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).

Anthropology and I: My Time at the University of Paris Department of Ethnology

This source is an English translation by Stephanie M. Hohlios of a compelling 1971 memoir-essay by Japanese artist Okamoto Tarō—“Watashi to jinruigaku: pari daigaku minzoku gakka no koro (Anthropology and I: My Time at the University of Paris Department of Ethnology)”. Okamoto’s essay “Anthropology and I” sheds light on a widely recognized but little understood…

A Look at the Czech and Slovak Avant-Garde within the Frame of the Bauhaus Network

Bauhaus’ active members constituted an international network that included architects and artists from several countries in Central Europe, among them the former Czechoslovakia. The Czech and Slovak connections to the Bauhaus can be studied from various perspectives, and this essay focuses on the role of print periodicals in this history.

Vkhutemas + Bauhaus: On Common Origins, Different Futures, and Creation with Fire

In 2018, on the eve of the Bauhaus centenary, the exhibition BAUHAUS ↔ VKhUTEMAS: Intersecting Parallels in The Museum of Modern Art Library explored the intersecting parallels of these two sites of radical experimentation. Its selection of ephemera, publications, and correspondence highlights the extensive circulation of ideas and people between the two institutions. The video here features Anna Bokov’s presentation at a “post presents” event organized in relation to the exhibition on October 17, 2018.

Rubem Valentim and Ibrahim El-Salahi: Strategies of Hybridization and Abstraction in the Global South

The essay analyzes the resonances between the Brazilian artist Rubem Valentim and the Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi by focusing on two paintings belonging to MoMA’s collection. Deploying hybridized semiotics and different strands of painterly abstraction, the artists critically express their stance towards race, nationhood, and universal human values.

Closing the Gap: Picasso and Narrating More Specific African Identities in Modernism

The names, cultures, and nationalities of African artists who influenced Picasso have historically been omitted from scholarship. Yet Picasso’s interest in African masks is well-known. In this essay, MoMA staff member Kunbi Oni charts the implications— and possibilities—that closer attention to the makers of such masks could shed on modern art.

The History That Did Not Come to Pass: Naeem Mohaiemen in Conversation with Sarah Lookofsky

MoMA’s C-MAP research program developed an extended focus on historical alliances such as Bandung, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), pan-Africanism, pan-Arabism, and other south-south, east-east, and Third World nexuses. This conversation addresses such pasts, and their reverberations in the present, as they appear in Mohaiemen’s media-based practice.