“We think about contemporary art as an expanded field of practices that engage current global sociopolitical transformations without being either fully contained in or completely freed from them. Within the fabric of a present moment characterized by different, and often incompatible, temporalities and agendas, ARTMargins wants to locate transnational commonalities and trajectories that connect, or divide, different regions of the world, bringing together artistic practices from (post)transitional zones, while at the same time questioning the logic of transition itself: today the entire world is a margin in transition.
ARTMargins invites researchers and practitioners who operate under the conditions of neoliberal capitalism to critically reflect on what we call the “thickened global margin,” encompassing historical, geographical, as well as philosophical or theoretical postperipheries. A far cry from the emphatic claims to homogeneity and universalism that characterized postmodern globalism, such an agenda implies a shift in the definition of what it means to speak to, or from, the margins: away from the binary center/margin model (East/West, North/South) that dominated modernism and postmodernism alike to one that conceives of the periphery as a nomadic zone of contact in which the possibilities for a different future may be explored.
Again, the point is not to objectify the perceived or real similarities between heterogeneous regions of the world, or to promote a new transnational exoticism, but rather to argue that there may be such a thing as an ever-widening, yet nonhomogeneous, worldwide periphery animated by artistic practices whose description and analysis cannot rely on established paradigms and methods.”
Selected Subject Headings
- Alternative spaces (arts facilities) - Poland
- Art criticism - Egypt
- Art education - Syria
- Art fairs - United Arab Emirates
- Art informel - Japan
- Art and society - Angola
- Artistic collaboration - Latin America
- Avant-garde (aesthetics) - China
- Conceptual art - Mexico
- Cultural landscapes - Arab countries
- Cultural policy - Europe, Eastern
- Indians of North America - intellectual life
- Information - aesthetics
- Mail art - history
- Modernism (aesthetics) - India
- Musée du Louvre, Abu Dhabi
- Neoconcretism (art movement)
- Painting, Abstract - Lebanon
- Post-communism - Armenia
- Pop art - Estonia
- Stuckism (art movement)
- Surrealism - Romania
On April 1999, the Queens Museum of Art in New York presented Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s, an exhibition that set out to challenge “the canonical perception that conceptual art was simply one movement which spread internationally;” according to the project directors, it was important then “to emphasize that the reading of “globalism” that informs this project is a highly differentiated one, in which localities are linked in crucial ways but not subsumed into a homogenized set of circumstances and responses to them. We mean to denote a multicentered map with various points of origins in which local events are crucial determinants.”
Slightly earlier in 1999, comparative literature scholar Sven Spieker launched ARTMargins Online, a web-based platform that “publishes interviews, essays, blogs, podcasts, and reviews devoted to contemporary art, with an additional, non-exclusive focus on the region formerly known as Eastern Europe.”
The timing for both cultural occurrences is important, the millennial 1999; this is, ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union and related social and geopolitical turmoil, and importantly, both the exhibition and the online platform appeared at the end of a decade in which questions of representation had been at the forefront in the long struggle for an opening up of the epistemic landscape in the locale from which both projects appeared, the United States of America. A zeitgeist of sorts then, aligned with other international efforts, which, in the field of art to which the journal is dedicated to, would have to include the decentered biennial explosion.Fast forward to 2012, when ARTMargins, the journal, publishes its first issue among MIT Press’s influential list of journals dedicated to art, which includes titles like October or Grey room. Spieker remains as executive editor of this printed venture, but other editorial voices are added, among them Octavian Eşanu, who states that ARTMargins' history “is inseparable from two recent historical turns: the sharp “turn to capitalism” in Eastern Europe during the 1990s, and the so-called “global turn” that followed soon after;” he continues making a distinction between the online project and the printed one, as the journal “covers a wider geography, exposing the reader to a variety of critical and historiographical approaches, and to the currents that flow at or beneath the surface of the global artistic economy.”
This brief historical sketch provides us with a context to understand what one will confront when encountering this very interesting young journal; to have a better understanding of what this could be we quote Eşanu again: “We view our primary goal in terms of encouraging and assisting both established and younger scholars--in particular, those who write from the edges of Western academia--to make their research known to a larger public, but also to develop methods commensurate with the difficult tasks they are tackling,” with the hope to provide a space for “new kinds of writing about global art.”
After four years of publishing, one could assert that ARTMargins is definitively providing an invaluable contribution to a more encompassing understanding of art and related cultural production in locales that had been previously peripherilized in Western academia.
With an austere but elegant layout, each issue of ARTMargins provides its readers with scholarly dispatches that bring us historical reassessments as well as contemporary landscapes; the former would include special issues dedicated to Artists’ networks in Latin America and Eastern Europe, a dossier on The Longevity of 1967 in art and its histories, which “explores the significance of the 1967 defeat of Arab military forces by the Israeli army for the historiography of modern and contemporary Arab art,” or recently, a special section on East Germany’s Capitalist Realism; in this historical category would also fall in-depth evaluation of movements like the Japanese Gutai, artists like the Romanians Dolfi Trost, a surrealist, or Horia Bernea, a conceptualist, or the Estonian Leonhard Lapin; in terms of the attention given to contemporary contexts, the journal has so far included thoughtful essays dedicated to the intellectual and cultural scenes of Egypt, Mozambique, Armenia, Lebanon, Iran and so on.
In some instances, book and exhibition reviews are included, and these can provide intriguing peeks into the art historiographical struggles taking place in the field, as illustrated by Huw Hallam’s essay Confronting globalization. Importantly for us and for a journal aiming at providing “new kinds of writing about global art,” the voice of artists is very present; this presence is two-folded as artists’ voices appear as specific projects created for the journal as artist’s pages or, after the patina of time, in the compelling section dedicated to historical documents, in which manifestos, essays or theoretical allocutions penned down by artists all over the world are translated and given an always enlightening contextualization.
In Mari Carmen Ramírez’s text for the Global Conceptualism’s exhibition catalogue, she writes that the center/margin dichotomy should be further complicated. In that context, she writes that in order to properly understand the origins of Latin American conceptualism any effort must entail “apprehending the complex articulations between local “ex-centric needs” and center trends, a rough interplay whose dialectic implies a reciprocal circuit of artistic and cultural exchange.”
If one goes through the table of contents of this 1999 exhibition catalog, one might notice that the “Middle East” and the “Arab world” were absent from that, acknowledgedly incomplete, historical survey. Now, in 2015, and thanks to ARTMargins, we can learn about the Musée du Louvre in Abu Dhabi or, say, the Syrian avant-garde and its plasticity between 1964-1970, among many other variants of “ex-centric needs” that had previously been absent from any comprehensive survey of art in contexts that continue to believe, but also to be looked upon as, to be setting the “center trends.”
As always, and this applies to everybody involved in cultural production anywhere, the question that remains is how the objects of knowledge, artistic practices and cultural contexts one decides to focus on will fare in our currently crammed epistemological landscape, one currently besieged by scholarly chrono-dissonance with its been there, done that syndrome, varied cultural backlashes, pervasive social conflict, massive migrations, drone wars, terrifying terror and related civil liberties lockdown. Worldwide, decentered.
Amidst these conditions--an almost infinite array of intellectual offerings in a fraught historical crucible--how will the attention and care needed to engage such objects of knowledge will be allocated? But also, what agency is left to the final perceiver to choose whatever titillates her, independently of the locus of its production or surrounding discourse?
The journal stated in 2012 its wish to consider the “periphery as a nomadic zone of contact in which the possibilities for a different future may be explored;” now, only some years after their statement of intent, we believe ARTMargins to have opened yet another important avenue to address “the problem of asymmetric ignorance,” one more crucial step towards a much needed different future. Hopefully, this time, evenly distributed.
To peruse the indexed contents of ARTMargins, please log into the database.
”Editorial statement,” ARTMargins (Cambridge, Mass.), vol. 1, no. 1 (February 2012): 3-4.
Luis Camnitzer, Jane Farver, and Rachel Weiss. “Foreword. Global conceptualism: points of origin, 1950s-1980s,” in Global conceptualism: points of origin, 1950s-1980s. Queens, N.Y.: Queens Museum of Art, 1999, p. vii.
From Spieker’s website: ”Spieker received a B.A. from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London (1987) and a Ph.D. from Oxford University (Merton College). […] In 1995 Spieker took up a position at the Department of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies and the Comparative Literature Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. As an affiliate faculty member in the departments of Art and Art History, he teaches courses in 20th-century European as well as Russian and East-Central European art.” Spieker is the author of The big archive: art from bureaucracy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2008./
Mission statement, ARTMargins Online.
From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, art biennials were established in Havana (1984), Lyon (1984), Istanbul (1987), Dakar (Dak’Art, 1992), Sharjah (1993), Johannesburg (1995), Gwangju (1995), Europe (Manifesta, 1995), Shanghai (1996), and Berlin (1998).
Octavian Eşanu. “ARTMargins: Journal,” in Critical machines. Beirut: American University of Beirut, 2014, p. 94.
Hallam’s essay is a feisty book review of Pamela M. Lee’s Forgetting the art world, and T. J. Demos’ The migrant image: the art and politics of documentary during global crisis. See Huw Hallam. “Confronting globalization,” ARTMargins (Cambridge, Mass.), vol. 3. no. 1 (February 2014): 87-101.
For example, one can find translations of Felipe Ehrenberg’s In search of a model for life (vol. 1, no. 1), an excerpt from Dolfi Trost Visible and invisible (vol. 1, no. 2-3), Leonhard Lapin’s Objective art (vol. 2, no. 2), or even the reproduction of a Stenogram of the general meeting of the artists of the Union of Soviet Artists of Moldavia (15 May, 1951) (vol. 3, no. 1).
Mari Carmen Ramírez. “Tactics for thriving on adversity: conceptualism in Latin America, 1960-1980,” in Global conceptualism: points of origin, 1950s-1980s. Queens, N.Y.: Queens Museum of Art, 1999, p. 54.
We are voicing here Dipesh Chakrabarty’s call to further complicate notions of historicism and transculturality in his Provincializing Europe: postcolonial thought and historical difference. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000, p. 28.