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Heft #1 – 2024

Heft #1 – 2024

Towards a Multi-Temporal Pluriverse of Art. Decolonizing Universalized Historiographic and Temporal Frameworks

(ed. by Birgit Hopfener & Karin Zitzewitz)


  • Introduction: Towards a Multi-Temporal Pluriverse of Art. Decolonizing Universalized Historiographic and Temporal Frameworks

    Birgit Hopfener & Karin Zitzewitz


  • On the Impossibility of Global Modernisms

    Tatiana Flores

    As art history begins to take seriously the imperative to decolonize, one of the most vexing areas of resistance to change is the conventional periodization of art historical epochs. Even while acknowledging that spatial divisions like West and Non-West are deeply problematic, as are geographic divisions per se, we continue to honor the “history” in the discipline’s nomenclature by insisting on temporality as a primary organizing category. The period commonly designated as “modernist” (roughly 1860 to 1960) is particularly difficult to divorce from Western ideals of progress as defined both by technological “advances” and by the heroization of artistic “innovation”. When the modernist moment attempts to open itself up to global narratives, its structuring undercurrent is a particular vision of the art of the West. In this essay, I read the conventional narrative of modernism through a decolonial lens and revisit the reception of Impressionism in the 1910s and 1920s in Mexico to consider how an artistic idiom widely seen as retrograde at that moment became the basis for a radical rethinking around the democratization of art. My analysis exposes how, because of its championing of novelty and its inherent Eurocentrism, the category of modernism obscures and suppresses artists and narratives that fall outside of its limited purview.


  • Beading Back and Forth. Upending Temporality through
    Knowledge Transmission

    Carmen Robertson

    Knowing glass beads as active agents – as beings – proffers forms of analysis untethered from linear temporality and immersed in story. Analytical frameworks steeped in Western philosophical traditions dictate limited understandings of art made by Indigenous peoples within the study of art histories, and as displayed and collected by museums and galleries. Despite museological conventions that reproduce entrenched processes of objectification and linear classifications, appreciating Indigenous beadwork through relational and dialogical epistemologies has gained traction within the study of Indigenous arts in Canada. In support of future generations of Indigenous makers in the prairie region, this analysis upends conventional colonial structures of knowledge entrenched in institutions.


  • Against Extinction. An Interview with Sahej Rahal

    Karin Zitzewitz

    An interview with Mumbai-based contemporary artist Sahej Rahal discusses the potential of artificial intelligence-driven simulations and images to engage issues of temporality. The interview considers the AI simulation Anhad (2023), in which a tripedal figure is both driven by noises in the gallery and creates a haunting song with each step. It examines the implications of the work’s juxtaposition of various modes of temporality within and beyond an Indian political landscape dominated by a Hindu nationalist, authoritarian regime. Moving to a suite of AI-generated still images called Black Origin (2022), the conversation assesses the challenge artificial intelligence makes to photography. It contextualizes those images as they were presented in an exhibition that both reflected on the seventy-fifth anniversary of India’s independence and speculated about the country’s future.


  • Animating the Inanimate. Qiu Anxiong’s New Book of Mountains and Seas

    Peggy Wang

    This paper focuses on the first installment of Qiu Anxiong’s trilogy of animations New Book of Mountains and Seas (2006, 2008, 2017). Replete with fantastical creatures, Qiu’s films immediately call to mind their namesake, the Classic of Mountains and Seas, an encyclopedia of strange beasts written and compiled between the fourth to first century BCE. His animations show the contemporary world as if seen through the eyes of someone living thousands of years ago, alive during the time of the original classic. Rather than casting this subject-position as “irrational” and backwards, Qiu mines the generative possibilities of adopting this new logic of perception. In doing so, he brings together two distinct ways of presenting the world. The first relays the modern myths and universal assumptions constituting our contemporary reality. The second destabilizes divisions between the animate and inanimate to challenge how this narrative led to the disavowal of animism to begin with. In restituting animism, the artist offers an alternative to the pictured story of predation, extraction, and consumption.


  • A Group Dance that Never Ends. A Pluriversal Approach to Continuum – Generation by Generation (2017)

    Birgit Hopfener

    How did the exhibition in the Chinese pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale entitled Continuum – Generation by Generation (buxi 不息) mobilize the concept of buxi, which translates literally as “endlessness” or “never ceasing”? What does it mean to conceive of art, the world, and oneself through the lens of buxi, as endlessly intrarelated? This paper delves into this question from a multi-pronged perspective. First, it explains the meaning of buxi and analyzes how the show engages with aesthetic, epistemological, social and political implications of art and the world conceived through a contemporary perspective on the concept of “endlessness”. Second, the paper explores how a reading of the show and the artworks – their adopted aesthetic strategies, media, techniques, and materialities – through the lens of buxi complicates the critical and aesthetic framework for contemporary art in the global context. Finally, the paper evaluates the engagement with buxi – and the respective alternative processual ontology and temporality of art and world – as a useful mode of decolonizing the discipline of art history, even as it emphasizes the importance of adopting a dynamic pluriversal approach that attends to the transcultural relations that shape and reshape the multiplicity of meanings of art in a global framework, its multiple and entangled critical and aesthetic discourses, and the complexity of power structures, and avoids obscuring significant contexts and experiences.


  • Monuments, Temporality, and the Aesthetics of Indigenous Presence in Postcolonial South Asia

    Akshaya Tankha

    Despite their increasing visibility on highways and in prominent spaces in cities and villages across Nagaland and Naga-inhabited regions in northeast India since the early 1990s, monuments to the history of Naga nationalism have failed to garner significant scholarly attention. On the one hand, they are dismissed by urban Nagas as passive illustrations of the ideologically motivated “agendas” of Naga nationalist organizations. On the other, their continuities with the Naga stone monolith form remain unaddressed, rooted in the longstanding assumption that the influx of Christianity and literacy has meant that “tribal culture” is ruptured from the present. If the former approach suffers from a limiting historicism that imprisons the monument within a preconceived sense of historical and chronological time, the latter reproduces the problem of essentialism, which denies the Naga stone monolith any time. In this article, I challenge the dismissal of these monuments on both historicist and essentialist grounds. I demonstrate that theirformal, scalar, and spatial particularities materialize a monumental form that constantly slips across the border between the secular domain of the war monument and the ritual domain of the Naga stone monolith. This movement across these supposedly separate and opposed domains of practice enacts a plural and layered temporality, which foregrounds monumentality as the ground to engage the lived realities and histories of a borderland region. It also illuminates the political significance of the aesthetic in the Indigenously inhabited and politically contested region amidst its marginalization by the state in postcolonial South Asia.


  • “Not the End”. Artists on and against Nuclear Closure

    Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou

    Casualties of nuclear technologies are not immediate, and the populations that bear the most significant burden are too sparse to be noteworthy, especially in the case of uranium mining industries. Shaped by forms of settler colonialism – the US and Canada mine on Indigenous and First Nation reservations – effects of radioactive exposure produce slow, recursive forms of nuclear suffering as illness may take up to thirty years to manifest. This article zooms in on the case of uranium mining and the violence of the temporal lag between uranium exposure and the appearance of symptoms. It explores how this lag is critically interrogated by two contemporary artists that approach uranium mining histories as unresolved; as a series of situations whose unfolding goes on, thus going against the closure of narratives of uranium mining. Two artworks that critically engage with the slow temporality of uranium and its violent effects, and that this paper closely reads, are Bonnie Devine’s drawing series The Book of Radiance (1999) and video Rooster Rock, the Story of Serpent River and Eve Andrée Laramée’s installation Halfway to Invisible (2009). Both artists lay bare the temporal possibilities of turning our gaze away from obvious nuclear symbols, such as bombs and reactors, or what technology historian Gabrielle Hecht calls our fetishes of nuclear histories (Being Nuclear. Africans and the Global Uranium Trade), to rather engage with less obvious nuclear histories. Drawing on theoretical insights from recent scholarship in science and technology studies and art history around time, the paper emphasizes the affordances of contemporary art in redressing uranium mining as a slow and latent modality of the nuclear complex.


  • Of Scales and Times. Planetary Friction at Play in the Work of Simryn Gill

    Emilia Terracciano

    This essay draws on the notions of scalability and friction elaborated by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing in the context of South East Asian plantations to consider two series of works “Vegetation” (1999–2016) and “Naga Doodles” (2017) created by artist Simryn Gill (Singapore, 1959). By outlining the material properties, processes, and media Gill uses, it offers a critique of economic standardisation, and accompanying hierarchies that mobilise anthropocentric beliefs and assumptions about time and space. Importantly, it suggests that Gill’s works invite ecological readings and warnings that are cosmological and concern the fate of this planet.



  • Two Books on Tradition.
    Holger Gzella, Aramäisch. Weltsprache des Altertums & Irene Vallejo, Papyrus. The Invention of Books in the Ancient World

    Benjamin Anderson
  • Rose Marie San Juan, Violence and the Genesis
    of the Anatomical Image

    Alejandro Nodarse
  • Michele Matteini, The Ghost in the City. Luo Ping and the Craft of Painting in Eighteenth-Century China

    Kathleen Ryor
  • Felicity Bodenstein, Contested Holdings. Museum Collections in Political, Epistemic and Artistic Processes of Return

    Zainabu Jallo
  • Brianne Cohen, Don't Look Away. Art, Nonviolence, and Preventive Publics in Contemporary Europe

    Sara Blaylock
  • On Things (and their Representation). Laurence Bertrand Dorléac’s “Pour en finir avec la nature morte” and the exhibition and catalogue “Les Choses. Une histoire de la nature morte” (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

    Stefano de Bosio
ISSN 2701-1569
eISSN 2701-1550