We are pleased to announce the launch of Former West, a long-term project prompted by the need for critical reflection surrounding the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is comprised of an extensive research undertaking (2009–2011), a significant publishing component (2011–2012) and a large-scale international group exhibition (2012).
Former West – a term never fully articulated as a counterpart to the widely used ‘former East’ – considers the question: What impact did the events of 1989 have on the art of the ‘West’? The project examines significant artistic and cultural developments from 9 November 1989 to the present, speculating on whether 11 September 2001 (destruction of the World Trade Center, New York) and 15 September 2008 (breakdown of the international financial system) might represent new milestones in our artistic, cultural and political histories. More than two decades after one of the greatest political changes in the last 150 years, the project reflects on the cultural output of the ‘new world order’, and embarks on a process of coming to terms, if provisionally, with our recent past. Former West aims to address this history through researching and charting art and culture from 1989 until the present to explore how significant changes in society are reflected and understood in all their complexity in new artistic productions. The project seeks out artworks that not only have something to say – however argumentative and partial – about their times, but which are works ‘of their times’ and even ‘for their times’ (Kaspar König, Westkunst).
Former West is initiated by Maria Hlavajova, artistic director BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. It is curated by Charles Esche (curator, author and director, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Maria Hlavajova, and Kathrin Rhomberg (curator, Berlin Biennial 6 (2010) and advisor and corresponding member of Secession, Vienna) and developed with a dense network of research advisors and institutional partners.
Research Team: Claire Bishop, art historian and critic, associate professor The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), New York; Prof. Maaike Bleeker, Cultural History, Research Institute for History and Culture and the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; Chiara Bonfiglioli, Gender & Ethnicity, PhD student, Research Institute for History and Culture and the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; Manolo Borja-Villel, director Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Prof. Rosi Braidotti, professor and director Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; Jesús Carrillo, director Public Programs, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Cosmin Costinas, curator BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht; Prof. Dr. Jolle Demmers, Centre for Conflict Studies the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; Ally Derks, director International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA), Amsterdam; Marta Dziewanska, Head of Educational and Research Department, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Diana Franssen, Curator/Head of Research, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Prof. Boris Groys, philosopher, art historian and curator, professor of Aesthetics, Art History, and Media Theory, Center for Art and Media Technology, Karlsruhe; Prof. Dr. Ido de Haan, International and Political History, Research Institute for History and Culture the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; Pablo Lafuente, managing editor Afterall Journal and Books, London; Prof. Paolo de Medeiros, Postcolonial theory, Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; Joanna Mytkowska, director Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Marion von Osten, artist, writer and curator, professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna; Piotr Piotrowski, professor and head of the Institute of Art History, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań; Simon Sheikh, art critic and curator, assistant professor of Art Theory and coordinator of the Critical Studies program, Malmö Art Academy, Malmö/Berlin; Georg Schöllhammer, editor, author and curator, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Springerin, Vienna; Prof. Bald de Vries, Law Studies the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; Jill Winder, curator of publications, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht; and Prof. Dr. Kitty Zijlmans, Contemporary Art History and Theory/World Art Studies, School of Art History, Leiden University, Leiden. The Research Team will necessarily expand as the project develops.
Institutional Partners: Afterall Journal and Books, London; BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht; Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht; International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA), Amsterdam; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.
2009–2010 Seminars and Lectures Former West inaugurates its public programming in late summer 2009 with a seminar co-organized by Claire Bishop and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, during which key exhibitions from the post-1989 period are discussed in relation to the central themes of the research. Further programs include: 'What is Former West?', public lecture series, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst and the Centre for Humanities, Utrecht University, Utrecht (autumn 2009); seminar on the end of the avant-garde and its impact on the institution of the modern and contemporary art museum, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (early 2010); and a seminar on collective action and the formation of alternative artistic networks during the 1990s, Reina Sofía, Madrid (late spring/early summer 2010).
At this stage of the project we gratefully acknowledge the endorsement of the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam and NWO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) [Dutch Organization for Scientific Research] Research Program Transformations in Art and Culture, The Hague.
Former West is coordinated and produced by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. Further updates on the project as a whole, as well as announcements of public programs related to Former West research, appear regularly at http://www.formerwest.org.
Curated by Charles Esche, Maria Hlavajova and Kathrin Rhomberg
International Research, Publishing and Exhibition Project 2009–2012
Kuratoren: Charles Esche, Maria Hlavajova, Kathrin Rhomberg