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Conference and Network on Transcultural Artistic Practices

Nov 22, 2015

A conference on histories of contemporary artistic practices was held from November 26-28 at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. It also served to launch the "Research Network for Critical Transcultural Perspectives on Artistic and Visual Practices", a platform for early career researchers in the field of transcultural studies. The conference was co-organised by Franziska Koch, Assistant Professor to the Chair of Global Art History at the Cluster.

The conference was titled "Present's disjunctive unity. Constructing and deconstructing histories of contemporary cultural and aesthetic practices". It departed from the observation that “the contemporary” in art and culture has its own history; paradoxically, contemporaneity in itself is historical. “The contemporary” is also determined by the many cultural and regional contexts in which ideas of the present and contemporaneity are negotiated. Hence, there are varying histories of the contemporary, each informed by specific socio-political conditions and geo-political power structures. Historical turning points such as the end of the Second World War in 1945 or the end of the Cold War in 1989 prompted certain narratives of contemporaneity and shaped specific historiographical modes through which people in different places reflect on meanings and patterns of the past in relation to the present and tell stories in different ways. The conference sought to explore these (his-)stories and related artistic practices and to develop appropriate categories for the different historiographical genealogies that shape concepts of "the contemporary". To this end, the conference combined socio-political, historical and other theoretical perspectives.

The conference "Present's disjunctive unity. Constructing and deconstructing histories of contemporary cultural and aesthetic practices" took place from November 26 to 28 at the House of World Cultures, Berlin. It consisted of a public program that included talks by 10 distinguished senior scholars as well as an artists’ discussion and a closed workshop section in which about 50 early career researchers, who responded to a global, competitive call for participation, discussed specific sub-themes of the event. The conference served as the kick-off event of the "Research Network for Critical Transcultural Perspectives on Artistic and Visual Practices" (preliminary title). This network is a critical, interdisciplinary and international research association of doctoral and post-doctoral researchers who study phenomena and processes of cultural exchange. The junior members of the network will be supported by an international board of senior advisers.

Annette Bhagwati (House of World Cultures Berlin), Kirsten Einfeldt (House of World Cultures Berlin), Birgit Hopfener (Free University Berlin), Franziska Koch (Heidelberg University), and Kerstin Schankweiler (Free University Berlin) organized the event. The conference presented a cooperation of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe" and its Researchers Network “Arts and the Transcultural” at Heidelberg University, the DFG_Research Group "Transcultural Negotiations in the Ambits of Art" at FU Berlin, and the House of World Cultures Berlin. 

The conference was kindly supported by the Ernst-Reuter-Gesellschaft der Freunde, Förderer und Ehemaligen der Freien Universität Berlin e.V.Frauenfördermittel des Fachbereichs Geschichts- und Kulturwissenschaften der Freien Universität Berlin and Ulmer Verein. Verband für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften e.V.

Franziska Koch is Assistant Professor to the Cluster's Chair for "Global Art History", which is held by Prof. Monica Juneja. Dr. Birgit Hopfener is post-doctoral researcher at the department for East Asia of the Institute for Art History of the Free University of Berlin. Dr. Kerstin Schankweiler works at the same institution, in the department for African art. Dr. Annette Bhagwati and Dr. Kirsten Einfeldt are curators and project managers at the House of World Cultures Berlin.

For further information, please visit the conference website


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  • "All art has been contemporary", Maurizio Nannucci, 2005, Altes Museum, Berlin. Picture: Jürgen Liepe