Conference “Global Modernisms: Contiguities, Infrastructures and Aesthetic Practices”

Annual Conference of the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Foundation – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland

With a keynote by Arjun Appadurai (New York University), 5 November 2015, 7 pm:
“Indian Popular Cinema in the Making of a Decolonized Modernity”

5-7 November 2015

Venue: Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, 10557 Berlin

Concept by Atreyee Gupta (Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Fellow 2015/2016), Hannah Baader (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut / Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices) and Patrick Flores (University of the Philippines and the Vargas Museum, Manila)

Architect Habib Rahman explains the details of the plans of Rabindra Bhavan and the Lalit Kala Akademi buildings to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on May 7th 1961, New Delhi, India. Photo: ©Ram Rahman/Sukanya Rahman.


Taking the years between 1905 and 1965 as the temporal frame, this conference seeks to rethink Global Modernisms from a transregional perspective. Current conceptualizations of avantgardism and formal innovation often related to places like Paris, New York, Weimar or Moscow continue to inform Global Modernisms’ intellectual field. Global Modernisms are often presented as a symptom for new Westernism that masquerades as the universal. This conference seeks a more constitutive conceptual vision.

Understanding Global Modernisms as clusters of artistic, intellectual, technological, institutional, socio-cultural, and political arrangements, the conference focuses on this field as an effect of contiguities and infrastructures. We approach contiguities as global and local zones of intellectual and artistic proximity and difference, and infrastructure as a combination of physical, political, social and intellectual formations. The conference then aims to situate the concept of Global Modernisms within the scalarity of the macro, meso and the micro and within the plurality of temporal and geographical spaces, movements and events.

To what extent did the relation between material infrastructure (institutions, the formation of disciplines, public policy, architecture, and engineering) and immaterial infrastructure (domination, freedom of movement, gendered hierarchies of power) generate semantic conditions for articulating aesthetic, intellectual, and critical concerns in dispersed parts of the world? Might thinking in terms of contiguities and infrastructures allow us to jettison conceptions of repetition, influence, and derivation that continue to haunt modernisms’ perceptual field?

The conference is an invitation to engage the architectonics of such contiguities. How, for instance, did innovations in science, technology, and engineering affect Global Modernism/s’ zones of contiguities, around the globe? Did museological discourses and modernist display techniques contribute in creating a new domain of visibility? To what extent did new infrastructures generate the semantic conditions for articulating the aesthetic, intellectual, critical, art historical, and curatorial concerns of Global Modernism/s? What, for instance, were the formal and aesthetic outcomes of Global Modernism/s, and how might we, in retrospect, recognize formal contiguity and distinguish it from more conventional conceptions of repetition, influence, and derivation?

Global Modernisms: Contiguities, Infrastructures and Aesthetic Practices


Thursday, November 5
Venue: Theatersaal

19.00 Welcome
Bernd M. Scherer (Haus der Kulturen der Welt)
Hans van Ess (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München/Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland)
Barbara Mittler (Universität Heidelberg/Forum Transregionale Studien)

Arjun Appadurai (New York University)
Indian Popular Cinema in the Making of a Decolonized Modernity
Indian cinema, particularly popular “Bollywood” cinema, is seen by many as an inferior imitation of Hollywood; as an apolitical vehicle of mass entertainment. Ethnologist and globalization researcher Arjun Appadurai , however, reasons that this cinema should be seen as an emancipatory aesthetic form. Bollywood cinema, according to Appadurai, is one of the main sources of independent, modern Indian imagery. The ideas of family, city or nation are far more strongly influenced by the song, dialog and language of Bollywood than by avant-garde art, literature or politics.

Friday, November 6
Venue: Conference Room K1

9.30  Welcome and Introduction
Hannah Baader (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, MPI/Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices)
Atreyee Gupta (Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Fellow 2015/2016)

10.00  Dhruv Raina (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
The Castle of Crossed Conversations during the Inter war years: The Encounter between Scientific Internationalism and Modernism

10.45  Ming Tiampo (Carleton University, Ottawa)

Chair: Barbara Wittmann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)


11.45  Thomas Kirchner (Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris)
Competing Modernisms. The Case of Berlin after 1945

12.30  Elena Shtromberg (University of Utah, Salt Lake City)
A Systems Perspective of Brazilian Art

Chair: Kerstin Schankweiler (Freie Universität Berlin)


14.30  Patrick Flores (University of the Philippines and the Vargas Museum, Manila)
“Asiatic Complications” and the Implications of Irredenta

15.15  Nancy Adajania (Cultural Theorist and Independent Curator, Mumbai)
The Funambular Modernists: Experiments with Precarious Infrastructure (1950s-1980s)

Chair: Zaal Andronikashvili (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin)


16.30  Nada Shabout (University of North Texas, Denton)
Proclaiming the Modern Moment through Cultural Arabism

17.15  Harsha Ram (University of California, Berkeley)
The Scale of Global Modernisms: Imperial, Regional, National, Local

Chair: Saleem Al-Bahooly (University of California, Berkeley/Affiliated EUME Fellow 2015/2016)

18.00  Project Presentation “Curating After Year Zero”
with Annett Busch and Anselm Franke (Haus der Kulturen der Welt)

19.00 Roundtable Discussion “Curating Global Modernisms in the 21st Century”
Catherine David (Musée National d’Art Moderne/CCI, Centre Pompidou, Paris)
Clémentine Deliss (Independent Curator / Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2015/2016)
Patrick Flores (University of the Philippines and the Vargas Museum, Manila)
Anselm Franke (Haus der Kulturen der Welt)
Nicola Müllerschön (KfW Stiftung, Berlin)
Stefan Weber (Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin)
Moderated by Atreyee Gupta and Hannah Baader

Saturday, November 7
Venue: Conference room K1

10.00  Rakhee Balaram (Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Fellow 2015/2016/University at Albany)
Black Madonna of Modernism: Situating Amrita Sher-Gil’s Two Girls

10.45  Merel van Tilburg (Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris)
From “aesthetic colonialism” to a creolized aesthetic: Negotiating Universalism, Francité and Negritude in Senegalese and French Modernist Tapestries

Chair: Monica Juneja (Universität Heidelberg)


11. 45  Romuald Tchibozo (University of Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, Benin/Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Fellow 2014/2015)
Global Modernism, a Study of the Concept in African Intricate and Plural Contexts

12. 30  Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam (Art University in Tehran/Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Fellow 2014/2015)
Modern Trends in Pre-Revolutionary Iranian Art and the Question of Alternative Modernism

Chair: Sérgio Costa (Freie Universität Berlin)


13.30  Final Discussion
Moderated by Hannah Baader, Patrick Flores and Atreyee Gupta

“Global Modernisms: Contiguities, Infrastructures and Aesthetic Practices“ is the Annual Conference of the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Convened by Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices. Funded by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF).

More information:

Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien is a research organization that promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. The Forum provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. In cooperation with universities and research institutions in Berlin and the rest of Germany, it carries out research projects that examine other regions of the world and their relationship to Germany and Europe systematically and with new questions.

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