art historian, freelance curator, cultural manager and researcher
An essay written for the 5th issue of Norwegian magazine SEISMOPOLITE: Journal of Art and politics.
This issue is titled The Politics of African Contemporary Art.
Find more about the editorial’s note below:
Recent approaches to African contemporary art often celebrate the advent of a global contemporary art scene in which they see an abolition of the provincialist and historicist concepts that were imposed by the West during the colonial period. One assumes that by taking part in new and post-historical/ post-national networks of exchange, facilitated by large-scale international exhibitions, biennials and fairs, artists can express themselves more truly as they are no longer doomed to wrestle with the notions of the pre-colonial/ colonial; to be measured against Western art-historical paradigms, or to be defined via enduring fictions about their own parochialism.
This issue of Seismopolite questions the validity of this perspective, and will hopefully contribute to a further inquiry into the possibilities and limitations of the global contemporary art scene in terms of addressing political issues in, and rewriting the history and future of African societies (as well as African art history) in a consequential way through art. The issue also sheds a critical light on how the contemporary art economy influences the political agency and interaction of artistic expression in African societies, and reversely; how African art, although it may be free to address political issues, can retain or represent such a political agency once it has become part of the global contemporary.
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