The term “reconciliation” connotes Sonna’s desire to ensure that the printed image reconciled two opposing views. Every silkscreen required a dark backdrop in order to see the printed image; it is only visible if two visitors are standing on opposites sides of the same screen. Thus, the two viewers on opposite sides see the same explicit images of violence that are part of a series of drawings depicting slavery in Suriname, a Dutch colony that gained independence only in 1975. In Figure 7, the image depicts a young boy holding a rake, signifying the effects of enforced labor during the formative years of a child’s life and how it can mold a perception of the self that is intrinsically tied to an object of labor. Henceforth, each of these installations emphasized Sonna’s desire to deconstruct a biased and unilateral frame of reference.
1525, which has received acclaimed reviews in the Dutch press, is on display at the Van Abbemuseum until May 2021. Writers have collectively applauded the museum’s commitment to showcasing this stirring and historically fueled narrative. The Van Abbemuseum will continue to produce related public programming that is both accessible and reflective of its mission to highlight the legacies of Western colonialism in a Northern European context.
posted by Allison Walters — November 17, 2020
This is Part II of an article that began last week in CAA News. It continues the coverage of life and work at the Asia Art Archive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mutual Aid, Cici Wu, Research Assistant, Asia Art Archive, New York
New York declared a state of emergency on March 7, 2020. I couldn’t foresee then that this would be my last chance to be in an art museum for many months. I was looking at the Portrait of America by Diego Rivera in the Whitney Museum, which he painted in 1933 for the Communist New Workers School in New York. The text panel said, “In keeping with the politics of the school, Rivera chose not to celebrate American values but instead to highlight uncomfortable truths about the class struggle and the country’s violence against African Americans.” In 1929, the crash of the US stock market caused many to question a capitalist system that seemed no longer compatible with the country’s democratic ideals. Artists resolved to use their art to effect change. Looking back at this period in history, when Mexican muralists were invited to make artworks by the State, it’s striking how artists were allowed to use their creativity and imagination so freely. They also imbued their art with a social role by depicting the real struggle of workers. It was uplifting.
A month before March 7, a memorial gathering for the Chinese doctor Li Wenliang was quietly held in Central Park (Fig. 1). The event was organized to stand against the further erosion of free speech in Mainland China. The park was not crowded. People were dispersed into smaller groups on a sunny afternoon, with murmurs, sighs, and tears. The flowers and banners carried words from the bottom of people’s hearts. At that moment, there was a hope that a little change could happen this time.
After March 7, events seemed to accelerate, further unveiling lies, alongside vulnerability, rage and confusion. A wound was suddenly ripped open, resulting in a flowing river of blood. Sad news stories kept coming, one after another, from Italy, Iran, the UK, the Philippines, and the rest of the world. Airlines were collapsing. Small businesses were at risk. Middle-class and working-class people started worrying about their future. All of a sudden, restaurant workers, airline employees, and gig workers were on the verge of being laid off. Immigrants and undocumented residents without families were most at risk. More than ever, we learned that our social welfare was deeply tied to our immigration status in this country. We wondered, how are we going to collectively survive other crises, such as the huge environmental shifts and resulting displacements, that will come in the future?
For a short time, New York became a site of discombobulation, isolation, and helplessness. The city was pale and empty. Workers in the arts, who were lucky enough to keep their jobs, started to work from home. Essential workers, including doctors, nurses, delivery drivers, and home caretakers, were getting off from work shattered. After a period of panic, some artists started to break out of their isolation and regather in small volunteer communities, helping food pantries, protesting against evictions, and organizing mask donations, all built upon the principle of Mutual Aid Community Agreements: “We Keep Us Safe” (Fig. 2).
The city began returning, bursting with idealistic energy. Most precious for the Asia Art Archive in America during this time has been the support and care we have been able to provide for each other. Invaluable weekly virtual meetings helped us stay connected and in dialogue, discussing together our changing thoughts throughout this critical time.
Our research collection, the Joan Lebold Cohen Archive Phase II was successfully launched online in the height of lockdown, on April 1. Three years after the launch of Phase I, the trips Joan Cohen took to China from the 1970s–2000s are finally fully available to explore and learn from: 16,453 color photographs of artists, artworks, studios, academies, exhibitions and scenes of everyday life. These images of a past world travelled through the years and arrived at a moment when nations are drifting apart towards isolation. In the midst of reimagining a new spatiotemporal organization of the world, the looks, smiles, and gestures Joan captured on film brought to mind air and light (Fig. 3).
In Beijing and Hong Kong before returning to New York in February, I was saddened to have witnessed the virus hitting the collective body multiple times. Working through the Joan Lebold Cohen Archive was a healing process, to imagine myself traveling in time and giving light to the gaps of multiple pasts. I want to end here with a quote from the essay Solidarity/Susceptibility by Judith Butler (Social Text, 2018), from her remarks on José Muñoz, the Cuban American scholar of performance and queer studies who died in 2013, as an inspiration to think about archives and the new imaginary: “The potentialities that appear as rips and tears in the otherwise seamless future of no future for those abandoned by progress are immanent and furtive possibilities within the present, indicating that this time is also another time, and always has been; it opens toward a past and a future even when, politically, the force of oblivion seeks to cover over those very openings.”
Erasures and Experiments: The COVID-19 Story in India, Noopur Desai, Researcher, Asia Art Archive, India
Today, we are experiencing an unprecedented moment as we brave the COVID-19 crisis across the world. In India, the situation is complex, similar to many parts of the world, bearing multiple strands, with implications for various aspects of our lives. When the pandemic hit India in March of this year, though early cases were found in January, the country was going through a massive political movement demanding democratic constitutional rights. The announcement of a sudden lockdown across the country on March 22 resulted in the suspension of all social gatherings including, most importantly, the ongoing nationwide sit-in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in various cities and towns.
In the midst of panic and uncertainty in conjunction with the mismanagement of the crisis, the previous two months began to appear a distant past with the erasure of politics and the transformation of public space during the lockdown. In effect, the public space was rather transformed, with images of a mass exodus as hundreds of thousands of migrant workers journeyed home from big cities after the closing down of markets, manufacturing units, and various laborer jobs. Combined with a sense of amnesia brought on by the spectacle surrounding the pandemic, the government actions (mis)used the situation to crackdown on dissenting voices, either by arresting social and political activists, defacing artworks and graffiti at protest sites (Fig. 1), or by exercising certain restrictions on media. Taken together these actions have highlighted the systemic inequality and repressive nature of the current regime.
Surrounded by this grave situation, various arts organizations, artists, and museums have had to reconfigure themselves. Several exhibitions and programs were canceled or postponed, and young arts practitioners moved back to their birthplaces or are struggling to survive in metropolitan centers like Delhi or Mumbai. Responding to the severity of the crisis, many arts practitioners and arts organizations have stepped up to create support systems, including grants for young artists, online displays of artworks, and the formation of chain-systems, wherein artists buy each other’s work. The arts community also created online auctions and other fundraising events to contribute to the relief work for migrant workers and other vulnerable populations.
Physical distancing quickly resulted in digital proximity with the arrival of webinars and online exhibitions organized by museums and galleries, although the graph of the webinars seems to be “flattening” in recent times! However, the digital world has become an intrinsic part of our lives, whether it is through virtual studio visits, webinars, and simulated gallery tours or by creating online resources for teaching and learning. In terms of art education, studio-based practice has been replaced by experimentation with the digital, though only at a few schools, as most of them do not have the resources to run online programs. Nevertheless, there have been important instances where students have used digital platforms to organize their annual exhibitions, which are required for graduation, and which for the most part have not been able to take place physically. Though physical space is crucial in contemporary art practice, this intense effort to use alternative platforms has certainly paved the way for forming new aesthetic possibilities.
While we all are grappling with this strange time, at Asia Art Archive in India we continue building our online research collections and shaping new projects. As an online platform, we have been able to continue several aspects of our work by sharing digital resources and programming via our website. Despite this, we have also faced challenges in light of changing situations. Though our collections are available online, the groundwork to build those collections requires in-person visits to archives and libraries, access to review personal archives, resources to digitize the documents, and programs to introduce the archival collections; most of these activities have been brought to a halt for now. In the meantime, we are maintaining our spirits by planning and carrying out whatever aspects of our work we can, keeping in mind the need for physical distancing. At the same we are recalibrating our working methods as we venture into the “new normal.”
posted by Allison Walters — November 10, 2020
The following article was written in response to a call for submissions by CAA’s International Committee. It is by John Tain, Congyang Xie, Michelle Wong, Cici Wu, and Noopur Desai, all researchers at Asia Art Archive.
Introduction, John Tain, Head of Research, Asia Art Archive
In the first few months of this year, one thing that became clear was how deeply divided the world remained and remains, even as globalization brought us all closer physically and virtually. There have been of course the many overt racist acts around the world, and also the less visible but no less insidious effects of structural racism on individuals and communities of color. There also remains plain ignorance reinforced by geography. In long distance calls and video meetings, it became clear that what people across Asia recognized right away as a cataclysmic life-or-death disaster remained literally and figuratively a faraway concern for many people in the United States and Europe—until it wasn’t anymore.
At Asia Art Archive (AAA), we have seen the drama unfolding firsthand in both Asia and North America. Our colleagues in Shanghai went into lockdown almost as soon as the news came out of Wuhan, with our main office in Hong Kong soon to follow. For those first few weeks, outpourings of concern, sympathy, and sometimes curiosity accompanied the daily news and dreaded case tallies. Then, as the pandemic spread, it was our colleagues in New York and then New Delhi who were hit, along with the rest of the world, and it became our turn to send support and supplies when possible. We had already been in the habit of meeting regularly on Zoom as a way to work across distances, but throughout these months, talking with one other online became about more than work. It became a way to bridge the chasms keeping us apart all the more now. It is in the spirit of those conversations that I have asked my colleagues to share their thoughts, as reminders that whatever the disparities, we must deal with this together.
The Pandemic and Politics, Congyang Xie, Research Associate, Asia Art Archive, Shanghai
In early February, two weeks after the shutdown of Wuhan due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, an article was published by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek titled “Clear Racist Element to Hysteria over New Coronavirus.” Translated into Chinese and circulated through the social media platform WeChat, it quickly became one of the most widely shared texts among contemporary art practitioners in Mainland China. Žižek, who has built a large readership in China over the last decade, began by saying that “Some of us, including myself, would secretly love to be in China’s Wuhan right now, experiencing a real-life, post-apocalyptic movie set.” (https://www.rt.com/op-ed/479970-coronavirus-china-wuhan-hysteria-racist/)
More challenging statements followed. Unsurprisingly, there were all kinds of reactions within the art world, which amplified when more articles were published and circulated via WeChat by other Western thinkers who are more or less known to Chinese art practitioners, including Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, and especially Giorgio Agamben (Fig. 1). But the controversies around Žižek were particularly interesting. If Žižek’s text, as many have pointed out, disregarded the local context in China, the reading and sharing of the article in Chinese was also decontextualizing. The (re-)awareness of the very existence of intellectual borders that so many people tried hard to ignore may be one of the by-products of COVID-19.
Reading the text in a literal way, Žižek’s fiercest critics denounced the philosopher as naïve, if not delusional, for saying the situation in Wuhan was desirable, for ignoring the real tragedy in Wuhan, and for being indifferent to the dead and to those who were still suffering. Such opinion is based upon a humanistic attitude. The most extreme camp, however, went so far as to reach a nationalist point of view, concluding that Westerners never understand what is happening in China, and that Western theories are irrelevant and not applicable to China’s problems.
Another group of critics, non-nationalists, with a more liberal mindset, were thus highly attentive to Žižek’s call for “a new form of what was once called Communism.” Based on modern and contemporary history of China, this group considers Communism as just the flip side of the coin of authoritarianism. Taking individual freedom as a priority, this group worried that the activity-monitoring technologies used by the government in the name of containing the epidemic would eventually normalize and strengthen total governmental control over society, even after the epidemic ends.
This critical attitude towards authority was shared by a third group of people, who would agree at least partially with Žižek, citing his words that “If there were people in China who attempted to downplay epidemics, they should be ashamed.” In fact, during the first days of the coronavirus outbreak, transparency from authorities was the strongest demand from all of China’s social groups. The protest reached a peak when Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was forced to keep silent by authorities, was reported to have passed away from the deadly disease on February 7. That night, lit-candle emojis were all over social media. In response to the event, artist Zhang Peili designed a minimalist set of two T-shirts, which are worn frequently by artists and visitors to exhibitions (Fig. 2).
The debates highlight the ideological conflicts in China that have only intensified under the pandemic, though more space would be needed to map the full spectrum of opinions. Perhaps what makes Žižek’s text so appealing to art practitioners in China in the first place is the claim that “there is, however, an unexpected emancipatory prospect hidden in this nightmarish vision,” even if people may have (mis)understood it in a thousand different ways.
Separate yet Together, Michelle Wong, former Researcher, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong
One evening in March 2020, when Hong Kong’s first wave of COVID-19 cases was subsiding, we sat in a friend’s studio to look at the image archive of an artist-run space. “100 Square Feet Park,” or the Park, as we affectionately call it, was once a storefront on Lai Chi Kok Road, facing busy traffic. The image we were looking at was of a documentary exhibition from the Umbrella Movement of 2014. A monitor was placed on a table facing the street level. Pedestrians walking by wondered whether the images shown in the monitor were live or documentary images. It struck me at that 2020 moment, as we looked at the image five years on, that I had forgotten how it felt when livestreaming news—of marches, of roads puffing with smoke, of sparks flying out from long tubes, of people in all sorts of uniforms running—was not yet a norm. I remember an inexplicably overwhelming feeling of looking at the nine images on the split-screen livestreaming for the first time, and I thought my simmering anger would rise to the boiling point if I saw one more Instagram post that attempted to theorize this over-mediation.
For some time now I have pondered the morbidity that is part and parcel of my vocation as a researcher at AAA. It is only half a joke when I describe my job as “talking to old(er) people and working on dead people stuff”. On various occasions I have described archives as haunted and haunting, trains for zombies, and repositories for art that could be undead. I still think about these things when I peer and squint at my computer screen while on Zoom/Jitsi/Skype. During the time leading up to the pandemic, and perhaps also during it (i.e. now), I think often about a generation of practitioners, many of them friends and colleagues who I have met through my work at AAA. I think of how these people, myself included, have knowingly or unknowingly committed ourselves to remembering other people’s lives. Everyone who tells stories of other people’s lives, in this case through dealing with their archives, is learning how to do so along the way, much like writers learning how to write. And as we remember these lives and tell these stories, our stories can become entangled with theirs. Sometimes, it is nice to know you can choose not to do it alone.
posted by CAA — September 28, 2020
The following article was written in response to a call for submissions by CAA’s International Committee. It is by Kanwal Khalid, Director of the Punjab Archives, Lahore, Pakistan, and an alumna of the CAA-Getty International Program.
Having spent my career as a university professor, I recently was appointed the director of the Punjab Archives in Lahore. This rich collection is one of the best in South Asia and I am pleased to share a description of the institution, which also includes a library and museum, with readers of CAA News, who will soon be able to access many of the collection’s materials online.
The history of every nation is important and documents that reveal a nation’s history become increasingly precious over time. The majority of these documents are held in archives—collections that are both accumulations of historical data and repositories of record. Pakistan contains many rich archival collections: The National Archives of Pakistan and the National Documentation Centre, both located in Islamabad; the Sindh Archives in Karachi; and the Baluchistan Archives in Quetta. But the oldest of them all is the Punjab Archives in Lahore, located inside the Tomb of Anarkali.
The Punjab Archives is significant both for the immense value of its holdings and for the historical importance of its building (Fig.1), which was built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627). It was originally a tomb attributed to a woman named Anarkali, traditionally thought to be a concubine of Jahangir’s. According to the date written on the cenotaph, the monument was completed in 1615. The building has witnessed many ups and downs in its four-hundred-year history. After the annexation of Punjab by the British in 1849, the building was used as storage for documents pouring in from all parts of South Asia that were under the control of the British Raj. Two years later it became a church used for Sunday services, but in 1891 it was declared a record office.
Punjab Archives Collection
The Punjab Archives (Figs. 2, 3a-b) holds one of the largest repositories of documents in South Asia and it is responsible for the safekeeping of official documents and records of the Pakistan government. It houses census reports, civil and military gazettes, official files, historical documents, manuscripts, handouts, brochures, pamphlets, maps, notifications, memoranda, lithographs, research papers, journals, magazines, newspapers and periodicals. Many of these cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The archive also includes a fine collection of miniature paintings and seals.
The records in the Punjab Archives date back to the seventeenth century and cover the Mughal, precolonial, colonial and postcolonial eras in South Asia. Primarily the collection consists of:
- Persian Record of Mughal Period, 1629-1858
- Persian Record of Sikh Period, 1799-1849
- Akhbar Darbar-e-Lahore (Daily Court Proceedings of Sikh Rulers), 1835-1849
- Persian Record of British Period, 1809-1890
- Old Persian Newspapers, 1840-1845
- Colonial Agencies Record, 1804-1849
- Record of Princely States in Punjab, 1849-1947
- Record After the Annexation, 1849 to 1947
- Record After Independence, 1947
The Archival Library
Sir Edward Meclagan served as chancellor of University of the Punjab (1919-1924) and Governor of Punjab (1923). He was a historian whose passion for knowledge is evidenced by his donation of rare and out of print books to the Archives. This initiative led to the establishment of a small but important library that still exists today.
The collection consists of biographies, reports and travelogues. Currently the library holds more than 70,000 highly valuable reference books. The oldest book is a memoir, Journal of Sir Thomas Roe, which dates to 1616 and recounts the author’s journey to different parts of India (Fig. 4).
Another person who played an important role for the Archives was Lord Malcolm Hailey. He went one step beyond his predecessor and established a small museum in 1924 in the central hall of the tomb (Fig. 5). This collection, still maintained today, contains portraits of important Lahore personalities (Fig. 6), along with paintings, prints, maps and lithographs. Mughal Farmans (proclamations), important official letters, old stamps, medals, weapons, and miniatures are also on display (Fig. 7).
For the past several years, the Punjab Archives has been in the process of digitizing its collection to improve accessibility to scholars. Approximately 500,000 pages of historic documents are currently being scanned and catalogued, precluding the need to move the fragile original documents, thus minimizing their wear and tear. A web portal will make these digitized documents accessible under the authorization of the Punjab Archives. This project is a first step towards a long-term strategy of modernizing the Punjab Archives and Libraries. To date, more then 120,000 pages have been digitized. Although the project was scheduled to be completed by June 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought all activities to a standstill. Once completed, the archives online services will be a primary resource for scholars throughout the world. In the meantime we are providing information to any researcher who contacts the Archives Department by email at email@example.com.