Against the Canon. Contemporary Art in a World without a Center

Event: Public talk

Location: Zoom

16 June 2022, 17.00-19.00 (Bucharest time)

Andrea GIUNTA, Principal Researcher at CONICET, Argentina; Professor of Art History at the Universidad de Buenos Aires

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Meeting ID: 826 4054 1798
Passcode: 414844


The history of modern art has been written from what has been happening in just a few cities in Europe and the United States. Even though contemporary art offers a more global perspective than the history of modern art, still artists outside of the traditional centers occasionally intervene in the great scenarios of art. They appear in biennials, in exhibitions, but they practically fail to establish themselves in international collections or to be inserted in the studies of artistic contemporaneity.

Instead of using the notions of ‘periphery’, ‘margins’, or ‘decentralization’ that has been activated to differentiate the art of the centers and of other geographies (peripheral modernity; decentralized conceptualism; margins of avant-garde), we propose the notion of “simultaneous avant-garde” to think about simultaneous cultural and artistic processes. This is a concept we will compare with that of “horizontal art history” proposed by Polish art historian Piotr Piotrowski. If art history is built on the notions of originality and innovation, those of ‘periphery’ or ‘decentralization’ involve the notions of copying or imitation. Strategic copies, whose concepts are reversed, but which, however, start from the originals.

The history of art is a reduced history, guided by the idea of progress, which is a notion defined from the West. From such a perspective, the history of other, simultaneous proposed images, is obscured, sometimes invisible.

The selection process of art history is also a white and masculine one. It eliminates what is done outside the North American-Euro axis, eliminates the art of women, and eliminates the work done by Afro-descendants and indigenous people in Latin America – as well, we can add, the work made by Saami people in the region of Lapland, in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia.

Can we articulate different art stories than those that have given rise to a modern and contemporary art canon? What alternative concepts to those of style, evolution, progress, allow us to think about artistic culture? Is it possible to avoid notions such as originality and hierarchy, measured from central spaces, to think about the art world? What reading frames would be useful for thinking about art outside the ideas of productive centers and receptive spaces?

We consider that thinking the processes of images from new frames helps to discard the idea of central and peripheral spaces. Universalizing the artistic processes that occur in cities or central circuits generates the idea of outdated peripheries or dependent on the rhythms of the centers. This discussion also involves the ideology of the notion of “quality” in art. Can we interrogate notions that establish hierarchies and centers in the modern and contemporary art?

This event is organized within Periodization in the History of Art and its Conundrums. How to tackle them in East-Central Europe seminar series, a program supported by the Getty Foundation as part of its Connecting Art Histories initiative.