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Faculty Roundtable

Global Flows, local Agencies, significant Pasts: Perspectives in Museum History and contemporary Art

Thursday 15 June 2017
GLASS-Islam Series | Eva Troelenberg
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

About the Faculty Roundtable

In the roundtable, questions of cultural heritage and preservation with issues of contemporary art practice and representation in or emanating from the Middle East will be highlighted. In Islamic art history and museum history, we are constantly and categorically dealing with objects that are taken from their place of origin. Many object-migrations that end in Western collections operate with the familiar “salvage paradigm”, which James Clifford (1989) has critically defined as the “desire to rescue something 'authentic' out of destructive historical changes”. In museum history and archaeology this paradigm, frequently informed by an asymmetrical imperial gaze, has often served as an argument to bring objects, monuments, or artworks from their original context to an allegedly culturally further advanced and more sophisticated context. In fact, the Western museum with its seemingly timeless aura of preservation which makes the artwork untouchable appears like the ultimate, self-suggesting destination for any object of cultural value. From this perspective, the migrating object follows a teleological path which justifies its separation from its original setting. Ultimately stabilized – and integrated – in the museum, it appears to be “saved” for the common good for mankind on a larger scale. This results in institutional privilege within a heritage discourse, which is traditionally a strong asset of national identity building by means of association with the past.

This institutionalized mode of heritage building by means of representative stabilization has had its parallels within the Middle East from the Imperial age to the present – with examples ranging from the foundation of the Imperial museums in Istanbul to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. However, since the mid-20th century there is a strong current towards alternative local definitions of heritage and identity, linking processes of (re-)appropriation of a “significant past” (De Cesari 2010) with contemporary artistic practice. Artists like Khalil Rabah, Walid Raad, as well as the named and unnamed artists who appropriated the Israeli-Palestinian border wall, or institutions such as the Arab Image Foundation or the International Art Academy in Ramallah are among the most widely perceived agents of this site- or geospecific artistic practice. Often directly relating to common categories and tropes of museum and archive, they contest and play with notions of mobility, territory and (in-)stability, as well as of ownership and privileges of interpretation. These positions are to be understood against a local background – at the same time they are perceived as “global players” in an expanding art world.

The roundtable should bring together art historians, archaeologists, artists/curators and colleagues from related fields to discuss how this constellation affects our notion of centres vs peripheries, of global vs local conceptions of art in both historical and contemporary dimensions.   

Participating experts

Cristiana Strava

This roundtable will be moderated by Cristiana Strava (Leiden University). Dr. Strava’s research to date has been broadly concerned with the nexus between the postcolonial state, urban governance, and changing social dynamics at the periphery of large urban centers in North Africa. Titled At Home with Modernity: Everyday Struggles and the Production of Livelihoods on the Margins of Casablanca, her recently completed PhD dissertation from SOAS, University of London, straddles the disciplinary fields of Anthropology and Urban and Middle Eastern Studies. Grounded in deep historical contextualization and using space/place as the central organizing concept, through the angle of practice theory she seeks to understand how the inhabitants of a historically marginalized and criminalized community on the Moroccan urban fringe secured their livelihoods through tactical encroachments into public space and the pragmatic and savvy appropriation of heritage and social development agendas.

Eva Troelenberg

Eva Troelenberg studied art history, history and communications at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Venice International University. In 2007, she became a Research Assistant / Doctoral Candidate at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. Between 2007 and 2009 she was a postgraduate Fellow of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. She completed her dissertation on the Munich Exhibition of Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art in 2010, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow of the Kunsthistorisches Institut project "Connecting Art Histories in the Museum. The Mediterranean and Asia 400-1650" (in cooperation with the State Museums in Berlin / Museum of Islamic Art). Since September 2011 she is the head of the Max Planck Research Group "Objects in the Contact Zone: The cross-cultural Life of Things" at Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. She also did teaching assignments at LMU Munich, University of Vienna and at the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context", University of Heidelberg, and was a visiting professor at University of Munich (2013, History of Islamic Arts) and Zürich University (2016/17, Modern and Contemporary Art History).

Kitty Zijlmans

Kitty Zijlmans studied Art History at Leiden University, and was awarded her PhD in 1989 on a theoretical thesis about art history and systems theory. In 2000 she was appointed Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory/World Art Studies in Leiden. She was member of the Steering Committee of the ESF (European Science Foundation) Network ‘Discourses of the Visible: National and International Perspectives’ (2003-2007) and member and from 2007-2012 Chair of the Steering Committee of the Research Program ‘Transformations in Art and Culture’ [TKC, 2003-2012], funded by NWO/Humanities, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. From 2006-2010 she was member of the committee BKV (Art and Design) of the Raad voor Cultuur, the Dutch Council for Culture [the Dutch Government Advisory Board for Cultural Affairs]. From 2006-2013 she was adviser for the NIAS, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2010 she was accepted as member of the KNAW, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. From January 2011-September 2014 Academic Director of LUCAS, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

Her main interest is in the fields of contemporary art, art theory, and methodology. She is especially interested in the ongoing intercultural processes and the globalization of the (art) world, and increasingly collaborates and exchanges with artists in the context of the field of artistic research.

Charlotte Huygens

Charlotte Huygens has been working in museum management and as a curator Arts and the Islamic World since 1994. The exhibitions she curates range from cultural heritage to contemporary arts and design. She further works as an advisor and guest speaker at several universities and cultural institutions, both national and international, and is the author of a variety of publications in this field.

Her academic education includes Arabic Language and Literature, carried out at the State University of Leiden (NL) and a post-doc at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Cairo.

Diederik Meijer

Dr. D.J.W. Meijer studied Semitic Languages and Archaeology of the Near East at the University of Amsterdam and the University of London. His fieldwork took and takes place (since 1969) in Turkey and Syria. He is especially interested in emergent urbanism and state-formation processes in the Ancient Near East (from ca. 4000 BC onward), their socio-economic correlates such as the growth of trade, as well as in the iconography of cylinder seals. A book is envisaged about the feasibility of modelling the Mesopotamian and Syrian city-states on those of early Renaissance Italy. Currently he is working, with Dr. Gerrit van der Kooij and several assistant researchers, on an archaeological project financed by NWO and attempting to determine the variability of human response to fluctuating environmental factors in marginal areas in Palestine and Syria. His other interests include the philosophy of science and its application in archaeology.

About the GLASS-Islam series

GLASS (Global Asia Scholar Series) is a joint initiative of two interdisciplinary research clusters at Leiden – Asian Modernities and Traditions (AMT) and Global Interactions (GI) – which invites leading or emerging international scholars whose work has been influential across disciplinary, regional, and national boundaries within Asia and beyond to speak at Leiden University. The GLASS-Islam series of events highlights Islamic studies and is organized in close cooperation with LUCIS.

Please register at: lgi@leiden.edu

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