Transnational Histories and Non-aligned Networks

How do art history and museum practice deal with international networks that decenter, complicate, or even bypass Western-centric geopolitical discourses of art history? This theme considers the relationship of historical precedents—such as the Non-Aligned Movement, Third Worldism, pan-Africanism, pan-Arabism, and related discourses of the Global South—to artistic production and circulation. While conventional markers of time, like 1945, 1968, and 1989, hold prominence in artistic and world history, new dates became of key interest to our research. 1955, the year of the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, is an important moment to consider in relation to artistic trajectories, just as 1961, the year of the Non-Aligned Movement Conference in Belgrade, is another preeminent historical example of an alternate nexus of connections of relevance to art of the period.

This theme departs from a 2016–17 C-MAP research focus on non-aligned networks, which was conceived as the Museum prepared for an extensive re-presentation of the permanent collection with the opening of new gallery space in 2019. Activities outside the Museum also provided fodder for our discussions. For example, Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945-65, an exhibition on view at Haus der Kunst in Munich from October 2016 to March 2017, illustrated possible avenues for complicating hegemonic histories of modern art. Across groups, C-MAP participants read broadly, invited speakers to the museum, and hosted internal workshops and seminars. Since then, the Theme was expanded to include other transgeographic and translocal connectivities, including connections that route through Western cosmopolitan centers, in turn revealing histories that are commonly left out of its dominant, westerncentric narratives. 

Below is a list of texts that we found particularly applicable to the initial phase of our research.

  • Article: Kodwo Eshun and Ros Gray (editors). The Militant Image: A Ciné-Geography. London: Goldsmiths Research Online, 2011. Available here: http://research.gold.ac.uk/3089/.
  • Article: Geeta Kapur. Recursive Narrative: ways of producing art history. A transcript of a lecture held at Haus der Kunst on October 14, 2016. Available here: http://postwar.hausderkunst.de/en/blog/recursive-narrative-ways-of-producing-art-history-by-geeta-kapur.
  • Book: Okwui Enwezor, Katy Siegel, Ulrich Wilmes (editors). Postwar: Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965. Exhibition catalog. New York: Prestel, 2017.
  • Book: Armin Medosch. New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961-1978). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2016.
  • Book: Sabrina Moura (editor). PANORAMAS DO SUL: LEITURAS Perspectivas Para Outras Geografias Do Pensamento (Southern Panoramas: Readings Perspectives for Other Geographies of Thought). São Paulo: 19th Festival of Contemporary Art SESC_Videobrasil, Edições SESC, 2015.
  • Book: Chika Okeke-Agulu. Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2015.
  • Book: Vijay Prashad. The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World. New York: The New Press, 2007.
  • Book: Georg Schöllhammer and Ruben Arevshatyan. Sweet Sixties: Specters and Spirits of a Parallel Avant-Garde. New York: Sternberg Press, 2013.
  • Book: Forthcoming from The Museum of Modern Art, late 2017: Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents.
  • Conference: The Arts of Bandung Humanism. Hosted by the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles, California from April 18-19, 2015.
  • Conference: Cold Atlantic: Cultural War, Dissident Artistic Practices, Networks and Contact Zones at the Time of the Iron Curtain. Hosted by the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain from September 5 – 7, 2016.
  • Exhibition: Koyo Kuoh and Rasha Salti. Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy. On view at Garage Museum June 12–August 23, 2015.
  • Exhibition: Red Africa. On view at Calvert Foundation February 4-April 3, 2016.
  • Exhibition: The Kids Want Communism. On view at various venues February 25, 2016–January 21, 2017 (tranzit, Prague, The Visual Culture Research Center, Kyiv, Free/Slow University Warsaw, State of Concept, Athens, * Skuc gallery, Ljubljana, and MoBY-Museums of Bat Yam).

Vera Pagava: A Miraculous Mirror

This text considers the work of Vera Pagava, a Georgian artist who lived in exile in Paris, as an amalgamation of modernist and Georgian art historic references. Following Pagava’s life story from Tbilisi, where she was born, to Germany and later Paris, where she settled with her family in 1923 and lived until her death in 1988, this essay introduces her work in relation to that of various other Georgian artists, simultaneously tracing her path from figuration to abstraction.

Art for Liberation’s Sake: The Activist Art of Gavin Jantjes

In his screen-prints of the 1970s, South African artist Gavin Jantjes sought to convey the urgency and interconnectedness of global Black liberation movements. As an art student in exile in Hamburg, Jantjes dedicated his early practice to raising awareness of the brutal injustices of the apartheid system in South Africa, engaging with anti-colonial struggles waged by African and African-Diasporic populations around the world. In this essay, art historian Allison K. Young looks at a selection of early abstracted, dynamic compositions which evidence his belief in the connection between art and resistance, and his commitment to solidarity between localized struggles across the diaspora.

Breaking Down Binaries, Feeling Contradictions: Thoughts on Some of the Conundrums Concerning Art’s Ecologies

Sarah Lookofsky, former Associate Director of the International program at MoMA, rumintes on the presentations and conversations held on Day One of the 2022 C-MAP seminar. Lookofsky calls out the contradictions of art’s embeddedness with various ecologies, rehearsing her own writing-thinking as produced by a “dumpy dialectic.”

Transversal Orientations Part II: C-MAP Seminar

The 2022 C-MAP seminar series, Transversal Orientations Part II, was held on Zoom across four panels on May 25 and 26, 2022. Included here are abstracts and recordings of the panels. The seminar series was organized by Nancy Dantas, C-MAP Africa Fellow; Inga Lāce, C-MAP Central and Eastern Europe Fellow; Madeline Murphy Turner, Former Cisneros Institute Research Fellow for Latin America, and Wong Binghao, C-MAP Asia Fellow.

Memories of Chagga Country: Sam Ntiro

By way of Men Taking Banana Beer to Bride by Night (1956), a painting featured in our “One Work, Many Voices” series, which focuses on individual artworks chosen from MoMA’s collection, art historian Gabriella Nugent highlights the role of memory in Ntiro’s practice. She argues that these memories are a product of distance and thus complicate the frameworks of art history.