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So far narratives of contemporaneity are still dominated by the universalist paradigm of modernism that needs to be unpacked and give way to discursive differentiation. Amongst other things, the conference targets the modernist relation to the past, the still dominant belief that the development of a rationalist progressive society is built on and marked by the breaking with traditions, even after the post-structuralist turn. The conference will analyze the effects of the institutionalization of modernist notions and temporal structures of ‘the contemporary’ after the modern. It will examine the inherent spatial concept of geographic and cultural othering that informs modernist discourses of contemporary cultural and aesthetic practices until today. From the point of view of Western avant-garde artists, who understood the breaking with traditions as constitutive of their own practice, non-western modern artists, imagined as deeply rooted in their own traditions, could never be considered “modern”.

Today’s discourses of contemporary cultural and aesthetic theories and practices are not constituted by Western narratives anymore but by global canon- and power building structures. The conference seeks to analyze criteria of contemporaneity. In order to acknowledge the merging of different, but equally present times (Peter Osborne 2013), it is necessary to become aware of and critically examine different histories and their transcultural enactments regarding contemporary and historic cultural and aesthetic practices on the globe. Co-existing art narratives and canons of contemporaneity must be confronted simultaneously as a disjunctive, yet continuous intellectual horizon, integral to the understanding of the present as a whole (Miwon Kwon 2009). The examination of disjunctive and yet at the same time entangled histories of contemporary concepts of gender and queerness, of discourses on how art and society relate to each other and of object theories have been identified by the conference organizes as key issues in contemporary art discourses and will therefore be discussed in the lectures and the thematic workshops.

It is against the limiting as well as enabling effects of a prevailing discourse, the complexities and tensions of our contemporary reality that we need to examine how different contemporaneities are imagined and constituted through different historical narratives, specific structures of knowledge production and geopolitical conditions. The conference pursues a cross-disciplinary approach in order to examine differences and similarities in discourses of contemporaneity in different fields and to discuss methodological approaches in the field of contemporary cultural and aesthetic theories and practices.

Structure of the Conference

In order to create an ideal working environment of academic knowledge production and exchange the conference combines public and non-public parts. The public program consists of academic lecture sections and an artist conversation and is designed with strong features of response. In each section distinguished junior and senior scholars are invited to give papers. Junior researchers will chair the sections and will lead the discussion with prepared responses and initial questions. The non-public part of the conference will include 1. six thematically focused workshop sessions and 2. the format of “academic speed-dating”.

Junior researchers organize and chair the workshop sessions that are small groups composed of senior and junior speakers as well as invited discussants (for abstracts, please see here). 

The format of “academic speed dating” is a special section of shorter presentations. It serves the purpose that each invited participant in the conference (speakers, workshop organizers, discussants) as well as future network members have the opportunity to present their research project to each other. Divided into a maximum of four groups, which consist of up to ten persons each and which will be set up according to shared thematic, regional, methodological and/or historical period-related research interests, the participants of each group will mutually introduce their research projects in short conversations lasting no longer than ten minutes. The rotating procedure guarantees that everybody gets to know all projects of the other participants in the group. The “academic speed dating” section thus allows all the symposium’s participants to informally, but efficiently connect and identify overlapping and potentially synergetic research interests. It will enable the formation of specific working groups that will help to bridge the time span between the planned annual meetings of the research network and can serve as a modus operandi for scholars, who focus on a common specific sub-topic and would like to exchange ideas on a more frequent basis.

At the end of the conference the programme provides a time slot for the constitutive session of the research network. In the closing session of the event, kick-off presentations from the workshop sessions are followed by a final discussion.