ARTM Online Content

Bags of Stories: Thinking with Household Casebearers in the Anthropocene

Household casebearers are a genus of moths primarily distinguished by the spindle-shaped cases they carry and live in throughout their larval life. The cases, woven from household dust, typically comprise an array of materials from textile fibers to dead insect parts. As they thrive in domestic spaces in tropical climates, they are commonly viewed as a domestic pest. Anthropocentrism as such has led to a fundamental imbalance of knowledge concerning these creatures: we are more knowledgeable in their capacity for damage than we are in understanding how they live, even as we cohabit with them very closely, at home. In … Read more

Complicating Narratives of Contemporary Chinese Art as Global Art through the Lens of Exhibition Histories

This essay reviews two publications on Chinese contemporary art and its relation to the global through the lens of exhibition histories. The monograph Die chinesische Avantgarde und das Dispositiv der Ausstellung. Konstruktionen chinesischer Gegenwartskunst im Spannungsfeld der Globalisierung (The ‘Chinese avant-garde’ and the exhibition as dispositive. Constructing contemporary Chinese art in the global context) authored by Franziska Koch (2016), and the edited volume Uncooperative Contemporaries: Art Exhibitions in Shanghai in 2000, (2020) published in the Exhibition Histories series by Afterall Books. The former seeks to re-write the history of contemporary Chinese art exhibitions from a transcultural perspective with … Read more

Introduction to “Revolutionary Painting and the Palestinian Revolution,” by Mohammed Chabâa, and “Palestinian Artists and the Biennial,” from Toni Maraini’s “Baghdad 1974: A Summary of the First Arab Biennial of Fine Arts” (Both 1974)

In 1974, Moroccan cultural journal Intégral published a special edition on the first Arab biennial of visual arts, which had just taken place in Baghdad. The two documents translated here come from this special edition, and both of them deal with the Palestinian presence at the landmark exhibition. Moroccan artist Mohamad Chebaa and Italian-Moroccan art historian Toni Maraini each consider Palestine an ideal arena for the development of decolonial “combat art,” but express disappointment with its pavilion’s emphasis on folk idioms over images of armed struggle. The introduction to these documents situates them in relation to Moroccan and Palestinian discourses … Read more

Revolutionary Painting and the Palestinian Revolution

In 1974, Moroccan cultural journal Intégral published a special edition on the first Arab biennial of visual arts, which had just taken place in Baghdad. The two documents translated here come from this special edition, and both of them deal with the Palestinian presence at the landmark exhibition. Moroccan artist Mohamad Chebaa and Italian-Moroccan art historian Toni Maraini each consider Palestine an ideal arena for the development of decolonial “combat art,” but express disappointment with its pavilion’s emphasis on folk idioms over images of armed struggle. The introduction to these documents situates them in relation to Moroccan and Palestinian discourses … Read more

Palestinian Artists and the Biennial, from “Baghdad 1974: A Summary of the First Arab Biennial of Fine Arts”

In 1974, Moroccan cultural journal Intégral published a special edition on the first Arab biennial of visual arts, which had just taken place in Baghdad. The two documents translated here come from this special edition, and both of them deal with the Palestinian presence at the landmark exhibition. Moroccan artist Mohamad Chebaa and Italian-Moroccan art historian Toni Maraini each consider Palestine an ideal arena for the development of decolonial “combat art,” but express disappointment with its pavilion’s emphasis on folk idioms over images of armed struggle. The introduction to these documents situates them in relation to Moroccan and Palestinian discourses … Read more

How Do Bodies Resist? Image and Self at Museum Ludwig

Image/ Counterimage at Museum Ludwig Cologne, April 22 – August 27, 2023

Drawing on their excellent photographic collection, Cologne’s Museum Ludwig has dedicated an exhibition to the photographic self-portrait. The show, titled Image/ Counterimage, brings together several key works by the artists Carrie Mae Weems, VALIE EXPORT, Ana Mendieta, Sanja Iveković, and Tarrah Krajnak. Spanning three rooms, it offers an engaging tour of different artistic strategies of staging the female body as a site of resistance. While the former four artists represent established positions regarding photography in the feminist context since the 1970s, the latter introduces a more recent inquisition … Read more

Ilya Kabakov (1933-2023)

One of the most noted 20th-century artists born in the USSR, Ilya Kabakov, died on May 27, 2023. It is no easy task to pay short tribute to a man of his ingenuity, diligence, discipline, and influence. Rather than publishing a standard obituary, ARTMargins Online editors asked some of the artist’s friends and collaborators, as well as critics and curators, to reflect, below, on his life and work from a personal perspective. The resulting collage of responses formally functions not unlike Kabakov’s own Answers of an Experimental Group (1971). This work compelled Boris Groys, one of Kabakov’s earliest commentators, to … Read more

Ilya Kabakov: The Soviet Toilet and the Palace of Utopias

This text was first published on the ARTMargins Online website on December 31, 1999. It is being republished in honor of its author Svetlana Boym (1959–2015), and Ilya Kabakov (1933–2023).

At the end of the millennium, it has become fashionable to speak about the “end of history” and the “end of art,” to say nothing about the end of the world. Boris Groys has commented that Soviet civilization was the first modern civilization whose death we have witnessed, and there are more to come.(Boris Groys, “Un homme qui veut duper le temps” in Installations 1983-1995 (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Read more

Exotic Cosmopolitanism: Magdalena Abakanowicz at Tate Modern

Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle Of Thread And Rope, Tate Modern, November 17, 2022—May 21, 2023

Between autumn 2022 and spring 2023, the Blavatnik Building at Tate Modern hosted Every Tangle of Thread and Rope, a solo exhibition of textile works by Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. Polish critic Piotr Sarzynski called the exhibition “a celebration of Polish art”—and rightfully so, as Tate’s presentation is one of the most prominent exhibitions of Abakanowicz’s work ever curated—and a unique chance for the international audience to become familiar with the sculptor and the narratives surrounding her work.(Piotr Sarzynski, “Las abakanów w Read more

Room within the Henryk Stażewski exhibition displaying works of sculpture and graphic design.

New approaches to art and life in the Polish People’s Republic: Henryk Stażewski at Muzeum Sztuki

Henryk Stażewski (1894-1988) had a long artistic run in two different versions of his home country: first as a pioneer of the avant-garde in the Polish Republic between 1918 and 1939 and then his later, but no less experimental career in the communist Polish People’s Republic founded in the post-war world order after 1945. It is the latter that is the subject of the exhibition Henryk Stażewski: Late Style at the Muzeum Sztuki Lodz – to many known as a legendary institution with a pedigree as an avant-garde museum (including the colorful interior of the Neo-Plastic Room for abstract art) … Read more

A model of a wooden labyrinth, in a darkened room, with just the labyrinth light brightly. The wood used to create the labyrinth has been darkened by burning.

Unbuild Together: The Uzbekistan Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale

Curated by Lesley Lokko, the 18th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennial is titled The Laboratory of the Future, and this concept serves as the underlying theme for the central exhibitions in the Giardini and Arsenale, as well as the national pavilions scattered through Venice’s six sestieri. Where the biennale at large provided a spotlight on Africa and the African Diaspora, each of the national pavilions individually returned to the language of “the experiment” to consider possible futures. Often contrasting past and present, as in the case of the Uzbekistan pavilion, this language of experimentation and possibility similarly appeared … Read more

Moving Images on the Margins: Experimental Film in Late Socialist East Germany

Seth Howes, Moving Images on the Margins: Experimental Film in Late Socialist East Germany (London: Camden House, 2019), 280 pp.

Seth Howes opens his study with a quote from East Berlin filmmaker Cornelia Klauß. Klauß argues that due to their avant-garde-inspired aesthetics the smaller, primarily experimental films in the GDR were a nuisance to the industrialized film production of DEFA (Deutsche Film AG), the GDR’s state-run film and television company. Although these experimental films met with great resistance from the official side and were either banned or denied financial support, Howes describes them as a product of one … Read more

Art History, Postcolonialism, and the Global Turn

When taken as a conglomerate, the postcolonial, the global, and the decolonial might signal a coordinated “decolonizing” action—one of breaking with the Eurocentric, patriarchal, and nationalist foundations of art history. Yet from a disaggregating perspective, these three terms and their respective domains cannot be seen as synonymous or entirely harmonious. What particularly demands scrutiny is the tendency to dismiss the postcolonial, or announce its demise, by claiming it has been superseded by other paradigms, namely the global and the decolonial. This introductory essay, and its accompanying special issue of ARTMargins, seeks to trace the postcolonial, global, and decolonial as … Read more

Color Charts

In the days before the arrival of the internet, Western art history education in Pakistan was mostly disseminated through black and white photocopies of original publications. The glossy pages of art books were transformed into rough copies in varying shades of gray. Rather than understanding this as a disadvantage, I propose, conversely, that this practice constituted a form of radical piracy—the blurred, partial and often completely indecipherable nature of this material proved to be, in fact, a kind of liberation.

ARTMargins, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp. 95-105.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00353

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/12/2/95/116483/Color-Charts

Counting Quality, Seeing Patterns

What does it mean to see Third World “development” as a problem of untapped creativity? This paper argues that quick celebrations of ingenuity across the world has been part of a new mode securing expertise and legitimizing intervention that emerges after the Second World War. Propelled by architects and planners, this mode bypasses the quantitative and historical questions of colonial drain and global financial regimes to project qualitative “patterns” across the Third World as a source of immanent and self-generative change.

ARTMargins, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp. 43-57.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00351

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/12/2/43/116482/Counting-Quality-Seeing-Patterns

This Past Must Address Its Future: Uses of African Noncontemporaneity in Contemporary Art from the French Borderscape

In the last two decades, key sites in the European borderscape—the “jungle” of Calais, the dense patchwork of settlements around Melilla and Ceuta, myriad migrant or refugee camps along Europe’s Mediterranean coastline and in the major train stations of its capital cities—have become art factories. In these spaces, artists from a range of backgrounds are making new work, much of which seeks to challenge the exoticist and primitivizing tropes that, in Europe, have characterized the representation of im/migrant presences at least since the official colonial period. Among the most conspicuous and intractable of these tropes have been those connected with … Read more

What Does Art History Have to Say About a Lebanese Sasquatch? The Body of Decolonial Struggle in Amanda Boulos’s Art

This paper focuses on several works by the Palestinian-Canadian painter Amanda Boulos that communicate the shared desire of both Palestinians in the diaspora and Indigenous peoples of Canada to move beyond the normative identities of settler colonialism. Through co-ordinated social historical, formalist and iconographical readings of Boulos’s work, I propose a shift in the discourse on global contemporary art, from postcolonial figures of the oriental, the subaltern and the hybrid to strategies of representation such as transformation, ambiguity and queering – a shift intended to foster alliances amongst members of BIPOC communities, against the divisive politics of settler … Read more

Southern Lights: Octavio Paz’s “Glimpses of India” and the Art of Relation

This article analyzes the articulation of south-south relation in Octavio Paz’s In Light of India (1995) and A Tale of Two Gardens: Poems from India, 1952-1995 (1997), works of prose and poetry that traverse the antipodes of Mexico and India. These works emphasize partial viewing, repeated comparison, and cultivated sense-perception. They model a poetics of the glimpse, an effect of the play of light and shadow and a privileged mode of seeing for Paz. To glimpse is to see without clarity, control, or complete knowledge. It is to find oneself in the other. Paz’s writing anticipates twenty-first-century projects that relate … Read more

Introduction to “Art, Signs, and Cultures” (1977)

This document, translated from the original French, is an edited transcript of a conversation between the Senegalese painter Iba Ndiaye, the French art historian Jean Laude, and a moderator, Roger Pillaudin. It took place on the occasion of the Festival des arts et cultures africaines in Royan, France (March 1977), and was later broadcast on the radio channel France Culture. What stands out in the conversation is the way Laude seeks to negate Ndiaye’s cross-cultural experience and background, and arguably his very legitimacy as a contemporary artist. Laude’s insistence on adhering to neat categories (linguistic, national, artistic) in engaging with … Read more

Art, Signs, and Cultures: Iba Ndiaye and Jean Laude in Conversation with Roger Pillaudin

This document, translated from the original French, is an edited transcript of a conversation between the Senegalese painter Iba Ndiaye, the French art historian Jean Laude, and a moderator, Roger Pillaudin. It took place on the occasion of the Festival des arts et cultures africaines in Royan, France (March 1977), and was later broadcast on the radio channel France Culture. What stands out in the conversation is the way Laude seeks to negate Ndiaye’s cross-cultural experience and background, and arguably his very legitimacy as a contemporary artist. Laude’s insistence on adhering to neat categories (linguistic, national, artistic) in engaging with … Read more

Ch’ixi Epistemology and The Potosí Principle in the 21st Century

The author focuses on the project exhibition, “The Potosí Principle,” curated by Alice Creischer, Max Hinderer, and Andreas Siekmann Initially installed in Madrid in 2010 and then traveling to Berlin and La Paz, the show cut across the institutionally defined and often rigorously guarded boundaries between curatorial practice, aesthetic expression, and scholarly research to explore global capitalism’s dynamics from the perspective of the Spanish colonial empire and its distinctive imagery. However, despite the exhibition’s creative installation techniques and revisionist history, it generated a considerable scandal when a self-organized group of La Paz-based artists and scholars committed to anticolonial practices accused … Read more

On the Aspirations of Architecture and Design in 20th-Century South Asia

This review compares The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947-1985” (2022) to Farhan Karim’s Of Greater Dignity Than Riches: Austerity and Housing Design in India (2019). These two examples’ distinct approaches to architecture and design in twentieth-century South Asia are conditioned by their respective formats and scopes. Both the exhibition and the book draw attention to the ideas, ambitions, and aspirations undergirding architecture and design in the region, and as expressed by agents including architects, designers, bureaucrats, construction workers, intellectuals, and critics. They do so, however, towards variant critical ends … Read more

Erratum: The Persistence of Primitivism and The Debt Collectors

Elizabeth Harney’s “The Persistence of Primitivism and the Debt Collectors” (ARTM 11:3), p. 105-125 (https://doi.org/10.1162/artm_r_00327) contains an error. Joshua I. Cohen’s The “Black Art” Renaissance: African Sculpture and Modernism across Continents (Oakland: University of California Press, 2020) is incorrectly titled The Black Renaissance: African Sculpture and Modernism across Continents. We regret the mistake.

ARTMargins, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp. 124-124.

doi:10.1162/artm_x_00358

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/12/2/124/116472/Erratum-The-Persistence-of-Primitivism-and-The

Experimental Cinemas in State-Socialist Eastern Europe

Ksenya Gurshtein and Sonja Simonyi, eds., Experimental Cinemas in State-Socialist Eastern Europe (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press B.V., 2022), 334 PP.

Experimental Cinemas in State-Socialist Eastern Europe contains thirteen essays that address film production between the 1950s and the late 1980s in the national contexts of state-socialist countries outside the former U.S.S.R.: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The aim of the book is to fill the gap in English-language literature on postwar experimental filmmaking in Eastern Europe, which is still mostly constituted by studies focusing on experimental film culture in individual countries. The book’s transnational perspective gives

Read more

“This is What the Current Government in Russia Would Like to Ban”: Interview with Vladimir Paperny

Cinema, Culture, and the Spirit of the Times (NLO: Moscow, 2023), a new publication by the late film historian Maya Turovskaya and Los Angeles-based culturologist Vladimir Paperny, presents a thoughtful comparative analysis of the Soviet and Hollywood film industries. We are publishing an exclusive translation from one of the book’s key chapters below. Maya Iosifovna Turovskaya (1924–2019), a legendary figure in the world of film and theater criticism who passed away in 2019 at the age of 95, left behind an extraordinary legacy. Her work on the iconic Soviet documentary Triumph Over Violence (dir. Mikhail Room, 1965) offered groundbreaking comparisons … Read more

Exchange of Ideologies: Ninotchka, 1939 — Circus, 1936

Below–and in conjunction with Sasha Razor’s interview with Vladimir Paperny, which we publish concurrently–we present a translated excerpt from a recently published book Paperny co-authored with noted late Russian film historian Maya Turovskaya, Cinema, Culture, and the Spirit of the Times (NLO: Moscow, 2023). Turovskaya and Paperny began their comparative study of US and Soviet cinema with two comedies: the mildly anti-Soviet Ninotchka and the strongly pro-Soviet film CircusNinotchka (1939), directed by Ernst Lubitsch, is a romantic comedy about a stern Soviet envoy, Nina Ivanovna “Ninotchka” Yakushova, who falls in love with a charming Parisian, Count Leon … Read more

Globalizing the Avant-Garde

Review of the conference organized by the European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM) in Lisbon, September 1–3, 2022

Since 2008, the roving biennial conferences of the European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM) have promoted the study of the avant-garde and modernism in Europe in a wide temporal and disciplinary framework, setting leading themes such as “High and Low“ (2010 Poznań), “Utopia” (2014 Helsinki), or “CRiSiS” in 2020. The mission statement and communications of the Network have always stressed the transnational aspects of avant-garde practices and indicated that Europe is to be considered in a global setting. … Read more

Exhibition view

Revolutionary Romances: Into the Cold – Alternative Artistic Trajectories into (Post-) Communist Europe

On October 13, 2022, the Albertinum at the Dresden State Art Collections hosted an international conference entitled “Revolutionary Romances: Into the Cold – Alternative Artistic Trajectories into (Post-)Communist Europe.” The conference sought to question the simplistic East-to-West “defection” narrative of the post-war art worlds, and to explore the multiple alternative directions of travel by artists during the Cold War. Participants discussed why artists working in and beyond the West decided to enter the communist space, and considered the unexpected results of these subversive movements.

Following the conference, Christopher Williams-Wynn, a PhD candidate at Harvard University and one of the conference … Read more

From The Editors

Several of the texts and projects in this new issue of ARTMargins underscore the role of photography and performance in rendering visible our “ways of seeing” and what they occlude: forms of imagining and inhabiting urban space that are suppressed by official discourse, clandestine archives that simultaneously register and obfuscate the humanitarian crimes of the last Brazilian dictatorship, and deaths forgotten or naturalized as part of the AIDS epidemic, among others. The insistence of that which is alternately invisible and reified—illegible and overcoded— runs like a thread through this issue, raising questions about the nature and stakes of the interpretations Read more

Memory Zero

The repression of memory as a result of trauma from war and social divisions is often an experience that obscures or intensifies personal histories. This is especially true between generations. The Memory Zero project is an attempt to bridge this gap through drawn impressions from intergenerational family stories collaged with image and text searches to locate their approximate times and places. Together this creates, hopefully, a fuller historical and affective context. For this, I drew from family stories and histories in England and Poland before and after World War l. In this way the personal and historical approximations merge into … Read more