Global Art Challenges: Towards an “Ecology of Knowledges”

Global Art Challenges: Towards an “Ecology of Knowledges”

CFP: International Conference

April 28-29, 2016, Barcelona, Spain

Organizing Team

Direction: Anna Maria Guasch (UB)
Co-direction: Paula Barreiro López (UB) and Nasheli Jiménez del Val (UNAM, Mexico)
In collaboration with: Christian Alonso (UB)

Organized by: Under the Grupo Consolidado Agència d´Ajuts Universitaris de la Generalitat de Catalunya (2014 SGR1050) and the research project Critical Cartography of Art and Visuality in the Global Age: New Methodologies, Concepts, and Analytic Scopes, Part II (HAR2013 43122P) of the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO, Madrid).

With the collaboration and support of: Proyecto I+D: Modernidad(es) Descentralizada(s): Arte, política y contracultura en el eje transatlántico durante la Guerra Fría (HAR2014-53834-P). Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO, Madrid).

Scientific Committee
Monica Juneja (Universität Heidelberg, Germany)
Klara Kemp-Welch (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK)
Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel (École Normale Supérieur, Paris, FR)
Maria Hlavajova (Basis Voor Akuele Kunst, Utrecht, NL)
Anna Maria Guasch (Universitat de Barcelona, SP)
Paula Barreiro López (Universitat de Barcelona, SP)
Nasheli Jiménez del Val (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, MX)

Collaborating entities:
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
Facultad de Geografía e Historia. Universidad de Barcelona
Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM

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[1]. 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 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.

Panel 1.
Critical Perspectives In Global Art History

Keynote Speaker: Monica Juneja (Universität Heidelberg, Germany)
Convenor: Anna Maria Guasch (Universitat de Barcelona)

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 (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)
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.
Ecology of Knowledges and
Institutional Practices

Keynote Speaker: Maria Hlavajova (Basis Voor Akuele Kunst, Utrecht, NL)
Convenor: Christian Alonso (Universitat de Barcelona)

This panel aims to think about—and through—artistic practice in the present moment, understood by Zygmunt Bauman as the “condition in which rulers no longer can rule and the ruled no longer wish to be ruled”. [2] Within this context, it becomes paramount to reconsider and rearticulate foundational Western epistemological categories such as progress, criticism, nature-culture relations, and the very notions of the nation-state, the museum, and the institution of art. For these reasons, the panel suggests a discussion of case studies that propose new avenues for redirecting institutional artistic activities towards practical applications of an “ecology of knowledges” on an experimental and discursive terrain. Considering that an “ecology of knowledges” conceives of knowledge as intervention-in-reality, what role can the plural integration of artistic practices as knowledge producers, as well as their corresponding political agencies, play in the reconfiguration of the institution of art today?

[2] Bauman, Zygmunt, “Times of Interregnum”, Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2012), p. 49.

[1] Sousa Santos, Boaventura de, “Beyond abyssal thinking. From global lines to ecology of knowledges”, Eurozine, 2007, p. 66 (available online)


MACBA, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona / Auditorium
Plaça dels Angels, 1 / 08001 Barcelona

UB, Universitat de Barcelona / Aula Magna
Montalegre, 6 / 4th Piso / 08001 Barcelona