November 30, 2013

“This Now is the Night,” History and Allegory of the Present

Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg
Courtesy of Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg.

While the present seems to be downright obsessed with history, it has increasingly become difficult to define its own historical context. Since the great historico-philosophical narrative of the modern, which accorded the present a logical slot within the transformation of past into future, has lost its appeal, nowadays the present tends to defines itself as history. Orchestrated in cautionary recollections, retro trends and retrospectives of past awakenings, it seems to jeopardise the very nature of its own presence. The conference aims to tackle the challenge of addressing the present in its historical dimension on three levels. An attempt shall be made to outline the logical and historico-theoretical horizon as the basis for approaching the present. We are dealing here with the specific historicity of the present, as conceived of as “contemporary history” since around 1800. Then the art-historical and art-critical dimension of the issue will be delineated in the direction of whether and how narratives of contemporary and global art can be envisioned beyond the paradigm of modern art. Thirdly, examples of some artistic practices shall be examined in terms of their self-positioning enmeshed in a conflict between their interest in historical content and their manifestation as special forms of the present.

Provincializing universalism
Historico-theoretical debates over the last two decades have been dominated by the conflict between the criticism of the euro-, ethno- and androcentricity of the Western Universalist interpretation of history, and the demand for a new kind of Universalism that addresses the particularist and culturalist distraction of political perspectives serving capitalistic exploitation. However, history as a symbolic form can be understood as a medium for linking the two positions, and the present as the respective current form of their conflict.

Speakers: Sarat Maharaj (Malmö Art Academy, Lund University, Sweden), Alex Demirovic (Goethe University Frankfurt), Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky (Ruhr University Bochum), Peter Osborne (Kingston University London).

Narratives of contemporary and global art
Since the 1990s responses to criticism of the one-dimensional, progress-oriented narrative forms of the Modern have largely focused on strategies of spatialization. So today concepts of contemporary and global art tend to be parallel rather than sequential. Nevertheless, questions of artistic value cannot be completely divorced from temporal references. How can multiple parallel strands be understood in the historical context, the difference acknowledged, and yet a common narrative still developed?

Speakers: Susanne Leeb (University of Basel), Christian Kravagna (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna), Monica Juneja (Heidelberg University), Alexander Alberro (Columbia University, New York).

My history in history: artistic self-positioning and the allegorical moment
Artistic works exist in a state of tension between historical references and their respective contemporary form. In the best moments they densify historical references allegorically, and thus create an image of the present that neither loses itself in history, nor rejects it. Instead history assumes material form, only then allowing the present-ness of the artistic approach to crystallise.

Speakers: Jutta Koether (University of Fine Arts of Hamburg), Josef Strau (New York/ Berlin)
Concept: Helmut Draxler (Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg)

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About Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg
The Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg, founded in 1662 as the first school of art in German-speaking central Europe, sees itself as a laboratory engaged in unrestricted research and creativity. Liberal and applied arts constitute the main areas of instruction. The Academy attempts to make all forms and expressions of contemporary artistic practice possible, and to comprehend these in their proper social and historical-critical contexts. This educational approach is based on fostering the student’s individual development. The educational goals are the attainment of individual competence and of skills in theory and practice that inspire creative growth and development.


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