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CAA Goes to France

posted by May 08, 2017

The College Art Association has been invited to speak about its Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts at two conferences taking place in France in early June. On June 4 in Fontainebleau,  executive director Hunter O’Hanian will participate in a session on “Fair Use and Open Content” at the seventh annual Festival of Art History, along with speakers from the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art (UK), the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the French Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art.

Two days later, on June 6, Hunter will join Peter Jaszi, lead principal investigator on the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts, in Paris to speak at a session on fair use during the annual conference of ICOM Europe. They will be joined by speakers from England, France, and Germany, to discuss “Copyright Flexibilities in the US and EU: How Fair Use and Other Flexibilities are Helping Museums to Fulfill their Mission.”

Both conferences provide opportunities for CAA to share its work on fair use with EU visual arts professionals. Though this feature of copyright law is virtually unique to the United States, there is increasing interest in Europe to provide greater access to copyrighted materials, especially in the cultural sectors of these countries. Travel costs for CAA’s participation are underwritten by a generous grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

We live in a world in which deeply contested perceptions of time and place coexist on lands shared by diverse populations. The unresolved politics of land that confront Indigenous cultures in Australia are a prime example of how such contestations continue to play out in a postcolonial context. Such tensions are particularly apparent when contrasting radically divergent artistic and historical representations of landscape. Australia is a vast and ancient continental landmass upon which a little over two centuries of colonization has savagely interrupted 50,000 years of continuous human culture expressed through over 500 distinct collective nominations. Presence, an ambitious exhibition curated by David Sequeira in the Margaret Lawrence Gallery at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), University of Melbourne (March 3–April 1, 2017), entered this seemingly inexpressible contestation with a curatorial strategy that provisionally marked out something of the possibility of aggregating these radically disparate understandings. As this text will attempt to demonstrate, Sequeira, in bringing otherwise ineffably distinct representations of the Australian landscape together, implicitly suggested that violently incompatible senses of time and place might indeed share space—and possibly even begin to communicate with one another.

Figures 1 and 2 show the gallery installation with Michael Riley’s film presented in the center. The two images from the film depict different contemporary perspectives of a land occupied by Indigenous cultures for tens of thousands of years. The smaller paintings installed on the perimeter wall are by well-known Australian artists who are all alumni of the Victorian College of the Arts upon the occasion of its 150-year celebration (see Figures 3–8 below).

Upon entering the dramatically darkened gallery, the viewer encountered a series of small uncaptioned spot-lit paintings by some of the VCA’s most distinguished alumni. These works appeared to be floating like a constellation of celestial objects around a large moving image projection at the center of the exhibition space. Sequeira strategically positioned Empire, a film by the late Indigenous Australian artist Michael Riley, at the heart of this carefully considered installation of historical and contemporary landscape paintings.

Figure 3: Eugene Von Guérard, From below the Lighthouse, Cape Shanck, Victoria, 1873, oil on paper on board, 9.7 x 12.4 in. (photograph provided by the Wilbow Collection)
Figure 4: Frederick McCubbin, At Macedon, 1913, oil on canvas 20.4 x 24.1 in. (photograph provided by the Wilbow Collection)
Figure 5: Fred Williams, Hillside III, 1968, oil on canvas, 24 x 26 in. (photograph provided by the Heidi Victoria Collection)

Contextualizing work by Eugene Von Guerard, Frederic McCubbin, Fred Williams, Clarice Beckett, Louise Hearman, and Rick Amor with that of Riley, Sequeira seductively stipulated that the viewer become mindful of Indigenous understandings of landscape that existed for 50,000 years prior to the VCA’s own 150-year history.

Figure 6: Clarice Beckett, Half Moon Bay, undated, oil on board, 11.2 x 15 in. (photograph provided by Rosalind Hollinrake and Niagara Galleries)
Figure 7: Louise Hearman, Untitled #480, 1997, undated, oil on composition board, 27 x 21 in. (photograph provided by the Wilbow Collection)
Figure 8: Rick Amor, Summer Morning Lucerne Crescent Alphington, 2012, oil on canvas, 20.1 x 15.9 in., Courtesy the artist and Niagara Galleries.

Not inconsequentially, Riley was not a VCA alumnus. This was a brave and deliberate curatorial gesture on the part of Sequeira to mark the occasion of the institution’s 150-year celebrations: “For most of its 150-year history, the Victorian College of the Arts ignored Indigenous Australian culture and art practices. I wanted the large-scale projection (including its soundtrack) by Indigenous artist Michael Riley to be the filter through which the other works of art are perceived.”[1]

Significantly, the deliberately modestly sized selection of paintings orbiting Riley’s intermittently expansive and forensic visual meditation upon the impact of colonialism and Christian missionary activities on Australian Aboriginal land and culture, were subsequently drawn inward to perform in concert with the deeply melancholic musical score by composer Antony Partos and performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra that accompanied Riley’s filmic essay. Sound is clearly an important part of Sequeira’s matrix of considerations. Considered together with the lighting design, we can see why Sequeira describes a “multi-sensory approach” as “critical in the process of generating new [historical] resonances.” Already an ode to the simultaneous expansiveness and minutiae of Australian landscape, once experienced on a big screen at the center of Sequeira’s installation, Empire commanded a hitherto unconsummated presence (especially when considered in comparison with earlier broadcast and exhibition presentations).

It was clear that none of these works had ever been exhibited like this before. Consequently, one of the most marked features of this exhibition was the conspicuous visibility of Sequeira’s curatorial voice. Moreover, it was not a stretch to reimagine this poetic exploration of new possibilities in selection and display as an installation by an artist rather than the work of a curator. Here, networks of relations marked between very different artistic materializations and senses of placemaking clearly instantiated the space of the exhibition itself as medium. In demonstrating profound new ways in which very different conceptions of landscape might sing together, and by extension, how accepted lineages of art history might in turn learn to incorporate understandings of Indigenous Australian art and culture, Sequeira created a work of art that far exceeded a sum of its parts. Although Sequeira understands his responsibilities to these histories “as part of a bigger commitment as an artist,” he also recognizes that curatorship demands very particular responsibilities. Despite the fact that we might reimagine the exhibition as an installation by Sequeira the artist, Sequeira the curator nevertheless understood that this would invariably “reflect a different style of authorship.” Interestingly, he appeared at once emboldened and troubled when asked to consider the exhibition as an installation by him as an artist. Clearly, Sequeira necessitates that these activities remain ontologically separate—for as Ruth Noack put it in 2015—just as “the other of the artist as curator is the curator,” it is also apparent that “the other of the curator as artist is the artist.”[2]

Importantly, Sequeira sees his “own subjectivity is a departure point for the exploration of other histories.” As a “middle-aged gay Indian born Australian man,” he sees his “subjectivity as an access to the disclosure of new understandings of art and art history.” For Sequeira, “creating opportunities for the revelation of new or previously undistinguished facets of history is integral to this process.” In order to facilitate this process, he first considers “selection and display strategies used in the construction mainstream histories” and then begins to develop alternative formats that suggest “new resonances within both individual works of art and a group as a whole.” When asked to imagine this exhibition as the first in a series, and that its next instantiation might be in the United States, Sequeira excitedly described one possible scenario:

the compelling video work of Mohawk artist Alan Michelson could be a potent context for re thinking American landscape painting. For example, set within a suite of small historic and contemporary landscape paintings by artists such as Thomas Cole, Josephine Chamberlin Ellis, Frederick Church, Georgia O’Keefe [sic], Alma Thomas, Andrew Wyeth, Michelson’s large scale projection (on a screen of turkey feathers), Mesprat, 2001 could expand the understandings of consumerism, spirituality, the sublime, environmentalism and ownership associated with considerations of landscape.

From exhibitions to nation states, delineations of place are destined to be dynamic and temporary. Unlike space, which possesses abstract physical and formal properties, the value of place is socially constructed. Against a backdrop of inevitable change, art performs both a mnemonic and a transitive role. This role is perhaps most apparent when art is experienced as a dynamic constellation of elements rather than as ossified objects. Although the idea of landscape is central to the sense of being in Australia, it can clearly evoke complex and unresolved historical and political tensions. Artists that deal with landscape as subject are by default connected to these tensions. The island continent of Australia is at once a timeless geological formation and a historically layered series of cultural projections. For a mere blip in historical time, a new nation has been superimposed over an ancient geological formation and accompanying appropriated nations. Landscape, like painting, is a register of gestures enacted upon a surface. Marks, together with conspicuous omissions and evacuations, can imply both desolation and new possibilities. Painting, like film, is a fertile ground upon which to stage a dynamic play between registers of information and space for the imagination to flourish. By suggesting new possibilities through the poetic play of disparate representations of landscape, and at the same time reminding the viewer that full comprehension is impossible, Sequeira has created an evocative vehicle with which to reimagine absence and presence.

[1] David Sequeira, email conversation with the author, March 31, 2017. All subsequent quotations by Sequeira are from email conversations that took place between March 31 and April 3, 2017.

[2] Ruth Noack, “The Curator as Artist?” (symposium presentation, Central Saint Martins, London, November 10, 2012). See http://afterall.org/online/artist-as-curator-symposium-curator-as-artist-by-ruth-noack/.

Filed under: International

2017 CAA-Getty International Program Reunion

posted by November 10, 2016

CAA Names Recipients for
2017 CAA-Getty International Program Reunion

Celebrating five successful years of the CAA-Getty International Program, the College Art Association (CAA) is pleased to announce the selection of twenty alumni to participate in a reunion program during the 2017 CAA Annual Conference, taking place in New York City from February 15-18. Funded by a generous grant from the Getty Foundation, the alumni will join distinguished scholars from the United States for a series of four conference sessions on international topics in art history.

The twenty alumni chosen for the reunion program will travel to the Annual Conference from home countries as varied as Malaysia, Cameroon, and Argentina, to name a few. As scholars, their work encompasses an equally wide spectrum, including topics such as international modernism, Islamic architecture in Southeast Asia, and contemporary aesthetics and art. Connecting the diverse mix of cultural, environmental, and scholarly backgrounds is central to the mission of CAA.

2017 CAA-Getty International Program Reunion participants

Since 2012, the Getty Foundation has supported CAA in bringing between fifteen and twenty scholars from countries around the world to its Annual Conference. Open to professors of art history, curators, and artists who teach art history, the program boasts ninety alumni from forty-one countries. Many scholarly collaborations and exchanges have ensued, both between these international scholars and North American members of CAA, and among the international scholars themselves. The 2017 reunion will celebrate these accomplishments and deepen ties with these international scholars.

“It is a pleasure to work with CAA on the international program, which has brought so many interesting scholars from all over the world to the United States for the Annual Conference,” said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “We have learned so much from the scholars’ participation and are delighted to support the upcoming reunion program. Congratulations to CAA and these remarkable alumni.”

This past summer, alumni helped to shape the reunion plans, working with members of CAA’s International Committee. Using CAA Connect, CAA’s new digital discussion platform, committee members Elisa Mandell (California State University, Fullerton), Judy Peter (University of Johannesburg, South Africa), and Miriam Paeslack (University of Buffalo), in consultation with committee chair Rosemary O’Neill (Parsons The New School for Design), moderated an online discussion about a wide range of international issues, looking for ideas that would make particularly good topics for the four conference sessions to be held in February. Linked under the heading “Global Conversations,” the daily sessions will address the following topics: “Decolonizing the Curriculum, “Dominant Ideologies and Political Trauma,” “The Trouble with (the Term) Art,” and “Transnational Collaborations and Interdisciplinarity.”

Joining the alumni at these sessions will be four members (or former members) of the National Committee for the History of Art (NCHA). Since it began, the CAA-Getty International Program has benefitted from the participation of NCHA members, both as speakers and hosts to the international colleagues. This year, Frederick Asher (University of Minnesota), Michael Ann Holly (Research and Academic Program, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute), Mary Miller (Yale University), and David Roxburgh (Harvard University) are each moderating one of the Global Conversations, adding their expertise to the discussions.

CAA is grateful to the Getty Foundation for its ongoing support of this program, and to the members of CAA’s International Committee and NCHA who have contributed their time and expertise to making the program a success.

About CAA

The College Art Association (CAA) is dedicated to providing professional services and resources for artists, art historians, and students in the visual arts. CAA serves as an advocate and a resource for individuals and institutions nationally and internationally by offering forums to discuss the latest developments in the visual arts and art history through its Annual Conference, publications, exhibitions, website, and other programs, services, and events. CAA focuses on a wide range of advocacy issues, including education in the arts, freedom of expression, intellectual-property rights, cultural heritage and preservation, workforce topics in universities and museums, and access to networked information technologies. Representing its members’ professional needs since 1911, CAA is committed to the highest professional and ethical standards of scholarship, creativity, criticism, and teaching. Learn more about CAA at www.collegeart.org.

About the J. Paul Getty trust and the Getty Foundation

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations:  the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The Getty Foundation fulfills the philanthropic mission of the Getty Trust by supporting individuals and institutions committed to advancing the greater understanding and preservation of the visual arts in Los Angeles and throughout the world. Through strategic grant initiatives, the Foundation strengthens art history as a global discipline, promotes the interdisciplinary practice of conservation, increases access to museum and archival collections, and develops current and future leaders in the visual arts. It carries out its work in collaboration with the other Getty Programs to ensure that they individually and collectively achieve maximum effect. Additional information is available at www.getty.edu/foundation.

For more information about the CAA-Getty International Program contact Janet LandayProject Director.

Filed under: International, Uncategorized
rhodes-must-fall-photo-from-facebook-3

Rhodes Must Fall, downloaded from https://www.facebook.com/RhodesMustFall/photos

Posted by Janet Landay, Project Director, CAA-Getty International Program (for CAA News and the International Desk)

This summer I was invited by two alumni of the CAA-Getty International Program—Karen von Veh and Federico Freschi, both from the University of Johannesburg—to attend the 31st Annual Conference of the South African Visual Arts Historians (SAVAH). In the first five years of the CAA-Getty program, seven art historians from South Africa have participated—the most from any single country. Their strong presence at CAA’s Annual Conferences suggests a robust community of scholars, and I was eager to witness it firsthand.

In late July I flew to Johannesburg, where I met up with Rosemary O’Neill, associate professor of art history at Parsons the New School of Design and chair of CAA’s International Committee, who was also participating in the conference. On the day we arrived there was an intense thunderstorm followed by large hail. Our hosts, Karen von Veh and her husband Bengt, assured us that this was not normal for a Johannesburg winter. By the next day the sun had come out, and it remained sunny and pleasantly cool for the rest of our stay.

The weather may well serve as a metaphor for the abnormal state of affairs in South Africa: unusually stormy one day, seemingly calm the next. Twenty-two years after the end of apartheid, the country, and especially its university system, is in an enormous state of flux. Since March 2015, students have militated against South Africa’s twenty-three government-funded universities in two related protests. The first was Rhodes Must Fall, which demanded the removal of a sculpture of Cecil Rhodes, the embodiment of British racist colonial imperialism, from the University of Cape Town (UCT), and included the broader demand for decolonizing the university system, including curricula, language of instruction, and workers’ rights.

In October 2015 came Fees Must Fall, prompted by the announcement of a steep increase in fees at the University of Witwatersrand. Both movements have had successes: the UCT sculpture of Rhodes was removed, and many other public symbols of colonial rule have been taken down or defaced; students at Rhodes University persuaded authorities to consider renaming the school; and the government announced there would be no tuition increase for 2016. (This issue is being debated again, as increases for 2017 have elicited renewed protests.) These events are taking place at the same time that the government is reducing financial support for the universities.

Art, Design and Architecture Building at the University of Johannesburg, downloaded from university website, https://www.uj.ac.za/faculties/fada/Pages/Facilities.aspx

This was the context for SAVAH’s Annual Conference, as approximately sixty professors of art history, visual culture, and studio art gathered at the University of Johannesburg for three days of papers and discussion. Organized by Federico Freschi (executive dean), Brenda Schmahmann (research professor), and Karen von Veh (associate professor), all from the Faculty of Art, Design, and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, the conference was titled “Rethinking Art History and Visual Culture in a Contemporary Context.” The ongoing crisis in higher education charged the sessions and discussions with particular intensity. The subjects addressed, whether historical, pedagogical, or political, were not chosen solely for theoretical considerations; speakers were seeking practical solutions to the immediate challenges they face as scholars and teachers in post-apartheid South Africa.

An underlying theme of the conference—how can art history be relevant and useful to scholars and students at this charged moment in time?—was a subtext in Steven Nelson’s eloquent keynote address. In a discussion of works by Houston Conwill, Moshekwa Langa, and Julie Mehretu, Nelson—a professor of African and African American art and director of the Center for African Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles—considered how the use of mapping and geography by these artists has reshaped our understanding of African ancestry, notions of diaspora, and urban spaces. The weaving of past and present, continental Africa and the African diaspora, and art-historical analyses of traditional forms and new media exemplified the ongoing relevance of the art-historical discipline to understanding contemporary art and culture.

Session topics during the two-day conference ranged from “International Curatorial Practices” to “The Politics of Display in South Africa” and “Decolonizing Education (Parts I and II)” to “Postcolonialism beyond South Africa.” Alison Kearney, a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, delivered a paper titled “Art history is dead—long live art history!” in which she explored the deeper meaning of decolonizing the university, beyond the tokenistic call for more black authors and artists. This decolonization will lead to “the inevitable end of art history” and a return to the work of art and an interdisciplinary approach as a “deliberate means of destabilizing a single disciplinary gaze.” Fiona Siegenthaler, a senior lecturer at the Institute for Social Anthropology, Universität Basel, compared the call for decolonization in South Africa to the one in Uganda. Because the population in Uganda is overwhelmingly black, the call for decolonization has little to do with the racial profile of its teachers or students. Rather, the country is focused on rewriting curricula to be more relevant to their students’ lives. Both countries, she stated, are skeptical about the hegemony of neoliberalism as a form of neocolonialism, on the one hand, and the need for access to international contemporary art, art institutions, art markets and funding organizations, on the other.

Several speakers explored alternative approaches to current studies in South African art history. Lize van Robbroeck, from the University of Stellenbosch, spoke about “settler colonial studies” and a multinational research project she is part of that examines settler life in five former British dominions: New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and the United States. The cultural, economic, and political circumstances in each of these colonies, in spite of particular dynamics in each, created comparable artistic products in the early to mid-twentieth century. The group’s research suggests that the demands to establish national art canons in each of these locations led to a corresponding art-historical neglect of the striking cross-national similarities in the art produced by artists in each place.

A paper by Jackson Davidow, from the Department of Architecture at MIT, called on the discipline of art history to enlarge its approach to “traverse geographies, temporalities, environments, and communities.” He made the case by discussing a global history of AIDS activist art, which must still be historically contextualized within local landscapes. His paper posed a crucial question to contemporary scholars: “How can global art histories work to decolonize and deconstruct the practices of our discipline rather than perpetuate its oppressive structuring?”

The conference ended with two papers from other humanities disciplines. The first one, by Brett Pyper from the University of the Witwatersrand, was about curating indigenous musical performances at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Leana van der Merwe, of the University of Pretoria, delivered the second, which was about an “African” feminist philosophy of art. Many of the conference papers will be published in an upcoming issue of De Arte, a peer-reviewed South African journal on visual arts, art history, and art criticism.

The SAVAH conference was not the only significant art event taking place in Johannesburg during my visit. The meetings coincided with a historic exhibition held downtown at the Standard Bank Gallery: the first-ever presentation on the African continent of paintings and works on paper by Henri Matisse.

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Henri Matisse, The Horse, the Rider and the Clown,1947, fifth plate of the book Jazz, Musée Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis

Juxtaposed against the topic of the conference—rethinking art history in a contemporary context—this major exhibition provided another bellwether of the state of art history in South Africa. The absence of Matisse exhibitions in the entire continent until now can partially be explained by practical reasons related to insufficient resources (shipping and insurance costs, museum-quality exhibition spaces, etc.), but it is also likely due, in part, to a reluctance or lack of interest on the part of European and American collections and African-based organizers to bring the artist’s work to African audiences, in spite of Matisse’s great interest in African art. During my visit to South Africa, I was struck by the lack of Western art displayed in the museums, with the exception of a small collection on view at the National Museum in Cape Town. Little access to this art is yet another challenge for professors of art history, and it must relate to the absence of Matisse exhibitions as well. Why should South Africans be interested in his work if, for many, he is an unknown, dead white European artist? There is an audience for Matisse in South Africa, including the well-educated professional class and an active, sophisticated group of collectors who support a growing number of commercial galleries. There is also a vibrant community of artists in South Africa whose work characteristically draws on indigenous artistic traditions as well as global art. In spite of the limited audience—or perhaps because of it—a Matisse exhibition in Johannesburg is an important event, a major step toward broadening an appreciation of global art and its history.

In Johannesburg, the Matisse exhibition was the fourth in a series of presentations at the Standard Bank Gallery of works by twentieth-century modern European masters. Previous projects focused on Mark Chagall, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso. Through the curatorial efforts of Federico Freschi and Patrice Deparpe, director of the Musée Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, the exhibition Henri Matisse: Rhythm and Meaning was on view at the Standard Bank Gallery from July 13 to September 17, 2016. It included significant paintings, drawings, collages, and prints covering all the dominant themes in the artist’s oeuvre, from his early Fauvist years to the paper cut-outs produced in the last years of his life. As Freschi noted in introductory remarks, “Of particular interest to South African audiences is the inspiration Matisse took from African and other non-Western art forms during the early 1900s while struggling to find a new visual language to express the particular experience of the new, modern age.”

Description: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CnLtjV5XEAAVQzm.jpg:large

Patrice Deparpe, Director of the Musée Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, in the exhibition Henri Matisse: Rhythm and Meaning, downloaded from website of the Embassy of France in South Africa.

To open the SAVAH conference, a lecture, gallery talk and reception for the exhibition was held the evening before the conference proceedings began. Rosemary O’Neill presented a thought-provoking lecture titled, “Henri Matisse: Fluid Memory, Embodied Signs.” Her paper considered aspects of Matisse’s work in relation to the construct of memory, time, and intuitive expression, as well as the influence of the ideas of philosopher Henri Bergson. In discussing Jazz, O’Neill identified ways in which his Tahitian memories from 1930, as well as his own cultural context and artistic trajectory, resulted in the realization of the innovative process and expression soon evident in Matisse’s late cut-outs; their importance in relation to a revival of the decorative impulse in postwar France; and their analogous relationship to poetic and musical phrasing—that is, a system of ensemble signs—as articulated in the writings of the poet Louis Aragon. Freschi’s subsequent gallery talk elaborated on Matisse’s exploration of African modes of representation in his early works; then, calling special attention to the series of prints that comprise the artist’s book, Jazz, he emphasized the influence of his travel to Tahiti and the archipelago islands that appear in his use of patterns and rhythms, ephemeral materials, and a conceptual rather than perceptual approach to image making.

For an American visitor, the conference and exhibition provided much food for thought. It was impossible to ignore similarities in the dissatisfactions of university students in both countries. Like their South African counterparts, U.S. students are demanding a greater diversity of voices in the curriculum, on the faculty, and in the administrations of colleges and universities. In both countries, growing complaints about racial inequality and ties to apartheid or slavery have resulted in important, if mostly symbolic, changes. At about the same time that South African authorities were removing sculptures of Cecil Rhodes and suspending tuition hikes, leaders at Georgetown University announced efforts to make amends for its complicity in the nation’s slave trade, including preferential admissions for descendents of slaves sold in 1838 by Maryland Jesuits to stave off the college’s bankruptcy. Other schools, such as Brown University, Harvard University, Emory University, and the University of Virginia, have made their historical ties to slavery public and announced plans such as renaming buildings, creating racial justice programs, and erecting memorials acknowledging their ties to the transatlantic slave trade.

[Just last week in New York City, as part of an anti-Columbus Day protest, a diverse group of protesters, united under the banner “Decolonize This Place,” demanded the removal of an equestrian sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt (flanked on either side by a Native American and an African American) at the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History. The crowd included activists from the Black Lives Matter, Indigenous rights, and other labor and social justice movements. Calling it “the most visible symbol of white supremacy in New York,” the group also called for “decolonizing of the museum,” citing specific exhibits within the museum that highlight its history of white supremacy and colonialism. The demonstration was one of many across the country protesting the continued observance of Columbus Day, demanding that it be replaced by Indigenous People Day.]

From my vantage point as a participant at the SAVAH conference, the most striking similarity between the two countries was the paucity of people of color among art history professors and students. This was the great unspoken problem at the conference, evidenced by the prevalence of white faculty and students at a gathering focused on decolonization, art and activism, and keeping art history relevant. There were a small number of people of color at the conference among both speakers and attendees, but much like at a CAA Annual Conference, the dominant color was white. The answer is not, as some radical South African students demand, to rid the curriculum of all European content, or to replace all white professors with black ones; rather, it lies both in a multiplicity of voices and a questioning of assumptions rooted in the foundational texts of the field. Solving this problem may be the greatest challenge to art history’s relevance, even as progress is made alongside the slow path to racial equality.

South Africa is sometimes called a Petri dish for studying race relations. Only twenty-two years away from government-enforced racism, the country’s efforts in building a democratic, racially equal society offer many lessons about effective and less effective ways to accomplish radical change. The art historians I met in Johannesburg have created a vital community in which to study and struggle with these lessons. They are keeping the discipline of art history alive and relevant to the cultural and political challenges they face. But how they do it may provide important guidelines for scholars in the United States. In spite of numerous differences between the two countries—especially in scale, resources, and history—both South African and U.S. art historians are grounded in the same antecedents. How to retain the strengths of a discipline born in nineteenth-century Germany while stretching its geographic parameters to include all cultures is a challenge we all face.

Comment on this article in the Diversity in the Arts community on CAA Connect.

Filed under: International, Uncategorized

CIHA 2016 in Beijing

posted by August 15, 2016

CIHAinBeijingThe thirty-fourth World Congress of Art History, organized by the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA), will take place in Beijing, China, from September 15 to 22, 2016. Art and cultural historians from all over the world, and from a vast cross-section of disciplines and fields of professional interest, will discuss the ways of seeing, describing, analyzing, and classifying works of art. As the American affiliate to CIHA, the National Committee for the History of Art (NCHA), a group with strong institutional ties to CAA, is happy to encourage any and all interested art historians to attend.

The congress’s theme is “Terms.” Topics are divided into twenty-one sections to enable comparisons among different interpretations, definitions, and methods within art history. Each panel will comprise a program reflecting CIHA’s commitment to the idea of diversity, which should allow talks on different genres, epochs, and countries to be brought together. The congress uses the word “Terms” to draw a wide range of case studies.

The theme for the Beijing 2016 is the logical counterpart to the previous rubric, “The Challenge of the Object,” which was addressed at the Nuremberg 2012 CIHA Congress in Germany. In Beijing, it is a matter of questioning the words, the definitions, and the very concepts used to study art by different scientific traditions with this essential question: How can the methodology of our discipline be enriched by being conscious of the diversity of terms and approaches to art?

The 2016 congress will analyze different concepts of art in diverse cultures and strive to achieve three goals. The first one is to respond to the latest development of art history as a global discipline. The second is to explore art through different terms that underline its relationship to respective cultural frameworks, and the disparities between different cultures in various periods throughout history. The third goal is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of art as an essential part of human culture.

CIHA traces its roots back to the 1930s, when it was officially founded at the Brussels Congress. The organization has now vastly exceeded its original Euro-American emphasis and currently has national chapters on every continent. Next month’s meeting will be the organization’s first conference in China. In addition to the international gathering held every four years, CIHA also sponsors specific thematic art-history conferences such as “New Worlds: Frontiers, Inclusion, Utopias” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which took place in August 2015.

CAA has signed onto the letter reprinted below, written by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) on July 21, 2016, and signed by dozens of organizations. To read the full list of signatories, please visit the MESA website.

Threats to Academic Freedom and Higher Education in Turkey

The above listed organizations collectively note with profound concern the apparent moves to dismantle much of the structure of Turkish higher education through purges, restrictions, and assertions of central control, a process begun earlier this year and accelerating now with alarming speed.

As scholarly associations, we are committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The recent moves in Turkey herald a massive and virtually unprecedented assault on those principles. One of the Middle East region’s leading systems of higher education is under severe threat as a result, as are the careers and livelihoods of many of its faculty members and academic administrators.

Our concern about the situation in Turkish universities has been mounting over the past year, as Turkish authorities have moved to retaliate against academics for expressing their political views—some merely signing an “Academics for Peace” petition criticizing human rights violations.

Yet the threat to academic freedom and higher education has recently worsened in a dramatic fashion. In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of July 15–16, 2016, the Turkish government has moved to purge government officials in the Ministry of Education and has called for the resignation of all university deans across the country’s public and private universities. As of this writing, it appears that more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry have been fired and nearly 1,600 deans—1,176 from public universities and 401 from private universities—have been asked to resign. In addition, 21,000 private school teachers have had their teaching licenses cancelled. Further, reports suggest that travel restrictions have been imposed on academics at public universities and that Turkish academics abroad were required to return to Turkey. The scale of the travel restrictions, suspensions, and imposed resignations in the education sector seemingly go much farther than the targeting of individuals who might have had any connection to the attempted coup.

The crackdown on the education sector creates the appearance of a purge of those deemed inadequately loyal to the current government. Moreover, the removal of all of the deans across the country represents a direct assault on the institutional autonomy of Turkey’s universities. The replacement of every university’s administration simultaneously by the executive-controlled Higher Education Council would give the government direct administrative control of all Turkish universities. Such concentration and centralization of power over all universities is clearly inimical to academic freedom. Moreover, the government’s existing record of requiring university administrators’ to undertake sweeping disciplinary actions against perceived opponents—as was the case against the Academics for Peace petition signatories—lends credence to fears that the change in university administrations will be the first step in an even broader purge against academics in Turkey.

Earlier this year, it was already clear that the Turkish government, in a matter of months, had amassed a staggering record of violations of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The aftermath of the attempted coup may have accelerated those attacks on academic freedom in even more alarming ways.

As scholarly organizations, we collectively call for respect for academic freedom—including freedom of expression, opinion, association, and travel—and the autonomy of universities in Turkey, offer our support to our Turkish colleagues, second the Middle East Studies Association’s “call for action” of January 15, request that Turkey’s diplomatic interlocutors (both states and international organizations) advocate vigorously for the rights of Turkish scholars and the autonomy of Turkish universities, suggest other scholarly organizations speak forcefully about the threat to the Turkish academy, and alert academic institutions throughout the world that Turkish colleagues are likely to need moral and substantive support in the days ahead.

Note

Organizations wishing to be included as signatories on the above statement should contact Amy Newhall at amy@mesana.org.

The Getty Foundation has awarded the College Art Association (CAA) a major grant to fund the CAA-Getty International Program for the sixth consecutive year. Having completed five successful years of programming, CAA will use the grant to  underwrite the cost of bringing twenty alumni to the 2017 Annual Conference for a reunion program. The Foundation’s support will enable CAA to bring these international visual arts professionals to the conference, taking place February 15-18, 2017, in New York City. Funds will support all travel expenses, hotel accommodations, per diems, conference registrations, and one-year CAA memberships.

The reunion will focus on common themes and interests in global art history, its greatest challenges, and what can be done to overcome them. Relying on the geographic and scholarly diversity of the twenty alumni, the reunion program will explore multiple points of view related to the state of the field, including interdisciplinary and transnational approaches to art history, the nature of cross-cultural collaborations, and future directions of the discipline. The 2017 attendees, together with leading art historians from the United States, will participate in several sessions devoted to these topics throughout the conference.

Since the CAA-Getty International Program began in 2012, ninety scholars have participated in CAA’s Annual Conference. Historically, the majority of international registrants at the Annual Conference have come from North America, the United Kingdom, and Western European countries. The CAA-Getty International Program has diversified the Annual Conference, adding scholars from Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa, Asia, Southeast Asia, Caribbean countries, and South America. The majority of the alumni teach art history (or visual studies, art theory, or architectural history) at the university level; others are museum curators or researchers. Prior to participating in this program, none of the alumni had attended a CAA Annual Conference.

A remarkable number of international collaborations have ensued, including an ongoing study of similarities and differences in the history of art among Eastern European countries and South Africa, attendance at other international conferences, publications in international journals, and participation in panels and sessions at subsequent CAA Annual Conferences. Former grant recipients have become ambassadors of CAA in their countries, sharing knowledge gained at the Annual Conference with their colleagues at home.

Building on the evident success of the program, alumni at the 2017 reunion will provide input on how to further strengthen the program. How can CAA better serve international members? How can it cultivate future collaborations among CAA-Getty participants and CAA members? Are there ways to broaden the reach of the program to include artists, designers, and other types of arts professionals? The views and suggestions gathered at this convening will provide valuable insights as CAA works to enlarge its international activities.

For more information on the CAA-Getty International Program and other CAA travel opportunities, visit CAA Travel Grants.

As noted in CAA’s Affiliated Society News for March 2016, the Italian Art Society (IAS) is delighted to announce that Megan Holmes, a professor of art history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, will deliver the seventh annual IAS/Kress Lecture in Florence at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, on June 1, 2016. Her lecture is titled “New Perspectives on the Reception of Florentine Panel Painting: Interpreting Scratch Marks.” Holmes was the recipient of CAA’s 2015 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award for her volume titled The Miraculous Image in Renaissance Florence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013). For more on the lecture, including the abstract, visit the Italian Art Society website.

The annual IAS/Kress Lecture Series in Italy, inaugurated in 2010 with the generous support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, encourages intellectual exchange between North American art historians and the international community of scholars based in Italy. The lectures offer IAS member-speakers the opportunity to engage in productive discussions about their research with a wider range of specialists in the field of Italian art historical studies than is available in the United States; they also create lasting relationships between the IAS and the Italian cultural institutions that host the talks. The lectures are held in late May or early June to accommodate travel to Italy by North American academics and may be given in English or Italian. The IAS provides an honorarium, along with funds to help offset travel expenses, and organizes a reception open to all attendees.

Former IAS/Kress Lecture speakers have reported the many benefits of what one lecturer called a “stimulating experience,” noting how “the lecture really seems to be the sort of international event that many benefit from and that represents what the Kress often endorses.” Another wrote: “Giving the Kress lecture … was a wonderful experience. The event brought together American and Italian scholars and students for a lively exchange. I enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new colleagues, all in the city whose rich history is our shared passion.”

The IAS/Kress Lectures Series has drawn a wide range of experts from a variety of fields, as well as American graduate students studying in Italy, Italian university students, and many others who have attended and enjoyed the presentations and receptions afterward. Moreover, a number of attendees at these lectures have subsequently joined the IAS, helping to further our mission to promote the study of Italian art and architecture. In keeping with the mission of the Kress Foundation, our speakers have been selected from proposals on subjects ranging from antiquity to the early nineteenth century. Thus far, the IAS/Kress lectures have been on topics ranging from the medieval through early modern periods, and the organization hopes to host lectures on both earlier and later art and architecture in Italy.

If any CAA members or other interested parties are in Florence on June 1, 2016, the IAS encourages attendance at the Villa I Tatti for the seventh annual IAS/Kress Lecture by Megan Holmes! Please do not hesitate to contact the IAS president, Sheryl E. Reiss, with any questions.

Image: IAS/Kress Lecture 2013, Rome, Fondazione Marco Besso (photograph by Olga Posazhennikova)

emperor-marcus-arelius

Emperor Marcus Aurelius

Rome’s Tiber embankments have been receiving an eye-catching mural makeover in the past few weeks, as a series of large-scale figures, up to ten meters in height, take shape as a century of pollution and biological patina is slowly power washed from the travertine walls. When William Kentridge’s 550-meter long mural, Triumphs and Laments: A Project for the City of Rome (2016), is complete and inaugurated on April 21, the mythical anniversary of the founding of Rome, it will constitute the South African artist’s largest public work to date.

Occupying the straightest stretch of urban riverfront between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini, the frieze will decorate a much-neglected space at the heart of the Eternal City. In fact, this reverse graffiti project is part of ongoing cultural programming by the organization Tevereterno, whose goal is to “revitalize Rome’s urban waterfront through the establishment and stewardship of Piazza Tevere, the first public space for contemporary art in Rome.” This international nonprofit initiative and multidisciplinary cultural project partners with the River//Cities Platform to create dialogue with other cities across Europe, America, and Asia about initiatives to develop rivers or waterfronts as cultural spaces. Speaking to a group of volunteers last month, Teverterno’s founder and artistic director Kristin Jones explained, “Everyone comes to Rome to take inspiration from the past, but who is caring for the present?” It was Jones who courted and convinced Kentridge to take on the Rome project.

romulus-and-remus

La Lupa Romana sans Romulus and Remus

Since its founding in 2004, Tevereterno has orchestrated a series of artistic happenings along the riverfront, including pieces by Jenny Holzer and Barnaby Evans. Holzer’s Words of Love and War (2007) was a projection of texts by international poets and writers in English and Italian onto a series of Roman monuments, including the Piazza Tevere. WaterFire Roma (2012) by Evans featured thirty bonfires floating on the surface of the river as a conceptual reflection on the struggle between light and dark. As with many of the other events, WaterFire Roma was fashioned after a gesamtkunstwerk, combining visual spectacle with original music by Stag of Marco Guazzone and choreography by Linda Foster.

Kentridge’s drawings of the historical symbols and figures for Triumphs and Laments were first shown at the Italian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2015. Ten workers have been laboring to stencil the eighty silhouettes onto the embankments over the course of the past month. The images evoke both the city’s two thousand-year history and a more universal story of our collective successes and failures as human beings. Even as the name and subject suggest the history of an ancient Roman triumph, or a celebration of victory against Carthage, Britannia, or Parthia along the Sacred Way, Kentridge’s parade of images critically conjures up the specters of conquest and the contradictions of civilization. Just as one nation’s victory demands another’s defeat, one person’s rise often hinges on another’s fall.

Kentridge’s works consistently address issues of social justice by making the personal political and visualizing states of mind, and, in this respect, Triumphs and Laments does not disappoint. Kentridge often returns to themes of estrangement, exile, and transience, all of which are explored in the Rome frieze. Working in a wide range of media, from prints and drawings to theater, tapestry, and sculpture, he is perhaps best known for creating animated films with a palimpsestic process of sketch and erasure. In 9 Drawings for Projection (1989–2003), short films that narrate changing lives in apartheid South Africa, the artist used images of human processions and running water as metaphors for the passage of time. While there are meanings inherent to each individual silhouette along the river, the larger elements of process and iconography resonate with the artist’s other works and add another layer of meaning to his “projection” onto the Tiber walls.

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At work along the Tiber embankments

The fate of Kentridge’s frieze is to fade, like all things, under the patina of time, as the Tiber tides rise and fall year by year. This work, like the artist’s films, echoes the palimpsest that has been built, unbuilt, and rebuilt on the banks of the river over the centuries. Yet while the name and image of Rome resound through layers of history, this waterfront spectacle draws attention to the city’s cosmopolitan and contemporary art scene. What is truly lamentable is how the municipal administration of Rome frustrated and delayed such an innovative, creative contribution to the cityscape for so long; it took three years simply to obtain the necessary authorization.

In the run-up to the inauguration, Kentridge is in the city, hosted by the American Academy in Rome, inspecting the riverside work underway and giving a number of talks. He will be in conversation with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev at the British School at Rome on April 15. Triumphs and Laments will play out as a kind of total work of art at the opening, which will premiere a theatrical program created in collaboration with the composer Philip Miller, and feature live shadow play and two processional brass bands.

Filed under: International, Uncategorized

In 2014, while I was literally printing my dissertation, I received an email saying I had been awarded a travel grant to attend the upcoming CAA Annual Conference. I had applied to the grant without any real expectations. I was so happy, yet so busy, so I replied to the email without even looking at the dates. I was in the middle of a lot of excitement—years of work were becoming printed words.

The conference had a lot of meaning to me. My tutor, Laura Malosetti Costa, had spoken about it several times, and nothing says “important academic event” than something your beloved tutor recommends. There was something mystical about receiving the grant at that specific moment in time!

I could say many things about my participation in the conference and the preconference colloquium in 2015, but I want to write about the experience of returning to the conference in 2016.  I attended, along with three other former CAA-Getty grantees, and had the opportunity to present a paper.

I spoke on the Emerging Scholars in Latin American Art panel. Sounds like a big deal, right? I was so incredibly nervous. The other speakers were also excited, happy, and shaking. I delivered the paper, without collapsing, during the longest twenty minutes I have ever experienced at an academic event. Fortunately, I liked my paper and thought it was well-constructed, so I knew I was speaking with true passion—and commitment—about my topic.

The waiting was the hardest part. After I had finished, I lifted my eyes from the printed sheets in front of me and stared at the audience. I thought no one would ask me any questions and was prepared for that outcome, so I was surprised by the many questions I was asked. I have never received so many questions after delivering a paper. These were not your everyday pro-forma questions. The people expressed sincere interest, and their questions were all remarkably interesting. I answered. Some people asked follow-up questions. I stopped shaking. I talked.

When everything was over, I sat down and took notes of the questions and comments. I still keep those notes as a memento of speaking at a CAA conference. If I had not been lucky enough to be invited to the conference in 2015, I would not have been ready to present my work there a year later. And for that, I feel thankful.

Filed under: International, Uncategorized