CFP: Global Art Challenges (University of Barcelona; April 26 - 28, 2016)

Deadline: Sep 30, 2015

Global Art Challenges: Towards an “Ecology of Knowledges”

The International Conference Global Art Challenges: Towards an “Ecology of Knowledges” aims to reformulate established approaches to the study of global art in the face of ongoing challenges in that field. Building on sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santo’s concept of an “ecology of knowledges” (2007), the conference seeks to go beyond “abyssal thinking in modern Western-based conceptions” of art and to trace lines of inquiry into new epistemological approaches to global art studies. As theorized by de Sousa Santos, ecological thinking, understood as a counter-epistemology, recognizes the plurality of heterogeneous knowledge(s) and highlights the dynamic interconnections that exist between them. Hence, faced with a longstanding monocultural conception of knowledge and art an “ecology of knowledges” conceives of knowledge-as-intervention-in-reality rather than a hierarchical preference of Western knowledge(s) over other forms of knowing.

This approach proposes an emancipatory attempt to supersede predominant epistemological frameworks that continue to reproduce the power structures that have dominated Western thinking since the Renaissance. Despite the spatial turn of global studies, longstanding monocultural (Western) conceptions of knowledge and art continue to impact and shape the study of global art, as well as its theorization and the validation of artistic practices around the world. An “ecology of knowledges”, as suggested by de Sousa Santos, is a useful concept to counteract this perspective. It recognises the plurality of artistic knowledge(s) and its socio-political agency in modern and contemporary global art. This concept grapples with the current debates surrounding the need to reassess global art study’s methodological tools, calling for the importance of a transcultural and horizontal art history that puts the accent on transnational transfers, cultural encounters, circulatory and transformation processes.

This conference seeks to discuss, from a methodological, epistemological and practical perspective, the possibilities of developing an “ecology of knowledges” in art history, regarding also artistic and institutional practices. It looks for ways to overcome Western hierarchies and enter into a proactive dialogue between practices, methods and discourses. Such perspectives, we hope, will contribute to questioning taxonomies, values, temporalities, and dichotomies that have not just been a part of the art historic discipline since its foundation, but that have been imposed as universal and taken-for-granted. Finally, the conference seeks to become a platform for debating the possibilities of breaking that (Western-dominated) view within art history, seeking a starting point for a change of paradigm in the understanding of global art.

Conference Objectives:

The International Conference Challenges of Global Art: Towards an “Ecology of Knowledges” aims …

  • … to highlight, revalorize, and investigate new and “alternative” forms of knowledge production regarding global art, identifying non-Western and non-normative knowledge(s), know-how and practices.

  • … to put forward forms of hybridization and different temporalities by taking into account local as well as global dynamics in the contemporary art scene.

  • … to identify knowledge(s) and cases in which real-world-interventions are enabled, highlighting local resistances, subaltern experiences and political agency.

  • … to highlight the transfers and circulatory processes in artistic practices and art history by questioning discourses and notions (such as modernism) that were built on the dichotomy between West and non-West.

  • … to foster thinking about new concepts for the study of global art that supersede the subject/object of knowledge binary.

  • … to think of other methodological tools and strategies in Art History and Global Art Studies that could be useful within the framework of an “ecology of knowledges”.

  • … to discuss the role of Global Art Studies, and of Art History more generally, within the global setting of modern and contemporary art.

The conference will feature four panels and a round table discussion. Every panel will be comprised of five speakers, with an allocated speaking time of 20 minutes each. All three panels will be presented by a convenor who will encourage debate among the participants. The closing round table discussion will articulate the themes of the conference and provide a space for dialogue among the conference presenters.

Scholars, arts practitioners, researchers, and graduate students working in the field of global art are invited to submit proposals for one of the following panels:

Panel 1. Critical Perspectives in Global Art History
Keynote Speaker: Monica Juneja (Universität Heidelberg, Germany)
Convenor: Anna Maria Guasch (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain)

This session aims to question and to reformulate established approaches to the methodological study of global art history in the light of on-going debates in the field. Such an undertaking seems especially relevant when considering that the spatial turn has often led to an extension of existing approaches and to a perpetuation of conceptual imperialism historically embedded in Western art history. Guiding questions of the session are: How can we gain a global and integrative perspective and avoid the dangers of reproducing similar asymmetries between artistic productions around the globe? What are the tools that allow us to highlight multiple locations, temporalities and processes of transcultural configurations? In how far can an ecological perspective enrich and articulate our view on global art history?

Panel 2. ‘Close Others’ in ‘The West’
Keynote Speaker: Klara Kemp-Welch (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK)
Convenor: Nasheli Jiménez del Val (Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas-UNAM, Mexico)

This session addresses the need to continue decentering cultural and aesthetic paradigms regarding the Cold War era. Despite significant academic projects such as Former-West, the idea of ‘the West’ is still usually taken as shorthand for Western Europe and North America. The concept of the West therefore remains limited to an established series of hegemonic centres, irrespective of the transformations of the global cultural and political field since 1989. This panel explores the relationship of the former hegemonic centres of the West to their ‘close-Others’ in Europe and the Americas (Southern and Eastern European; Central and Southern American), and vice-versa. The aim is to rethink the conception of the West itself from a range of dialogical and dialectical perspectives and to thereby destabilise the concept internally. We propose to treat the West as a pluri-cultural and polycentric matrix, defined by the encounters and exchanges of multiple cultures. In addition to challenging centre-periphery dichotomies, this session seeks to bring to light the transcultural and multivalent processes that the development of modernity and postmodernity has entailed. We are especially interested in assessing the subaltern potentialities of artistic practices and knowledge developed outside normative spheres. Guiding questions of the sessions are: How do the perspectives on race, gender and ideology that have emerged in different parts of Europe and the Americas vary? What might these variations contribute to the wider project of ‘provincialising the West’?

Panel 3. Visualizing Global Networks
Keynote Speaker: Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel (École Normale Supérieur, France)
Convenor: Paula Barreiro López (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain)

This session aims to outline the possibilities of mapping the diverse artistic and intellectual networks of cultural transfer and their close intertwining with the social, political and economic spheres. Globalisation is, in this context, understood as a process that starts well before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its roots can be traced back to a long history of global exchanges and increasing social mobility, which relate to the economic and political as well as to the cultural fields. Guiding questions are: How can we visualise transnational patterns and which are key characteristics of today’s global experiences, such as circulations, exchanges and networks? How can such a multi-level conception with various players and agencies challenge binary models that still shape the discipline where culture is seen to flow from metropolitan centres of the Western world to the peripheries? In which way(s) can the visualization of global networks reveal the complexity of artistic creation by bringing to surface the multiplicity of practices and “knowledges” that configured the cultural world?

Panel 4. Art-as-intervention-in-reality. Ecology of Knowledges and institutional practices.
Keynote Speaker: Maria Hlavajova (Basis Voor Akuele Kunst, Utrecht)
Convenor: Christian M. Alonso (Universitat de Barcelona)

The panel proposes to think about (and from within) contemporary artistic practice at the present time, the latter characterized by Zygmunt Bauman as the “condition in which rulers no longer can rule and the ruled no longer wish to be ruled” . This context poses the need for reassessing and rearticulating basic notions for the understanding of western epistemologies such as progress, critique, nature-culture relations, the very idea of state-nation and furthermore the museum and the artistic institution. Therefore this panel suggests discussing ways that manage (or that could manage) reorienting the activity of artistic institutions in our contemporary world by implementing an “ecology of knowledges” in the experimental and discursive field. Bearing in mind that the “ecology of knowledges” understands knowledge–as-intervention-in-reality a guiding question is: Which role could the integration of various artistic practices (as knowledge production) and their political agency play in the reconfiguration of the artistic institution at present time?

Scientific Committee:
Monica Juneja, Universität Heidelberg
Klara Kemp-Welch, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, École Normale Supérieure, Paris
Maria Hlavajova, Basis Voor Akuele Kunst, Utrecht
Anna María Guasch, Universitat de Barcelona
Paula Barreiro López, Universitat de Barcelona
Nasheli Jiménez del Val, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, D.F.

Organized by: Anna Maria Guasch (UB), Paula Barreiro López (UB), and Nasheli Jiménez del Val (UNAM, Mexico) and Christian M. Alonso (UB), within the frameworks of the research groups Art, Globalization, Interculturality (AGI: and Decentralized Modernities: art, politics and counter-culture in the transatlantic axis during the Cold War (MoDe(s) (HAR2014-53834-P) ( at the University of Barcelona.

Venues: Aula Magna. Department of Art History, University of Barcelona (UB) Auditorium. Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA)


How to submit: Papers, creative projects and other non-traditional presentations exploring the aforementioned topics are welcome.

A completed application form including a 500 words abstract and a short biography (300 words) should be submitted to one of the panels throught the webpage AGI or sent to by 30 September 2015.

Authors will be notified of their acceptance for a panel, the publication, or both, by 1 December 2015.

All abstract submissions (even if not selected for a panel presentation) will be considered for the publication Global Art Challenges: Towards an “Ecology of Knowledges”, an edited volume presenting the results of this conference to be published by the University of Barcelona.

Please note that at this time the conference organizers cannot provide travel grants or accommodation stipends for presenters.

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